Cristina de Middel is a Spanish photographer based in Mexico and Brazil. She works independently and collaboratively with her husband, Bruno Morais. After becoming disillusioned with photojournalism’s relationship to the truth, she chanced a new approach fusing documentary practices with constructed conceptual photography. In 2013, Cristina’s publication The Afronauts (2012) won her an ICP Infinity Award and a place as a finalist for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. Feeling a change in photojournalism, she applied to Magnum. In 2019, she became an associate member. Cristina was surprised but greatly encouraged by the historic agency’s recognition of her work. In both her long-term and shorter projects, she has continued to offer new perspectives on the clichés of photographic photojournalism.
The Afronauts portrays the true but incredible story of one man’s dream of a Zambian space programme. A mix of typed correspondence, faux-archive materials and stylised re-enactments of the lives of the African trainee astronauts, the book is part fable, part testament to the dreams we all share. Here the spacesuits are in the bold colours of African wax prints. In one image, we see a man dreaming of the space race. In front of him is a cardboard space shuttle and the wall behind is covered with cut out stars.
Since the success of The Afronauts Cristina has worked on projects exploring African religions and spirituality, the impact of consumerism on Africa, and the male side of the sex trade. In Gentlemen’s Club she focuses on the male customers; each image is part of a transaction where Cristina pays the men for their time, takes their photo and asks them to tell her about their experiences with prostitution. Often presenting her work in book form, Cristina also runs a self-publishing house, This Book is True, dedicated to new perspectives from or about Africa.
By Emma Godfrey Pigott (IG @emmiephoto)