VOYAGE AU CENTRE/Journey to the Center. Cristina De Middel. until 25 aout 2024.  Eglise des Frères Prêcheurs, Arles – France

Journey to the Center is a series that borrows the atmosphere and structure of the Jules Verne book Journey to the Center of the Earth to present the Central America migration route across Mexico as a heroic and daring journey rather than a runaway.

In this version of the journey, the starting point is Tapachula, the Southern border of Mexico with Guatemala, and the journey ends in Felicity, a small town in California that is the officially “Center of the World”. The absurdity of this landmark, from where you can see the border fence, just adds a layer of dystopic disappointment
and becomes the perfect colophon for a contemporary version of a heroic jest, where the final destination is little less than a roadside touristic attraction.

With a language that combines straight documentary photography with constructed images and archival material, the narrative becomes multi-layered in order to complete the simplistic approach that media and official reports provide of the complex phenomenon that migration is.

The exhibition is part of “Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles” 2024.

Cristina De Middel was born in Spain in 1975, and is now based between Mexico and Brazil. She joined Magnum Photos in 2017 and became an associate member in 2019. In 2022, she became a full member of the agency and was voted in to replace Olivia Arthur as the new Magnum president. De Middel investigates photography’s ambiguous relationship to truth. Blending documentary and conceptual photographic practices, she plays with reconstructions and archetypes to build a more layered understanding of the subjects she approaches. Working from the premise that mass media is reducing our real understanding of the world we live in, De Middel responds to an urgency to re-imagine tired aesthetic tropes and the insertion of opinion in place of facts. De Middel’s impulse toward an unconventional angle developed after a 10-year career as a photojournalist. She moved away from straight documentary and produced the acclaimed series, The Afronauts (2012). This explored the history of a failed space program in Zambia in the 1960s through staged re-enactments of obscure narratives, challenging the traditional depiction of the African continent. De Middel’s project Gentlemen’s Club, which began in Rio de Janeiro in 2015 and expanded to every continent around the globe, bar Australasia, focuses on prostitution’s less documented side: the male clients. Her intimate portraits subvert the paradigms of the status quo to provide new sources of insight and understanding. As well as her acclaimed personal projects, De Middel has worked on commission for clients including the Nobel Peace Foundation, Christian Dior, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and FC Barcelona. Part of “Journey to the Center ” of Cristina de Middel is on MagnumPhotos website like Mexican athletes at the Tijuana border.