Some photographers use a camera to explore the world. Joan Fontcuberta prefers to explore the camera itself in order to decipher the world that it will give us. In 1978, he earned a degree in Information Sciences from Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. By then, Fontcuberta’s eyes were already well attuned to the tricks of advertising images, given that his father ran an agency that he had visited regularly since he was a child.
Both systems of representation –documentary and advertising– struck the young artist as deceitful. So after a brief foray into photojournalism, he threw himself into researching the ways in which the photographic medium could help him to deconstruct the illusion of realism and truthfulness presented by the media. All of this took place in Barcelona when the city had just emerged from Franco’s dictatorship, as a restless generation of photographers struggled to lay the foundations for a new photography rooted in conceptualism, critical discourse, and the post-modern spirit, in keeping with the kind of work that was being produced in other parts of Europe and the United States.
Aside from Fontcuberta there was Josep Maria Casademont, Toni Catany, Manel Esclusa, Pere Formiguera, Jordi GUillumet, Manolo Laguillo and Humberto Rivas, to name a few; photographers whose multidisciplinary efforts –they were artists, teachers, historians, publishers and promoters– raised Spanish photography to a new cultural, artistic and institutional status. It was the time of the Jornades Catalanes de Fotografia, Primavera Fotográfica de Barcelona, and the magazines "Nueva lente" and "Photovision" (co-founded in 1980 by Fontcuberta, who was its Editor in Chief until 2001).
Since then, Joan Fontcuberta’s work has continued to challenge the authenticity of images and their capacity to represent and take the place of the real world, while at the same time questioning the always porous boundaries between reality and fiction. Fontcuberta is interested in the social roles of photography, the public use of images, information overload, and the processes for knowledge production and transmission processes. And he analyses these operations by activating a critical, parodic discourse intended to activate the spectators' awareness and analytical capacity, offering spaces for reflection and doubting. Fontcuberta maintains that doubting is a tool of the intelligence.
His use of photomontage, collage, and other image-manipulation techniques in the eighties and nineties –in works such as "Herbarium" (1982), "Fauna" (1989), Sputnik (1997) and "Milagros & Co" (2000)–, gave way, at the turn of the century, to the use of new technologies and digital tools –"Googlegrames" (2005), "Deconstruir Ossama" (2007) and "Monumentalalbum" (2012)–. From the late eighties, Fontcuberta's work has been regularly exhibited at galleries and museums around the world, including Museum Folkwang in Essen, MoMA in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, IVAM in Valencia, MNAC in Barcelona, Parco Gallery in Tokyo and Fotografins Hus in Stockholm.
His theoretical texts include "Estética fotográfica" (1982), "El beso de Judas. Fotografía y verdad" (1997), "Ciencia y fricción. Fotografía, naturaleza y artificio" (1998) and "La cámara de pandora. La fotografí@ después de la fotografía" (2010), which earned him Spanish Ministry of Culture's National Prize for Essay in 2011. He has also won the 1998 National Prize for Photography and the 2013 Hasselblad Award for his career.