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Conference “El futur de Xile en les fotografies del salnitre”, by Xavier Ribas, at the KBr

May 3 - 19:00 - 20:00

The visual history of saltpetre, popularly known as “Chilean nitrate”, consists of a few (few) photo albums made by saltpetre entrepreneurs, mostly of British origin. It is a photographic record documenting the process of saltpeter extraction in the Atacama Desert between the 1870s and 1920s. This legacy, which is preserved in Chilean archives and libraries, exudes capitalist and colonial rhetoric. The question is: How do we approach these photo albums critically ?; how is it possible to relate the experience of the saltpeter worker and his history of resistance from these photographs ?; how do we think about photographs considering what was left out of the image ?, and finally how do we look at them from their historical development? As Andrea Jösch said, these images anticipate a future of ruin and a coup.

Xavier Ribas is a photographer and professor at the University of Brighton and the Polytechnic University of Valencia. He studied Social Anthropology at the University of Barcelona and Documentary Photography at the Newport School of Art, Media and Design. His photographic work explores disputed places and stories, the geographies of abandonment, temporary settlements, and border territories. Since 2009 he has been part of the collective research project “Traces of Nitrate” on the extractive processes in Chile and the commercial networks that converge in the stock market of the City of London. He lives and works in London.


Fundació MAPFRE


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