Both 5B4 and Conscientious have posted reviews of Christopher Anderson’s new book called Capitolio, which is set in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela over the last half-decade. And both posts drew fire from any number of sides. I first saw dummies of this book project (the images have been floating around for ages) in March 2008 at the Magnum workshop in Oslo and was struck by the design and presentation, which seemed at the time a radical departure from other presentations of ‘photojournalism’ (in books or otherwise) that I had seen before. Both reviews seem to take note of this, and run with it to some interesting and controversial corners. I’ll stay out for now, not having seen a final copy of the book, but will say that the images have always worked for me and the most interesting question is how the presentation (editing and layout, for starters) is instigating a robust conversation. I leave you with links and the advice to start reading in to the comments left on 5B4, including this one from Anderson himself:
The book is intentionally ambiguous. I am uninterested in didactic commentary or “story”. It is a portrait of a time and place seen by a stranger as if from a passing car in the night. It is an experience of encounters, observations, and fears sometimes completely out of context. In many ways, this book could be about anywhere…it just so happens that it is Caracas. It is not right or left wing propaganda, it is NO wing propaganda. It is not anti Chavez. It is not anti-anything. It is just an experience that I had.
It is great to see this level of (mostly civil) debate and criticism about modern “photojournalistic” photography, particularly in the context of fast-moving and popular blogs. I love that debate does and can exist. Lets get some going here on Dva sometime. Do you agree that a book or photo report can be simply an empty political vessel as Anderson is saying here? Or that the artist’s intent has any bearing on how one should interpret a body of work? Anderson and Jeffrey Ladd, 5B4 himself, disagree strongly on this point. I know I want to be on Anderson’s side on this point but I’ve always reacted to Ladd’s strong argument when it is brought up in these discussions.