The 25th Annual Argentine Photojournalism Exhibition
Article by Anna Lowe.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve no doubt heard that Argentina could make unfortunate history this week if it defaults on its foreign debt for the second time in 13 years. In a country where dramatic politics and economics provide almost unceasing cause for discussion and debate, it is perhaps a good week to take stock and reflect at the Annual Argentine Photojournalism Exhibition, currently showing at the Palais de Glace in Recoleta.
The 25th edition of this exhibition is well worth a visit for tourists and expats alike as it brings together some of Argentina’s best photographers of 2013, providing both a sense of nostalgia for the defining moments of the year as well as an important appreciation for the many difficulties faced by Argentines.
Originally opened in 1911 to house an ice rink, the Palais de Glace is split into two floors where below, we find an exhibition named ‘Photojournalism in Democracy’ documenting 30 years since the end of military dictatorship in 1983. This overview of recent history pays tribute to the initial subversive aim of the photojournalism exhibition which in 1981 aimed to show ‘what the media cannot (or will not) show’. Upstairs, the domed roof with its large central skylight illuminates a circular space and 280 selected images from 2013. The photos are displayed thematically covering sports, portraits, images of daily life, politics, nature, environment and the arts, from both inside Argentina and worldwide.
There’s a lot to process as you attempt to navigate your way around the images. When such a large exhibition of different photographers covering varied themes is crammed so tightly, it’s always a bit of a gamble as to whether you find it a visually stimulating experience or an indigestible mishmash. Yet in spite of varying technique, together these images do give an impression of the public conscious and show the diversity of Argentina – capturing the glittering tourist trail alongside the poverty and dirt. Dramatic highlights include a shocking image of a police officer aiming directly at a demonstrator during the protest at Borda Hospital; devastated buildings after the gas explosion in central Rosario; and a skateboarder jumping against a blaze during protests against power cuts last summer.
Although undeniably engaging, the exhibition’s aspiration to documentary and concrete realism is perhaps something to question. Photography’s slippery, complicit status (both framed by the photographers choices as well as the exhibition selection panel) is highlighted here by the cover photo – an image by Leo Vaca in which an old woman dries family photographs after the floods of La Plata in April. In this image we are reminded that memory is a constructed experience – pieced together collectively by the media, politicians, family and friends. Similarly, at the Palais de Glace, representations of Argentina’s recent history and national identity are given physical presence and legitimacy but unavoidably, at the expense of the many others.
This free exhibition presents shards of stories that inspire thought, sorrow, laughter and reflection. A must-see before it moves on to other museums and cultural spaces across Argentina.
- ARGRA, 25th Annual Argentine Photojournalism Exhibition (2013).
- The exhibition closes 18th August 2014.
- Tuesday to Sunday 12 -20hs.
- Free Admission.