“Photography is a tool to negotiate our idea of reality. Thus it is the responsibility of photographers to not contribute with anaesthetic images but rather to provide images that shake consciousness.”
– Joan Fontcuberta
Science meets art in The Science Museum’s Stranger Than Fiction. The exhibition features six of Joan Fontcuberta’s most acclaimed bodies of work from his 4-decade-spanning career, including his 1984 series Herbarium and 1987’s Fauna.
Fontcuberta is known for carefully considering the use of the photographic image as evidence, by juxtaposing visually impactful and playful narratives with a deadpan sense of humour. We were desperate to talk to curator Greg Hobson, one of the key people responsible for putting this absurdist and visually perplexing exhibition together.
GREG HOBSON INTERVIEW
Where are you and what did you do today?
At the National Media Museum in Bradford, working in the Collection on the next Media Space exhibition: ‘Make Life Worth Living. Nick Hedges’ photographs for Shelter, 1968-72’.
How did your interest in the photographic image begin?
I’ve been interested in photography from a very young age. I was given a camera when I was 9 or 10 and I remember it was an Olympus Trip with a brown leatherette finish. I was immensely proud of it and remember taking photographs all the time. The camera sadly no longer exists but my love of photography has remained.
How would you describe Stranger than Fiction and what attracted you to Fontbuberta’s work and the exhibition?
I would describe the exhibition as disruptive, while being playful and funny. I have been interested in Fontcuberta’s work ever since seeing the book Fauna, in the late 19080s and included some of the work in a previous exhibition, New Natural History, in 1999.
What is your favourite Fontcuberta piece?
His work is so inventive and the pieces all have a life of their own and continue to evolve, so that is difficult to answer. I’m constantly surprised by him so I will have to say it is always his most recent.
Who are the artists and photographers to watch right now, in your opinion?
There are some very exciting contemporary photographers pushing at the boundaries of what photography is, but conversely, there is much from photography’s past that is yet to be discovered or explored in new contexts. As a curator I believe that there is not enough looking at undiscovered histories or overturning of previously held views.
What’s the best part of your role as Curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum?
Our Collection, which never ceases to surprise me.
Where is your ultimate place to hang out and be inspired in London?
Aside from the obvious, if your readers have never been to Sir John Soane’s Museum when it is lit by candlelight (the evenings of the first Tuesday of each month), I recommend it as an inspirational experience.
What’s in store for the future? Any upcoming collaborations?
Media Space showcases the Museum’s Collection as well as some of the most exciting photography from around the world. The next show opens on 2 October and features some moving work by the little known British photographer Nick Hedges (see above).
What was the last thing that really made you stop and stare?
An album of beautiful 19th century photographs by Oscar Gustave Rejlander.