Essay
Tue 29 May 2018 - 11.00

A Young Person Recommends... Muchismo

The ghost of a young child standing in the haze of the golden hour in what seems to be a fishing village, paired with their “husband to be” in one hand, and a bouquet in the other, is the first image which struck me in Spanish photographer Cristina De Middel’s series ‘This Is What Hatred Did’, 2015. Whilst searching for inspiration for a school project for my own photography series, I stumbled across De Middel’s work, only to be astounded by the whimsical and dream-like scenarios the photographer conjures. After much enjoyment untangling the stories that De Middel narrates through her series, I began to examine the works featured in her publication, Muchismo, further.

The photobook is a compilation of De Middel’s pieces, which narrate cultural and political influences on both fiction and non-fictional life scenarios. With pieces ranging from Aftronauts (precisely named) riding elephants, to ghostly figures with piercing bright eyes, and simply even segments from the world map, there is all but nothing in this book that doesn’t incite the audience to question the subject.

When looking through the publication there is no doubt that the intention is inquisitive towards the reader – her pieces can be described as ambiguous, yet also quite vague. Given the small scale of some of the photographs featured in the book, it is debatable whether De Middel did this on purpose, in an attempt to provoke the viewer to delve deeper into the meaning of each image. Or rather was this just an aesthetic decision?

Despite the array of images being displayed in no clear order, the layout works effectively in leading the viewer on, since the sequel to each page is undetermined. Scattered between every few pages are several photos which feature text beside them, linking context to subject homage to the classic storybook, if you’d like.  The photographs themselves are rather poetic, with each one representing an interesting perspective from a Spanish born artist and her interpretation of native African stories. In this sense, the photographer is on the viewer’s side by viewing the series from “an outsider’s perspective”, one which can sympathise and learn from cultures we know less of.

Tying everything together at the end of the publication, De Middel includes a written description of each series included inside - a few simple pages which provide the reader with more context behind the work. It is here that the photography begins to take pride in its meaning and it all begins to make sense. A relay is then begun by the reader flicking back and forth re-interpreting everything they have just understood – or what they think they’ve understood.

If you’re looking for a creative combination of storytelling and documentary photography, this photobook is the one for you. De Middel crosses the line when it comes to the seriousness of what documentary photography appears to stand for and for that reason a compilation of series which evoke interest, wonder and amusement is born – a truly inspiring read for those who dare let their creativity have a say in the message they are getting across. 

– Emmanuel Panayi