The idea of borderline and the observation of the social and visual differences connected to the urban space were the starting point of this series, aiming to highlight the landscape and interaction between people and the place they inhabit, thinking of ‘borderline’ as something directly connected to people and how their conceptions and behavior about territory and possession leads to separation, misunderstanding and conflict.
In Broken Ground we perceive the concern of Ana Catarina Pinho for unveiling certain contemporary social issues and contradictions, relating them with architecture and urban space, making people with their expectations and emotions the center of interest and the core of this series. It is interesting that the author merges the images of diverse suburban areas belonging to Portugal and Turkey creating a fictional place that calls the attention for the similarities of situations and people between different cultures, showing at the same time the psychological and spatial border that divide people and spaces in many of our contemporary territories.
Q&A with Ana Catarina Pinho
Photography is a representation of our imaginary, our interpretations and points of view about the world. The possibilities towards the construction of meaning through photographs are infinite and the reaction to that is almost a philosophical discussion of the topics it raises.
When it comes to visual representation, there’s always a matter of interpretation and photographs should always be questioned. As Szarkowski wisely put it, a picture is after all only a picture, a concrete kind of fiction, not to be admitted as hard evidence or as the quantifiable data of social scientists.
There’s a lot to say about photography, but I think it’s important to state that photography is a very powerful medium that can be really dangerous if not understood by its own subjectivity. History has already shown many examples of its uses and how the same methods can work for opposite intentions towards society, politics or beliefs. Thus, when we work with photography it becomes our responsibility towards the subject we’re working with, which implies the photographer having respect, sensibility and a great dosage of common sense.
Photography and writing…
There are many interesting works that explore these two mediums. Writing can be used as visual representation, becoming a picture. Just think of the work of Martha Rosler or Robert Frank, Jim Goldberg, and so many others.
In this context, I consider it is important to distinguish the use of text in photographic work from the use of captions to explain the events represented in the photographs. Personally, I’m interested in the first use of text.
I hardly ever use captions associated to my pictures, just because it wouldn’t make sense to use it in my latest projects. In my series “Broken Ground”, I create a representation of the peripheral landscape by mixing photographs of different places from two very different countries. There is an intention of creating some mystery concerning those places and the people portrayed, all of those that appear to be from the same region.
The only text used in “Broken Ground” is a small note I received while working on the project. Using captions on this series would preclude this uncertainty created by the photographs and the way they’re presented.
Who left the biggest impression on you?
I must say Walker Evans. Not only for his talent but mainly for his considerations and thoughts on photography. Evans was an intelligent, conscientious man who understood the layers of complexity of image and the discursive fields it covers before most others. Evans addressed a new style of photography, ‘the documentary style’ as he said. Thus, he contributed for the construction of a new visual meaning and understanding of photographs and its working methods.
Tell us a little about yourself
My background is a bit scattered. I studied sciences and I could never seem to choose a specific area because I’ve always been interested in many different things. In college I made a BA in Visual Arts because of its diversity of subjects and media. While studying there, my interest was towards social studies, such as Visual Anthropology, History or Documentary. The context was the Art School so I had to produce a creative visual response to my studies and there’s when photography entered the scene.
Only after college I really understood that working with photography and exploring documentary was what I wanted, so I applied for a MA on Documentary Photography and that was maybe the first turning point in my way of perceiving and working with photography. Since then, my experience has been enriched in art residencies, working with artists and photographers that I admire and who teach me many things, and of course, my own experience in the field, learning to relate to the people and places I want to portray and maturing my personal way of seeing the world photographically. I’m pretty sure that only happens with work and time…
Photography became something like an obsession to me and I’m happy that all I do professionally, and very often personally, is related to photography, for example: I founded a project (Archivo), in 2012, which is part of a research work I’m developing and it’s been a great experience, learning and broadening my skills, not only as a photographer but also as an editor. I’m also working as an assistant professor of Documentary Photography in an Art Department, and doing that is more than a responsibility, it’s also a kind of exercise that you keep learning from and trying to do better every year.
Ana Catarina Pinho (www.anacatarinapinho.com) studied Visual Arts and finished her Master degree in Documentary photography, in 2010. Since then has been participating in art residencies and international projects such as Picture Berlin’10, European Borderlines, etc. Is the founder editor of Archivo Photography and is currently working as a freelance photographer and Assistant Professor of Documentary Photography at the Polytechnic Institute of Porto. Based in Portugal.