Ricardo González, art historian and photographer; Pablo Artaza, historian of the labour movement, Universidad de Chile; Louise Purbrick, historian; Xavier Ribas, photographer; Andrea Jösch, photographer and curator, UNIACC and Mercedez Fernández Sagrera, philosopher and curator.
Photography and Capitalism: The Alianza Mine and the Port of Iquique 1899.
Louise PurbrickThis lecture examines the relationship between the photographic image and capitalist exploitation. The photographic album The Alianza Mine and the Port of Iquique 1899
– an industrial topography of nitrate mining in the Atacama Desert in Chile – serves as a starting point to raise a number of questions. What relationship does photographic representation have with the development of capitalism? And, in the case of Chile, how has the photographic process positioned itself at the service of European speculators and monopolies? Of the hundreds of pictures included in the album The Alianza Mine and the Port of Iquique 1899
, many portray nitrate miners: industrial topography is a landscape inhabited by people. What role does the figure of the worker play in these acts of representation and processes of appropriation? The Alianza Mine, like many nitrate mines and towns, was abandoned in the mid-twentieth century. Now part of the ruinous landscape of the Atacama Desert, its mining history is reflected in disjointed fragments. With this in mind, how can a twenty-first-century photographic investigation reveal the capitalist as well as photographic exploitation endured by the desert in the past?
Traces of Nitrate. Mining History and Photography between Great Britain and Chile. Xavier Ribas.
This project, developed by the photographer Xavier Ribas, together with historian Louise Purbrick and the photographer Ignacio Acosta, at the University of Brighton, with the help of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, investigates the legacy of British investment in the nitrate mines in Chile [1870–1920] and their involvement in global traffic. By exploring places, archives, objects and images, the project follows the nitrate trail from its mineral state to its processing in the Atacama Desert, through its commodity status and market value, finally becoming part of the material and symbolic heritage of Great Britain. The photographs of Xavier Ribas question geographically diverse but historically related landscapes, linking remote nitrate fields with metropolitan financial districts.