This article appeared in the catalogue for Chile: 100 años de artes visuales. Tercer periodo 1973–2000: Transferencia y densidad, the exhibition curated by Justo Pastor Mellado at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (October 19 to December 31, 2000). Historias de Identificación was the theme of one of the eight rooms set aside for the exhibition; it sought to express Chilean identity as a “family album” through the works of artists who used their cameras to take portraits.
The emergence of photography in the visual arts and in art criticism was characterized by a photographic discourse that was driven by its ability to skirt the boundaries of art; this was especially true in terms of painting and representation in the 1970s, printmaking and reproduction techniques in the 1980s, and in the field of politics (where its documentary potential came into its own). The list of publications and milestones mentioned by the author point to an unresolved discussion regarding the standing of photography in Chile and how it has been theorized, mainly in terms of the visual arts.
On this subject, these three books are of interest: Nelly Richard, Una mirada sobre el arte en Chile (A Look at Art in Chile, 1981) and Márgenes e instituciones (Margins and Institutions, 1986), and Ronald Kay, Del espacio de acá (About This Space Here, 1980), partly because of the tendency to pit photography’s artistic attributes against its documentary potential.