Through research and an exhibition under the same title, curator, editor and artist Jorge Ribalta traces a specific cartography around what historian André Rouillé dubbed the “empire of photography”: the outbreak of a new visual regime that would become an instrument for the system of bourgeois, industrial and colonial culture halfway through the nineteenth century. As a protohistory, long before the establishment of a documentary genre in the 1920s, Ribalta renders the appearance of representations of subaltern identities — servants, beggars, workers, the jobless, enslaved subjects, recluses, the sick, and so on — in parallel with the development of photography and socialism.
This book examines the theory above with the aid of a selection of unpublished and historical texts, whereby a group of specialist authors assay a portrait of the Other, and also the first photographs of revolutions in Europe and Russia, the advent of the visual language of industrial capitalism, the scientific work that created an archive of the body and the social photography projects of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine. The essays are accompanied by a photographic album of representative images of the period spanning this research, which concludes a cycle made up of Museo Reina Sofía exhibitions and their corresponding publications: A Hard, Merciless Light. The Worker Photography Movement, 1926–1939 and Not Yet. On the Reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism.
Steve Edwards, Josh Ellenbogen, Duncan Forbes, Lewis Hine, Paul Mellenthin, Anne de Mondenard, Inés Plasencia, Michael Ponstingl, Jorge Ribalta, Bernardo Riego, Stephanie Schwartz, Jacob Riis, Allan Sekula, Maren Stange, Petra Trnková, Erika Wolf