Last Updated on 10/20/2021 by Mark Beckenbach
“I would be inspired if I could see one of her images every day on my wall,” Magnum photographer Cristina de Middel tells me as we talk about printed photography. She’s referring to one of her heroes, which we will cover later in this piece. We’re having this conversation because, right now, fans of Cristina de Middel’s can buy one of her prints through the Magnum Square Print Sale. Stay tuned and follow me.
The Square Print Sales runs until October 24th. You can buy your favorite prints here.
Speaking with Cristina de Middel
Throughout the year, Magnum has its highly popular Square Print Sale. For a limited time, photography fans can purchase work from their favorite photographers for only $100. The current theme is called “On The Horizon,” inspired by Sarah Meister, Aperture’s newly appointed executive director. The sale runs until October 24th, so there’s not much time!
Now, let’s dive into the interview with Cristina de Middel, as we talk prints, projects, and maintaining inspiration.
Phoblographer: Photographically, what does the term “On The Horizon” mean to you?
Cristina de Middel: To me, the idea of a horizon is always linked to a place I want to go, but that is, for some reason, unreachable. It is time and space working together because the horizon is always far. It talks about dreams, the ones you accomplish and the ones you don’t.
“Her images are beautiful and intense at first sight, but they trigger plenty of contradictions, and there are plenty of layers if you know where they come from.”— Cristina de Middel
Phoblographer: In terms of your work, what’s your main focus in this present moment?
Cristina de Middel: I am always trying to find the right balance between information and opinion, as my work, regardless of the language I use, always refers to contemporary issues. I am constantly trying new combinations and recipes that come with the edition but also during the production, in order to find the right amount of reporting with the right amount of personal critique. That, for me, is crucial if we want to keep improving the way we understand the world through photography.
Phoblographer: I love the design of your website: it’s unique. Why did you choose that aesthetic, and why was it important to do something different from the standard website builder?
Cristina de Middel: My website is more a project than a comprehensive archive of my work that I share with others. I did it in 2013, when I was right in the eye of the fact and fiction storm after publishing the Afronauts. I wanted to try and use the template of a tabloid to present my work and to reinforce this confusion between the truth and what the media present as truthful. I did it with my friend Guillermo Brotons, who is always ready for digital experiments.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about your self-published book: The Book is True. Overall, how do you feel about the final creation?
Cristina de Middel: “This Book is True” is the name of my publishing house, which is basically a window to sell all the books that I make, and also books that I find interesting from Latin America and Asia. At this moment, I self-publish many books, but I also work with publishing houses depending on the project and the conditions. Self-publishing has many advantages, but it is also very time-consuming and sometimes has a limited reach compared to the distribution of a company. I like self-publishing because I keep control on all the aspects of the book and the final decisions are always mine. But making decisions takes time, and I am always running against the clock.
Phoblographer: You have had an eventful career. Today, what inspires you to continue documenting the world’s stories?
Cristina de Middel: I see a lot of gaps in the way the world is presented to us in the media and with traditional documentary work. I think it is necessary to complement these versions and include more layers that put the official version of things in context. I am not against documentary photography, it is the base of my work and I fully respect it, but for me it is not enough. I want to understand better, and I believe the audience needs more than what they get by default.
Phoblographer: On the topic of prints: which photographer’s work would you most likely hang on your wall and why?
Cristina de Middel: I would really love to hang a picture of Graciela Iturbide on my wall because she represents everything I love in Mexico and her work is magical and harsh at the same time, just like her country. She is one of my heroes… Her images are beautiful and intense at first sight, but they trigger plenty of contradictions, and there are plenty of layers if you know where they come from.
Phoblographer: I saw a recent post on your Instagram of Naples: a city I used to live in. Can you tell us your thoughts on the city and what it’s like to make photographs there?
Cristina de Middel: Yes! I am here now, answering your questions! It is my second time in Naples, and I absolutely love this place. I do have a weakness for any city in the Mediterranean when it comes to photographing, maybe because I was born on these coasts and the light is very familiar to me. But today, I was talking to my husband and telling him that Naples is probably the city in Europa that is more similar to Brazil (he is Brazilian). The rhythm, the people, the tension in the streets, the noise, it also makes me feel at home in a very distant way. I am not doing a project here, just visiting and discovering the city, but one day I will come back for sure with a clearer idea of what story I can tell here. Maybe I am just scouting.
Phoblographer: Finally, when you hold a printed image that you made in your hands, how does it feel?
Cristina de Middel: It feels like a mission accomplished!
The Square Print Sales runs until October 24th. Go buy a print from your favorite Magnum photographer!