Louise Purbrick 'Photography and Capitalism: 'Oficina Alianza and Port of Iquique 1899''

Louise Purbrick

05 Oct. 2013

This lecture examines the relationship between the photographic image and capitalist exploitation. The photographic album The Alianza Mine and the Port of Iquique 1899 – an industrial topography of nitrate mining in the Atacama Desert in Chile – serves as a starting point to raise a number of questions. What relationship does photographic representation have with the development of capitalism? And, in the case of Chile, how has the photographic process positioned itself at the service of European speculators and monopolies? Of the hundreds of pictures included in the album The Alianza Mine and the Port of Iquique 1899, many portray nitrate miners: industrial topography is a landscape inhabited by people. What role does the figure of the worker play in these acts of representation and processes of appropriation? The Alianza Mine, like many nitrate mines and towns, was abandoned in the mid-twentieth century. Now part of the ruinous landscape of the Atacama Desert, its mining history is reflected in disjointed fragments. With this in mind, how can a twenty-first-century photographic investigation reveal the capitalist as well as photographic exploitation endured by the desert in the past?

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