Adam Wiseman, Millennium Images contributor was selected to show work as part of the La Nuit de L’Année 2022 during Les Rencontres de la photographie, Arles. We had the opportunity to catch up with him ahead of the show.
Adam, congratulations on your exhibition. Thank you so much for speaking to Millennium. Can you tell us about what you’re going to show?
I’ve been invited to show a projection of my project Arquitectura Libre, my long term project that focuses primarily on the architecture of remittances; the fantastical houses that are built, in this case, by Mexican migrants in America, who send money back home and finance what amounts to be their dream houses.
These houses are often quite eccentric and unusual. They are a physical manifestation of what the individuals who build them have envisioned or dreamed of. Dreams that are often part of their experience in both the US and Mexico, mixed in with a little pop culture. In the end, these houses are often very much symbolic, and more a manifestation of a desire; an imagined life rather than a functional home.
The houses are often not lived in, they are a symbol not only of displacement but also of replacement where the houses replace the absent migrant. So there’s a lot of interesting layers to Arquitectura Libre that can be seen through an ethnographic, architectural, sociopolitical or cultural lens.
I started being interested in this topic about six, seven years ago and it has engaged me ever since. I was fable to spend time to work on it with the support of a grant from the Mexican federal government.
Now that the project has been six years on progress, how has is it evolved?
At first it was an eyeopener to me, it made me question my own prejudices and my own privilege. I had to find the place where I could understand and appreciate these outlandish and unique structure often discarded by the urban elite as an eyesore and something in poor taste, not conforming the the Eurocentric ideals of architecture.
It was a big wake up call for me. I started doing more research and speaking to people in the field as well to academics who have studied the subject, reading their work, specifically the book The landscape of Remittances by Sarah Lynn Lopez, who’s a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. I was interested in balancing journalism with art, objectivity with subjectivity, research with self/expression. Much like the houses that exist within the realm of fantasy and reality, I had to work within the worlds of art and journalism.
And then with COVID, I started experimenting other ways of sharing the work. I devised a system of a posted exhibition, where I designed an exhibition of Arquitectura Libre, that could be packaged and mailed to your house, and you could hold on to it for two weeks, and then send it on to the next person or send it back to me and I would send it on. Basically, having learnt from the creative communities building these houses, I was inspired to be resourceful, and think of exhibiting work differently.
I learned a lot from the project, among other things I discovered a different approach to my work.
I’m really curious about this lines that you start to dissolve from photojournalism and art photography. I think your work makes them blurry. What’s your approach in making this happen?
It’s something that is quite a trend now. I don’t think my work is unique in this way. For example, some Magnum photographers are struggling to re-invent their approach to documentary work within the context of the art market as a response to the dying editorial world (specifically Magazines and Newspapers). These publications used to be Magnum’s bread and butter. Photographers who are interested in documentary or journalism have had to be a lot more resourceful in their approach. I welcome this shift as it embraces the subjective nature of the medium. As artists we are free to work outside of the constraints of journalism and no longer have to pretend that a camera tells the truth.
In the end it seems a more ethical approach to present work as your truth, or a truth, not THE TRUTH. There are many photographers who work in this space of docufiction. Cristina De Middel often comes to mind as a good example; her work is often fantastical yet she is a recent member of Magnum who has a documentary background.
A lot of our readers, will be wondering how you managed to get into the exhibition La Nuit de L’Année, did you approach them, they approached you?
A year or two I think I sent them this body of work. And so it was maybe on their radar for this year. Possibly a delayed reaction as a result of COVID.
What other works you are going to be putting forward in next year?
I’m finalizing a project called Elvis Never was in Acapulco. It is a book project. My first project that is intended as a book right from the start. The few self-published books I’ve done have been part of another project rather than a goal. It deals with corruption, racism and violence in Mexico. But it does it through a real story based on a fiction. It focuses on an interesting story behind why Elvis was never in Mexico despite having filmed Fun in Acapulco. More to come on this before the end of this year!
Thank you for speaking with us Adam. Your words are truly inspiring.
Thank you so much to Millennium Images for inviting me, it’s such a great platform, and it has been great to be a part of it over these past three or four years.
You can follow Adam on Instagram here, and if you would like to see what was projected you can do so here. If you are interested in learning more on Arquitectura libre please visit the website: www.arquitecturalibre.mx
The projection is included in the selection The Best of La Nuit de l’Année and will be shown in Arles until the 25th of September.