Manuel Rivera-Ortiz : "Encourager l'émergence de nouveaux talents photographiques"

À l'occasion de l'annonce du lauréat 2012 du Prix de la Fondation Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, nous avons rencontré Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, Fondateur et Président. Il explique pourquoi le travail du photographe Gustavo Jononovich peut être une source d'inspiration pour l'ensemble de l'Amérique latine. Interview (read the full English version of the interview below). 

© André Pfanner

 

Photographie.com : Le jury s'est réuni récemment à Paris pour désigner le lauréat de la deuxième édition du Prix Manuel Rivera-Ortiz. Le choix a-t-il été difficile ?

Les propositions des 12 finalistes étaient toutes particulièrement fortes, ce qui n'a bien sûr pas facilité la tâche du jury ! La bonne nouvelle, c'est que les membres du jury ont participé à un débat logique et correct, et qu'ils ont fait un très bon choix. Ils connaissaient tous la mission de notre fondation, et ils ont réussi à travailler comme une équipe, comme une famille.

Même si à la fin, il ne peut y avoir qu'un lauréat, je tiens à féliciter tous les finalistes pour leur travail et pour leur participation. Leurs photographies - tout aussi importantes que celui de Gustavo Jononovich -, seront mises à l'honneur et feront l'objet d'un mini-site personnel (la plupart de nos candidats n'ont pas de site internet propre). 

Photographie.com : Qu'est ce qui a fait la différence ? 

Je pense que ce qui à fait la différence, c'est l'originalité et l'extraordinaire portée du projet de Gustavo. Il ne faut pas oublier que les pays d'Amérique latine sont des pays que l'on préfère d'ignorer, surtout aux États-Unis. Gustavo Jononovich, qui est originaire de Buenos Aires, s'intéresse justement à cette partie du monde, et aux conséquences de la surexploitation des ressources naturelles pour l'homme et pour l'environnement. C'est un sujet important pour nous tous.

Gustavo est un photographe très talentueux. Grâce à sa photographie, le public pourra regarder le monde d'une autre perspective, découvrir une région qu'ils ne connaissaient que vaguement, et comprendre que nous ne sommes finalement pas si différents que cela…

Photographie.com : Gustavo Jononovich est originaire d'Amérique latine, région du monde que vous aimez beaucoup, puisque vous êtes né au Puerto Rico. Qu'est ce que sa victoire signifie-t-elle pour vous ?

C'est juste une coïncidence heureuse. La Fondation Manuel Rivera-Ortiz est ouverte à tous les photographes, sans condition de nationalité. Je suis très fier de notre lauréat, mais s'il avait été originaire de Pakistan, de Russie, etc, j'aurais été tout aussi fier…

Photographie.com : Quel impact le travail de Gustavo aura-t-il selon vous sur la communauté hispanique ?

Je le dis souvent, la communauté latino ou hispanique doit faire plus d'efforts. On ne peut pas rester les bras croisés et dire : "personne ne s'intéresse à mon sort !" J'espère que le travail de Gustavo sera une source d'inspiration pour de nombreuses personnes. 

Je pense aussi que le travail de Gustavo envoie un message très fort au reste du monde : "Regardez ce que nous, les Latinos, sommes capables de faire !"  

Photographie.com : Le projet de Gustavo, Richland, marque-t-il une nouvelle étape dans l'histoire de la Fondation Manuel Rivera-Ortiz ? 

Absolument. L'année dernière, nous avons fait un choix en ce qui concerne le type de photographie qu'on voulait encourager.

Je pense que le choix de Gustavo Jononovich et de son projet Richland marque un grand pas en direction de notre objectif final, qui est d'encourager l'émergence de nouveaux talents photographiques, de nouveaux sujets et une représentation globale du monde. Aujourd'hui, les photographes occidentaux ont plus de visibilité et plus d'opportunités de carrière que les autres photographes. J'aimerais pouvoir changer cela. J'aimeras voir plus de photographes asiatiques, plus de photographes africains, plus de photographes d'Amérique Latine, plus de photographes femmes participer à ce dialogue. Leur voix est tellement importante !  

Photographie.com : Quelles sont les particularités de votre Fondation Manuel Rivera-Ortiz ? 

Il y a beaucoup de fondations dans le monde, et je pense qu'elles font toutes un travail extraordinaire. Je pense que ce qui nous rend uniques est le fait que je suis moi-même issu des communautés pauvres dont tous ces projets parlent. Je sais ce que c'est, que de vivre dans un quartier pauvre et dangereux ; je sais ce que c'est, que de devoir quémander ; je sais ce que c'est, une famille de huit qui doit vivre avec 242 dollars par mois… Cette expérience de vie est au coeur de notre fondation.

Propos recueillis par Roxana Traista  

 

(English version)

 

Manuel Rivera-Ortiz discusses the work of Gustavo Jononovich, the 2012 grant recipient of The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film grant

Argentinian photographer Gustavo Jononovich is the 2012 recipient of The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film Grant. Foundation President and Founder Manuel Rivera-Ortiz speaks with Roxana Traista about this year's winning project and about the ultimate goals of the foundation.

© André Pfanner

Photographie.com: The judging went on for almost a month. During the final day of judging here in Paris jurors met in person to discuss each of the short-listed projects. Was it difficult to reach a decision?

The top 12 list was incredibly strong, so yes, it was extremely difficult for the judges to reach their decision. The good news is that you had enough people in the room who talked matters through and made a great decision. They all know what the mission of the foundation is, and that itself is amazing and heartening. Even when one judge leaned one way, and another leaned the other way, somehow they always met in the middle. So you felt that you were in a group of colleagues, friends who worked for the best interest of the profession and the work submitted by these twelve shortlisted photographers. It was a logical, correct and important judging process.

Toward the end the conversations across the table became very animated and enthusiastic. From my perspective, all 262 entries we received were all worthy of consideration for the grant. I always say that, like in publishing, a magazine is nothing if it doesn't have content. You always need new blood, fresh ideas, new ways of looking at the world. Innovation itself is based on these principles so why not photo making? While the judges were called upon to select one winner, and while there is only one grant to give at this juncture, it's important for all of the short listed photographers to know that their work is no less impacting or important. I congratulate all of them for submitting their work. They each will receive a complimentary "Mini-Site" to setup as an online portfolio. Many of the entrants to our grant don't have a website of their own.   

Photographie.com: What made the difference?

In the end what made the difference, I think, was the fact that Gustavo's project is fresh and encompassed a much larger human/global situation, pollution. Also there are countries that are covered over and over again, because of very real issues of conflict, famine, disease; not necessarily so for Latin America — at least from an American perspective such as mine. For us Latin America is 'over there' ; it is a place a lot of Americans would rather not think about because of the so-called border wars whereby fences are built and monitored constantly. So here is a photographer, a Latin American photographer, who will cover a Latin American topic which is rarely seen. It also happens this topic is a global issue affecting us all.

I believe that Gustavo is a talented photographer who's capable of making pictures that people in all continents can wrap their arms around and say: 'wow, this is a whole other way of looking at it!' Or: 'this really opened my views to what the world 'down there' is all about which it turns out is not much different from our own!'

This is what is sometimes missing from reportages. We're journalists and we're photographers and sometimes we make the subtle mistake of forgetting that there really is a reader. There is a common man, woman and child out there whom we must reach. You need to make the work palatable to everyone, not just to our peers or to ourselves!

Photographie.com: Gustavo's work focuses on environmental issues. How does that respond to the goals go the foundation?

There's the issue of global warming and sustainability, that we cannot ignore anymore. Our main sponsor happens to be a company that not only has a sustainability clause (most companies do), but that also goes out of its their way to raise awareness of the dangers ahead. Gustavo may be covering environmental issues in Latin America, but these are issues that affect all of us, that affect India, Africa, the US, and so on. We're all guilty of pollution, of misuse of natural resources.  

Photographie.com: As an American born in Puerto Rico, you have very strong ties with Latin America… Is the fact that Gustavo comes from Argentina important to you?  

It's a happenstance. The foundation is open to everyone, no matter which country they come from. I am very proud of Gustavo, but I would have been equally proud if the winner had been a woman from Pakistan, or from somewhere else. 

Photographie.com: What kind of impact do you think this project will have on the Latin American community ? 

I think, and I have said this to all of my family, that we need to step up. We cannot continue, as a Latino and Hispanic community, to sit around and say 'no one did this for me!' This is our opportunity for us to say that we are doing things for ourselves. Maybe this work will touch the people there, in those countries, maybe this will lead them to say 'we need to step up too, we need to clean up our act, we need to make this right.' This is also a way of saying to the rest of the world : 'we, Latinos are stepping up! Let me tell you how, and here are the pictures to show for it!'  

Photographie.com: Does Gustavo's project mark a new stage in the history of the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation? 

Absolutely. Last year, we made a choice based on what needed to be the ground rules concerning the kind of photography (in terms of strength, power and imagery) that we were going to look for from that point on. That was our goal back them.

Now, with Gustavo, we are making that trend move towards the ultimate goal, which is finding new fresh voices, new fresh topics and a global representation of what people everywhere are all about. Photographers are not just American photographer or French photographers, though Western photographers, by virtue of access, generally get more opportunity. I would like to change that. I would love to see more Asian photographers, more African photographers, more Latin American photographers, more Russian photographers, I would love to see more women photographers, I want us all to be part of this conversation. This is so important to me. So here is a step towards that goal. My hope for 2013 is that more women will step up, so that we can get that voice, because that voice is so important. This marks that movement towards not the usual, but the new.

Photographie.com : What makes the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz different from other foundations?

There are many foundations out there in the world, and I think that they are all doing an extraordinary job. The most important single difference is that I come from these very poor places these projects are speaking about. I have said this before, but I have lived there, I know what it's like. I know what it's like to dodge a bullet in the middle of a bad neighborhood, because I had to live in those neighborhoods for a long time. I know what it's like for a family of eight to live on $242 USD a month on food stamps. I know what it's like to have to beg for things, I know what it's like to go shopping to the Salvation Army with $15 USD in your pocket at age 15 by yourself so you can have first-day-of-school clothes. This is what colors this foundation, this is what makes this foundation different. What I come to the table with is that heart, that knowledge of having been there. And this is so critical to me, so critical to the well-being and inner workings of the foundation.

Photographie.com : What is your biggest dream ? 

I love humanity, I am in love with humanity in all its parts. And while I know full well that humanity can sometimes be brutal, it is my hope truly that if each of us takes that random chance, that opportunity to love just a little bit more somehow the feeling gets transposed to someone else and by virtue to someone else forward from that. Perhaps it can become catching, go viral this emotion and wouldn't that be amazing. I still truly believe in the goodness of people. Even when I have myself been on the receiving end so many times of the not-so-nice I have to believe. I — we — don't have a choice. By virtue of being alive it becomes our responsibility to care about one another as we do about ourselves. We breathe, therefore, we are responsible. We are our indeed brother's keeper! I love to love. I am in love. Humanity is my lover. This is the higher reason why I started this foundation.