Lines and Lineage exhibition for the winners of the Roger Pic Award, from 11 June to 25 October, 2019
About the work
Lines and Lineage takes aim at America’s collective amnesia of history. The work addresses the missing photographic record of the period when Mexico ruled what we now know as the American West. To visualize the people and places from the remarkable yet unseen Mexican era, I chose to photograph the region with glass plates and a 19th-century wooden camera. Portraits of direct descendants of early inhabitants of the West—mestizo, Afro-Latin, indigenous, Crypto-Jewish—are paired with photographs of landscapes inside the original border and architecture from the Mexican period. Lines and Lineage lifts the pervasive fog of dominant Western mythology and makes us question the role that photographs—both present and missing—have played in shaping the identity of the West.
About the exhibition and award
Each year, la Société civile des auteurs multimédia (La SCAM), awards a photographic portfolio documenting reality and questioning our humanity with singularity. The award is in memory of Roger Pic, a French photographer, director and defender of copyright. For the 27th edition of the award, there was a tie, and the jury selected two award winners, Tomas van Houtryve for Lines and Lineage and Denis Dailleux for his series ln Ghana – We shall meet again. An honorable mention was also given to Laetitia Vançon for her portolio, At the end of the day. The members of of the jury were Florence Drouhet, Fabienne Pavia, Thierry Ledoux, Gérard Uféras, Bénédicte Van der Maar and Guy Seligmann.
Neue Schule für Fotografie
About the work
Lines and Lineage takes aim at America’s collective amnesia of history. The work addresses the missing photographic record of the period when Mexico ruled what we now know as the American West. To visualize the people and places from the remarkable yet unseen Mexican era, I chose to photograph the region with glass plates and a 19th-century wooden camera. Portraits of direct descendants of early inhabitants of the West—mestizo, Afro-Latin, indigenous, Crypto-Jewish—are paired with photographs of landscapes inside the original border and architecture from the Mexican period. Lines and Lineage lifts the pervasive fog of dominant Western mythology and makes us question the role that photographs—both present and missing—have played in shaping the identity of the West. The work will be published as a monograph by Radius Books in Autumn 2019.
About the Award
The Leica Oskar Barnack Award honors “professional photographers whose unerring powers of observation capture and express the relationship between man and the environment in the most graphic form.” It is named after Oskar Barnack, the inventor of the Leica camera, and it has been awarded since 1979. Previous winners include Martin Kollar, Guy Tillim, Andrea Hoyer, Luc Delahaye, Claudine Doury, Larry Towell, Eugene Richards and Sebastiao Salgado. My series, Behind the Curtains, was also chosen as LOBA finalist in 2011. For the 2019 award, the members of the jury were Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Max Pinckers, Milena Carstens, Enrico Stefanelli and Steve McCurry.
Reviews and praise for Lines and Lineage
“…Using a North American map from 1839 (the same year that photography is thought to have made its debut in Europe), Mr. van Houtryve traveled along Mexico’s old northern border to meet families who have lived in the region for centuries.
His equipment in the Instagram age? A 19th-century camera he found in a Paris antique shop. He stocked up on the glass plates and pungent potions needed for the wet-collodion process, a technique invented in 1851. Doing so, Mr. van Houtryve conjures what the West may have looked like in the Mexican era…”
“His portraits are carefully researched and historically relevant – all of his subjects are descendants of the area’s original Mexican inhabitants. Quiet and dignified, the images pay tribute to Nadar, whose powerful portraits Van Houtryve admires. He focuses on his subjects’ eyes, conveying a sense of their interior life. He presents the work in diptychs that juxtapose portraits with romantic landscapes, reflecting an intimate connection between humans and nature…”
“…Photographing the descendants of families who live on the once-Mexican territory, Van Houtryve proves their existence within a dominant narrative that often ignores them. Using traditional nineteenth century photographic techniques, like wet plate glass negatives, the artist taps into the aesthetic of the 1800s…”
Artist interview video
Divided, my 2018 video installation about the Mexico-U.S. border will be on display at the Annenberg Center for Photography as part of the group exhibition WALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine from October 5 to December 29, 2019.
Annenberg Space for Photography
2000 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Since Baja and Alta California were divided by the seizure of Mexican land by the United States military in 1848, a political boundary has jutted into the Pacific Ocean. Over the years, the border has been reinforced from a simple line to a fence to steel barrier. This single-channel video installation focuses on the timeless repetition of lines of waves as they crash perpendicular into the barrier. The collision of waves is mesmerizing, and we notice unified lines of waves that are divided in two.
Preview video of Divided
About the exhibition
Complex, challenging, and immersive, WALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine is a historical look at civilization’s relationship with barriers, both real and imagined. For centuries, across diverse civilizations, walls have been central to human history. This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls – artistic, social, political, and historical – in six sections: Delineation, Defense, Deterrent, The Divine, Decoration, and The Invisible. These categories overlap and change meaning according to context, much like the walls themselves: erected for one reason, their appearance and use is then altered and modified over centuries, reflecting the civilizations that have grown and changed around them.
Featuring over 70 artists and photographers, WALLS invites guests to contemplate how these structures – from the decorative to the divine – affect the human psyche and why we keep building them.
Praise for Divided
“This work took a very simple concept, a border wall between two countries, and visually infused it with all the complexities of the contemporary American debate. The ‘moving picture’ that tells this story, does so in a leisurely way, but clearly one that was thought out and executed with the utmost care and attention to detail. The ‘reveal’, at the end, lingers in your mind.”
– Keith Jenkins, Director of Visual Journalism, NPR; Juror of the 2018 Producer’s Choice Award from CENTER Santa Fe.
“Van Houtryve filmed a short video from above the wall’s end, entitled Divided (2018), which seems almost meditative.”
– Jacqui Palumbo, Visual Culture Editor, Artsy /