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Guest Lecture - Miguel Gandert

Lauren Erica Davis

Last week native New Mexican photographer, Miguel Gandert, came to speak to us about his art. First he spoke to us about photography, why he does it and why he shoots in film. "Film is Magic" Gandert said, "it was there at the moment of creation! It is an artifact." He said that photography serves as a memory or record of people and places and events. It is also a means of making sense and finding order in the world. And last it is a way of telling stories.

He read us an excerpt of Cartier-Bresson's "The Minds Eye" in which he talks of "the decisive moment" when a photograph is taken, and as photography as "the ambiguous process" and a "way of life." Gandert spoke to us about his photography and the rules he keeps himself to. For Gandert the decisive moment is all he gets to record the perfect image onto the film, because he does not edit once he shots. Everything on the film is printed on paper. He feels that editing after the fact is sort of lying. He talked about the french idea of 'droite de rogarle,' which is essentially that you can't trust images because they can be altered, so you can either trust the artist or not. He tells the story as it is, and he feels this makes him a better photographer because it makes him commit every time he shots. He talked about using digital and the lack of commitment that he feels with a digital camera as opposed to film. Though he will occasionally use a digital image in a show if the image merits the attention.

The photographs Gandert takes are usually of community rituals. He travels around New Mexico and photographs the people. He records their ceremonies and their way of life. He records the dances which are the records of ancient history, and these stories help people to understand their place in the world..


  1. Rituals are meant to help people understand the world and their place in it, so by photographing a ritual and taking the image out of context and introducing it to people who do not understand what is happening doesn't the ritual loose its meaning and purpose?
  2. If some of these rituals are sacred and meant to be seen and not told, then couldn't a photograph be considered insulting to some cultures? How do you know when it is ok to photograph and when it is not?
  3. If an outsider went to a ritual dance they didn't understand in a place they didn't belong, couldn't that negate the point of the ritual by making them feel that they have no place and therefore negate the purpose of the ritual?