“Photography is a tool to negotiate our idea of reality,” Joan Fontcuberta, the highly-esteemed Catalan artist and curator, has often been quoted as saying. “Thus it is the responsibility of photographers to not contribute with anaesthetic images but rather to provide images that shake consciousness.”
In a digital age, where photographic ‘truth’ is perhaps measured by the degree of the lie, the concern for how manufactured images are produced, circulated and consumed is ever present, and faith in the integrity of the photograph as evidence is best treated with caution.
In Trepat, the latest monograph from Fontcuberta, the 2013 Hasselblad Award winner has turned his attention to Spain’s J. Trepat agricultural machinery factory, to curate a (spoiler-alert!) make-believe selection of previously unseen works from the family’s collection of avant-garde photography.
Fontcuberta’s incredible fabrications typically operate by first convincing us of their probability then, once the viewer is lulled into a false sense of security, he teases, unsettles and, ultimately, humours us by adding further levels of deception. Here, the whole activity and apparatus of this industrial complex has been documented, purportedly through commissioned works – but Fontcuberta being Fontcuberta, nothing is as it seems.
This curious case study runs the gamut of photographic sensibilities from Surrealism to New Objectivity and Social Realism, forming part of a collector’s holdings too vast and too encompassing to be hitherto unknown to specialists and the public alike. Mounting fiction onto fact, Fontcuberta even photoshops the Trepat offices into the background of one of Man Ray’s solarised self-portraits or tinkers with an iconic portrait of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, so that he appears to be inside the old Trepat Foundry.
“The first and more important truth photography conveys,” says Fontcuberta, “is its own ambiguity: the fact that we need to interpret it.”
For more information or to order a copy visit editionsbassard.com
The Trepat Collection by Joan Fontcuberta is on at display at Musée départemental de l’Arles Antique until 21 September 2014. rencontres-arles.com
Joan Fontcuberta: Stranger than Fiction is on display at Media Space Gallery, The Science Museum in London until 9 November 2014. sciencemuseum.org.uk