Fontcuberta, Joan

Spanish (1955-)

Joan Fontcuberta’s early experiences in life all shaped who he’d become when he took up full-time art photography in his 30s. Growing up under the Franco dictatorship in Spain, Fontcuberta learned to be skeptical of any information presented to him as authoritative. Later, in his advertising career, he practiced a more benign type of manipulation as he attempted to sell products. Then, his tenure as a communications professor placed him right at the center of conversations about the nature of truth and how information is conveyed.

It’s no surprise then that, upon leaving the university to pursue full-time camerawork, Fontcuberta undertook conceptual projects examining the reliability of the photographic image. His projects are varied and consistently creative. “Herbarium” was a series of “pseudoplants,” composed of inanimate objects and shot in black and white. Another exhibit, entitled “Constellations,” purported to show the stars of the cosmos; in actuality Fontcuberta captured images of dust, crushed insects and other debris on his windshield, with black mural paper as a background. For “Orogenesis,” Fontcuberta enlisted the help of a military computer program that turns maps into three-dimensional terrain images. Instead, he scanned famous pieces of artwork into the program, producing a fantastical set of landscapes named after the artists. The list goes on and on; projects have focused upon fake mermaid remains, close-ups of blood samples and the supposed disappearance of a Soviet astronaut and dog. Fontcuberta has been so convincing that a credulous public has also taken him at his word and later become angry. Today, he is the editor of Photovision magazine, which he co-founded in 1980.