Lua Ribeira is a Spanish photographer and Magnum member
Having some working knowledge of Lua’s home region in Spain, our conversation took on a familiar tone when discussing the artist’s background. Please forgive the more extended discussion about Galician cuisine and geographical musings. It was the first time I had spoken with an artist from the area, and I believe Galicia is Spain’s best-kept secret. I also think that Lua’s new book is phenomenal. I picked up a copy from Kominek Books, where I was taken immediately with the intimacy of the artist’s portraiture but also the ambition of the project.
There is quite a bit going on in the book, which ties together the fundamental ideas regarding documentary practice, representation, migration, and 21st-century European anxieties about everything from Brexit to the refugee crisis. Divided into five chapters or series, the work feels nearly biblical in structure. There are subtle images in which close-ups and more broad studies of people dotting the horizon create a realm or other-worldly feeling, eschewing what we think we know about portraiture in favor of something closer to mythology.
We discussed the work in the conversation, along with Lua’s background. We discussed photography, documentary practice, ethics, and more. I have no trouble saying the book is unique and will be on my best-of-the-year list. Please Tune in!
Original Press Releasee
Subida al cielo features five bodies of work by Galician photographer Lúa Ribeira made between 2016 and 2020: Subida al cielo, Las visiones, Aristócratas, La Jungla and Los afortunados [Ascent into Heaven, The Visions, Aristocrats, The Jungle and The Fortunate Ones].
In these five series, Ribeira approaches topics with a historical relation to documentary photography and representation, often within the context of institutionally constructed or held groups, or spontaneous anti-structures that emerge on the margins of society. Los afortunados takes place in Melilla alongside a group of young people in their journey to reach Europe from Morocco. In Galicia, Ribeira’s homeland, Aristócratas is made in collaboration with a religious institution that cares for a community of women with cognitive disabilities. Las visiones, made during a Semana Santa celebration, deals directly with Spain’s ancestral and cultural religiosity.
Despite their broad territorial scope, all five series are grouped and presented together — with no chapter separations between projects by virtue of their shared motivation: Ribeira’s attempt to put on hold learnt constructions and use photography to create spaces of encounter that can transcend structural separations.
The projects are also linked by their formal approach. In a highly conscious manner, within her image-making, Ribeira uses theatricalisation as a strategy to transgress prevailing political dimensions and removes the overwhelming context in which she has become immersed, allowing gestures and the human figure to take centre stage. This intent results in pictures that transcend the purely documentary and enter a space where the influence of mythological, archetypal and religious imagery resonates, especially in the representation of the human struggle. This is further evidenced by the sketches, pictorial reproductions, and vernacular photographs that Lúa Ribeira collects as part of her process to study them as cues and precedents for her contemporary enquiries.
Throughout the book, the changes in space and time become dreamlike; as we settle in one place, the terrain quickly shifts to another, allowing new perceptions to emerge. ‘Subida al Cielo’ means ‘ascent into heaven.’ It is an effort to sever our ties to the earth, to shake off the weight of our body and its gravity, to step outside ourselves and open the door to the inevitability of the unexpected.
The volume is accompanied by an in-depth essay by philosopher Carlos Skliar titled ‘The Fragile Look.’
Lúa Ribeira (As Pontes, Galicia, 1986) is currently an Associate member of Magnum Photos based in Bristol, U.K. She graduated in Documentary Photography from the University of South Wales in 2016, and since then, she has continued her engagement in education running workshops and as a guest lecturer at various universities. She has received the Firecracker Grant for Women in Photography and the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards in 2018. She was nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award and Prix Pictet 2019. Her work Noises has been published in book form by Fishbar, London in 2017, and has been featured in Firecrackers: Female Photographer Now published by Thames and Hudson as well as Raw View Magazine, “Women looking at Women”. Her work has been exhibited internationally in both solo and group shows in venues including ICP (NY), Impressions Gallery (Bradford), Ffotogallery (Cardiff), Belfast Exposed, Beijing International Photography Biennale, Tabacalera (Madrid) and Fundacion Seoane (Coruña), amongst others.
Photographs: Lúa Ribeira
Text: Carlos Skliar
Design: Tipode Office
Pre-press: La Troupe
Printed by Artes Gráficas Palermo
102 colour photographs
Format: 27 x 21 cm
Bilingual edition Spanish/English