Friday, October 1, 2010

The Social Document

One of my latest translations was of a book entitled Mineral de La Luz: The Photography of John Horgan Jr. in Mexico, recently published by Ediciones La Rana, in Guanajuato.
John Horgan’s work, though it is not limited to this recorded document, shares a few characteristics with photojournalism—the social document—owing to the context in which these photos were taken. The early twentieth century was the era of industrialization and the opening of markets, which also implies an aperture of the world to itself, that is, the desire to know from the inside the interior of an unknown exterior. Horgan solidified his career upon publishing his work in newspapers and magazines, including the internationally renowned National Geographic. This is an example of Horgan’s pre-eminence, but above all, of the acceleration of communication: the transmission and reception of reported events occurring in specific and seemingly distant points across countries.

The repercussions of introducing photographic images in media were imminent: a phenomenon of democratization. The first photograph ever to appear in a newspaper was published in an American daily in 1880, marking an important moment in the history of the perception of reality, since to speak of mass media is to speak of the vision of the masses. For the first time, the people themselves, individually or collectively, were captured on film—as subjects or as a people who shared a time, a place and a labor. The question in the face of this phenomenon is for the one who reflects on these reflections and for the one who subsequently reflects on these photographic documents. The answers to the latter question are as infinite as the number of perspectives of those who, over the years, have reflected on these images. Considered a portrait of reality, they are consequently viewed as a portrayal of truth.

Pardo Hernández, Berenice and Oscar Sánchez Rangel. Mineral de La Luz: The Photography of John Horgan Jr. in Mexico. Trans. Paige Mitchell. Guanajuato, Mexico: Ediciones La Rana, 2010.