Aperture has often focused on the work of individual photographers and countries but has rarely addressed the crosscultural sensibilities of a particular region. "Río de Luz," or River of light, attempts to do just that. The title serves not only as a metaphor for the publication as a whole, but also for the fluidity with which its artists and images cross borders of all kinds.
Prominent in the cultural backdrop to the appearance of Río de Luz is Mexico's grand visual-arts tradition, primarily its mural paintings and its engraving; deep-rooted traditions that have produced works of international impact. The success of these established artistic expressions raised the question of promoting the modern medium of photography.
THE CASASOLA ARCHIVE, PEDRO MEYER, AND ARGENTINIAN PHOTOGRAPHERS IN THE RÍO DE LUZ COLLECTION
Although they were made in different times and places, the images that constitute the following three books in the Río de Luz collection: Jefes, héroes y caudillos (Leaders, heroes, and caudillos), Espejo de espinas (Mirror of thorns), and Democracia vigilada (Keeping an eye on democracy), share the quality of having established certain truths for the public to know and interpret.
Arguably the most important artwork of this century is Guernica, the monumental canvas that Picasso painted for the pavilion of the Spanish Republic in the Paris Exposition of 1937. This painting might never have existed if it hadn't been commissioned by Josep Renau, then the Republic's general director of fine arts—an effective administrator and a brilliant man.
THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF RAÚL CORRALES AND CONSTANTINO ARIAS
If we state that a photograph never portrays reality, but is rather an image of the dreamlike state induced in the photographer at the moment of his or her encounter with reality, Cuba: Dos épocas provides us with marvelous proof of our thesis.
Appreciation for the artistic dimensions of photography is a recent phenomenon in Mexico: as late as the 1970s, the usual thing was to applaud the technological miracle and leave it at that, reserving all astonishment for the invention itself.
Photographers are wanderers, travelers, and explorers, searching— in the deserts, the villages, on the roads, in people's faces—for the poetic image, the image that freezes us in time, that suspends our scrutiny of something outside us and starts us questioning what is within, that starts us seeing in a new way.
Some objects never travel. So they endure, immune to oblivion and the most strenuous labors imposed by use and time; arrested in an eternity of parallel instants that interweave nothingness and habit. Such a singular condition posits them at the fringes of life's tide and fever.
Miguel Rio Branco's Dulce sudor amargo (Sweet bitter sweat), published as part of the Río de Luz series in 1985, brought together images taken around the seaport of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil's former colonial capital, where the photographer lived intermittently throughout the 1980s.
Riding the Rails. A film by Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell, 1997. Available on video through PBS by telephone (800) 645-4PBS. Riding the Rails explores a phenomenon that has been too often relegated to the margins of this country’s history: how during the Depression an entire generation of adolescents left their homes and families and took to the trains, sleeping in boxcars and in the hobo "jungles" that sprang up outside small towns across America.
Charles Bowden gave a speech entitled "Blind in the Sun" in June of 1997 at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, discussing his thoughts on desert photography. We featured his talk in the People & Ideas section of Aperture #150, "Moments of Grace."
VÍCTOR FLORES OLEA has served as a diplomat, Secretary of Culture of the Mexican Government, and Ambassador at the United Nations (1994). He is the author of three photography books. Presently he is a researcher and writer of political editorials in Mexico.