By Francisco Fileccia | February 02, 2021

A lie as a natural instinct of photography.

Leonov, Nikolayev, Istochnikov, Rozhdestvensky, Beregovoi y Shatalov. Sputnik (1997) de Joan Fontcuberta

Deception and, through doubt, truthfulness. The main theme developed by Joan Fontcuberta (February 24, 1955, Barcelona), both in his artistic work and in his essays, is questioning the veracity of photography.

Fontcuberta, a university professor, essayist, critic and promoter of photography, experiences his childhood and adolescence between the graphic studio and the photographic laboratory of his father's advertising agency and reading graphic comics such as “Hazañas Bélicas” (1). The latter will have been what prompted him to investigate the sincerity of things and the first, the justification for which he expressed his views through photography.

As an adult, in Spain, in a political climate full of repression, authoritarianism, propaganda and censorship, he studied Information Sciences. In this context, his interest in pedagogical value and activism in politics grows, which will accompany him throughout his entire career, having his first exhibition in an art gallery at the young age of 17.


The story of cosmonaut Ivan Istochnikov and the Soyus 2 Odyssey.

USSR. United States. Space race. Who will rule the space? On October 26, 1968, a meteorite struck the Soviet Soyus 2 spacecraft. According to official sources, that ship was remotely driven with no crew on board except for the dog Kloka. Private information, later declassified, reveals that the spacecraft was piloted by cosmonaut Ivan Istochnikov.


The name of this last character is nothing more and nothing less than the literal translation in russian by Joan Fontcuberta. Istochnikov, an invented character to whom he also lends his face in this story of images intermingled with manipulated documents, fictions and realities. Sputnik, perhaps the artist's most famous work, makes explicit how easily the media are capable of manipulating us.

Do not get carried away so easily, the purpose of Fontcuberta's work is not to lie. But the unraveling of the hidden mechanisms in the handling of information. Through parodies, the author seeks to activate the spectator's illusion by interposing it against palimpsests of photographic intervention.

Elements such as truth are substantial in his artistic production. Fontcuberta's works are a perfect example of the transfer of photography as document-message (passive spectator) to document-conversation (active spectator).

In times of Fake News and Post-truth, Fontcuberta invites us since the beginning of his career to distrust images and appeal to a critical conscience. He shares his personality, his skepticism, to be suspicious of the pre-established. For him, the image as well as the writing are fiction by nature. Their task is to be an understandable representation of a reality. There is possibly no better example of photography criticism as evidence of reality than the work of the Catalan artist, Joan Fontcuberta.


Among the sources that fed this article is this unmissable interview by the Argentine cultural journalist María Paula Zacharías with Joan Fontcuberta in the context of last year's BAphoto fair.

LiveTalks is a series of interviews to artists, collectors and art agents produced by Pinta Group. This LiveTalk and many more are available in their YouTube’s channel