Printed Photography in Venezuela
by Sagrario Berti
PRINTED PHOTOGRAPHY IN VENEZUELA provides a comprehensive inventory of photographically illustrated books published in Venezuela from 1945 to 2017. The research attempts to trace the history of the illustrated book with photographs examining the relationship between photography, literature, graphic design and editing; that is the coexistence of these disciplines in books.
The book is structured according to thematic continuities, temporal synchronicities and similar editorial purposes, and has been organized in two sections. In the first one it examines books financed by the State and by oil companies. The threads of the printed works published since the 1950s, clearly reflect the government of the president in office and represent an idea of a "prosperous" nation, as happens with El Farol magazine, sponsored by Creole Petroleum Corporation. Those publications in the democratic period (1958) represent "social welfare" and describe the contradictions of progress and modernity in Caracas; while those printed during the last three five-year periods disseminate and extol national identities related to the Socialist Revolution. In this section the main thematic axes of the editorial production format the proposals adjusted to the model of the coffee table book.
From the coffee table book, it traces the social life of illustrated books with photography, their cultural trajectory and resocialization in different contexts. To outline this itinerary, we have described its morphology, uses and functions, considering the institution or editors that printed them and for what purpose. When dealing with corporate gifts (non-venal editions), we examine in its value regime as a symbolic object, as well as in the re-stylization of contents through shapes or graphic elements. Coffee table books are transportable cultural objects, which not only cross territories as souvenirs, but also occupy domestic spaces and are intended for second-hand trade or for collecting. Also, in this first section, the book explores the local-national documentary photographic tendency present in books about nature, fauna, indigenous communities or the lives of inhabitants of rural areas.
In the second part of the book are interpreted the authorial discourses whose contents and formulations are associated with Luis Camnitzer's ideas on Latin American conceptualism, in the sense that they are illustrated books whose "aesthetic expresses a concern for reality, rather than for abstraction". Prints, pamphlets or books where politics is used as a theme to create artistic forms. Thus, for example, it can be seen that some of these printed devices –those edited by the El Techo de la Ballena (1961-1969) collective, for instance– are conceptualist resources used by some authors to agitate and occasionally denounce the socio-political and cultural contradictions of the country in the 60’s.
On the other hand, it analyzes the discursive continuities authors-photographers who register or explore reality in an analytical way, ordering it by means of sequences or systematizing it in autonomous art forms, in catalogs, for instance. In the selected books, the photography dialogues with other narrative resources: graphic design and literature configuring pre-existing texts, usually poetic and, in some cases, representing political issues or social themes. Occasionally, photography is used to certify statistics for their indicial quality, to evoke past or restilize realities through graphic design medium: different types of paper, typographic fonts or printing techniques.
In summary: this publication seeks to clarify the directionality of meaning proposed in illustrated books with photography, coffee table books, magazines, brochures, catalogues, posters and photobooks. With this purpose, the book explores subjects through of political, social, artistic ideologies, and also ideas of nation embodied in the corporate or authorial initiatives that shaped them. PRINTED PHOTOGRAPHY IN VENEZUELA presents in short, a transversal and multiple reading that points to the assessment of the work as a whole and to make visible and make the book tangible.
Sagrario Berti. Printed Photography in Venezuela. Foreword: Gonzalo Golpe. Katie Brown (Trans). Editorial Design: Ricardo Báez. Photographic reproductions: Daniel Benain and Abel Naím. Printing management: Javier Aizpúrua. Calibration of color, printing and binding. Caracas. ExLibris (Bilingual edition: Español-English. Pages: 560. Photos: 372. Printed in duotone and color). Caracas: Co-publication: Ricardo Báez, Sagrario Berti and Casa Editorial La Cueva in collaboration with the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA), New York, 2019