© Juan Orrantia

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Juan Orrantia

Johannesburg (South Africa) // Rochester, Ny (Jan/23)

Artist Statement

At the heart of my practice is an interrogation of histories, narratives and experiences of looking and being seen. As an artist photographer I strive to make images with a sense of uncertainty, vulnerability and reflexivity as forms of destabilization of canons and representations. Combining spontaneous, intuitive and constructed approaches to image making, I work through color, appropriation, mixed media intervention, and the photobook as strategies with the potential to unsettle images, silences and narratives. In this way I deploy photography’s potential for self-determination, the remaking of histories, and forms of interruption/intervention, while unpacking the medium’s involvement in colonial, racialized and gendered histories. This is a reflection of my own dislocated biography as a Colombian man living in South Africa for well over a decade, of having developed my photographic perspective between and across locations, as much as it is as a conceptual and artistic stance that recognizes photography’s limits and historical biases as stimulus for creativity and collaboration.

The photobook is for me a critical site for unsettling, and produce these both as published and self-published works. Like Stains of Red Dirt (Dalpine 2020), awarded the Fiebre Photobook Award (2019), is a work where I speak from, rather than about South Africa, acknowledging a reflexive position of dislocation as a way to think of belonging, representations and fatherhood. Focusing on bodily gestures, objects, plants, shadows and color in my own home and immediate surroundings, I move through emotions and anxieties entangled with subtle presences of historical, political and representational undercurrents of racialized histories and representations that traverse the contexts of the everyday.

I have also published "A Machete Pelao" (forthcoming, December 2022, and winner of the Centro de Fotografia de Montevideo’s, Latin American book award), --a critical approach to the imagination, documentation and fragmented nature of memories of patriarchy and violence in Colombia, that reflects on the limits of photography to document certain forms of pain, violence and their structures. Self-published artist books include the experimental "Of things Past"-- an experimental work that uses juxtaposition, rebinding, and non-archival materials to intervene documents of racist ideology with anticolonial legacies and narratives--; "Is this Tomorrow" (2019-shortlisted for Les Recontres de la Photograhie, Prix Photo Text), and "There was heat that smelled of bread and dried fish" (2018).

Currently, I am developing new works that combine different approaches to unsettle the canonical presence of the white male gaze and its relation to violent forms of masculinity. Through various series I am using strategies such as rephotography, collage, color/film manipulation and nonlinear juxtaposition of times and places in order to generate forms of looking again as ways of questioning implied grammars and histories of self.

© Juan Orrantia

Juan Orrantia's Portfolio

© Juan Orrantia

Artist Biography

Juan Orrantia's photographic practice uses color, appropriation, mixed media and the photobook as forms to interrogate historical narratives and experiences of looking and being seen. His book Like Stains of Red Dirt was awarded the Fiebre Dummy Award and published by Dalpine, and forthcoming A Machete Pelao received the first prize Latin American Photobook Centro de Fotografia de Montevideo. Self published artist books are held in collections like the Smithsonian Museum of African Art Library, Biblioteca de Arte Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, The Tierney Foundation and The Ginsberg Center for the Book, Wits Museum of Art. Reviews of his work appear in Aperture, Nearest Truth, BJP, Africa is a Country, among others, and has been supported by the Smithsonian Artist Fellowship, Tierney Fellowship, and artist residences at various institutions and universities. Orrantia is now Assistant professor of Fine Art Photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology, having previously taught at Wits University Fine Arts (Johannesburg), Bard Center for Human Rights and Arts, and the ICP among others. Juan was born in Colombia and lives and works between Rochester, NY, South Africa and Colombia. He holds an MFA in Photography from Hartford Art School and a PhD from Yale University.



© Juan Orrantia

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