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TEDxUAL Speaker: Monica Alcazar-Duarte

Published date
10 Mar 2017

Mexican-British photographer, Monica Alcazar-Duarte has produced installation work and photobooks that have been exhibited and collected across the world. Nominated by the Lisa Pritchard Agency’s ‘The One to Watch’ 2014 and recipient of the UAL MEAD Fellowship 2014 – Monica graduated from MA Performance Design and Practice at Central Saint Martins and MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication. Here, she takes us behind her lens.

How would you describe the power of photography?
It’s all about context. Photography can be deeply meaningful and influential or completely banal.

The New Colonists: Monica Alcazar-Duarte. Ryan is one of the 100 hopeful finalists who are willing to go on a one-way trip to Mars in 2027. The observatory was built by Ryan and three of his star-gazing friends at Oxford. When I visited him he was in the middle of preparing his Masters dissertation. He is currently studying a PhD in Astrophysics at Cambridge

What attracted you to the idea of ethics behind photography and the proliferation of ‘citizen journalism’?
Everyone who captures an image and distributes it has to take responsibility for it.  It doesn’t matter if you are a teenager taking a photo of your food or a reporter covering a news event.

The New Colonists: Monica Alcazar-Duarte. Labour Day Weekend fair in Mars, Pennsylvania. The weekend marks the end of the Summer when everyone goes back to work and school.

What subjects most fascinate you as a photographer?
I find myself drawn to subjects which are unphotographable. Ideas, concepts, abstractions. The challenge becomes how to convey and comment on these notions using the strengths inherent in the photographic language.

The New Colonists: Monica Alcazar-Duarte. Hanna is an Astrophysicist researching blackholes. She is one of the 100 hopeful finalists who are willing to go on a one-way trip to Mars in 2027. Her first travel outside the U.K. was to Japan. Her favourite flower is the cherry blossom. For the Japanese it is a lesson in humbleness, its very short life a reminder of the brevity of life itself. This is very poignant considering that Hanna is on a mission to be part of an initial group of Mars colonists in a journey with very high risks.

How do you want people to react to your photographs?
I want viewers to engage and feel activated. I want them to be active participants in the search for understanding and meaning.

How do you encourage activism through your photography?
Instagram is great to share images but it can be very trivial. I started wondering if it could be used to create something more meaningful and if it could be used to create a community art project. Possible Landscapes uses Instagram to create a common artwork, but remotely, so those who choose to participate can share the idea of having contributed something made by a group. It doesn’t bring them together directly but it makes them part of something bigger than themselves. There are plans for a physical exhibition to tour Cyprus and the hope is that people might physically come together to enjoy a complex, rich view of the island they share.

Possible Landscapes: Monica Alcazar Duarte

In what way did you work with The Museum of Modern Art?
I produced a photobook about two little towns on the western coast of Mexico. It is called, Your Photographs Could Be Used by Drug Dealers. It raises questions regarding ‘clean cut’ explanations of what a place, even a country and its people, are. The plan was to test the charged image of Mexico offered by the media and popular culture, I was curious to see how much of this portrayal could be un-made.

Image by: Kaleid Editions

What do you think young photographers offer the world?
Young creatives are more free of the preconception, dogma and cynicism that can creep in to our minds as we grow older. I continually work to remain a “young photographer”!

What do you think led to your win of UAL’s MEAD Fellowship and The Photographers’ Gallery Bar-Tur Award?
Hard work, perseverance and a bit of good fortune.

What was the best lesson you learnt the hard way?
Always have one more CF memory card with you than you think you will need!

Made In Arts London: Monica Alcazar Duarte