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This text by Eduardo Serrano is the introduction to the book Historia de la fotografía en Colombia (1840-1950). In it, Serrano explains the importance of the publication of this book for the fields of art and history insofar as it recovers the legacy of photography as a visual and theoretical discourse in Colombia. The book is the fruit of a research project directed by Serrano and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogota. That research focused on the breadth of approaches, both expert and amateur, to photography. Serrano also asserts that the images recovered by the research are essential to Colombian historical memory.


Written in 1983, this text is important insofar as it renders visible the transformations in the photographic image from the time it appeared on the Colombian art scene in 1840 until 1950. In the eighties, photography was a realm in which different visual languages intersected and the issue of the mimetic recording of reality was reformulated. In this context, Serrano envisioned a comprehensive historiographic project that would serve as both reference material and a source of memory.


The book Historia de la fotografía en Colombia (1840–1950) was published in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition of the same name on October 23, 1983 at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogota. At that time, Colombian critic Eduardo Serrano (b. 1939) was the curator of the museum directed by Gloria Zea, a post that she continued to hold when this synopsis was written (2008). This publication represents a major effort to compile the history of photography in Colombia.


The book brings together visual and textual information gathered over the course of a three-year research project. Important figures in the Colombian art scene worked on the book, among them: Myriam Acevedo, in charge of research and project supervision; Colombian artist Oscar Monsalve (b. 1949), in charge of reproducing the photographs; and art critic José Hernán Aguilar (b. 1952), special assistant to Monsalve. This project enjoyed the support of Colombian artists and researchers who provided information essential to locating and reviewing the photographic material in the book, among them critic and curator Carolina Ponce de León (b. 1955), who lived in Paris at the time. The 330-page book contains eight chapters on different themes and two appendices: the text “Distintas técnicas empleadas” by Antonio Castañeda and “Fotógrafos activos” (in Colombia from 1840 to 1950) compiled by Myriam Acevedo. Organized chronologically, both appendices constitute reference material on photography in Colombia.

Erika Martínez Cuervo
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Eduardo Serrano Rueda, Bogotá, Colombia
Courtesy of Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Colombia