“It was a very organic process, growing out of our backgrounds, interests and where our work is going,” Strecker said.
Gonzalez and McDonald worked together previously for an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. McDonald also collaborated with Cartagena on his book “Carpoolers,” and they did a lecture together at the Harry Ransom Center, where some of Cartagena's works are displayed.
“They definitely have some chemistry, which is great and should make for a fantastic event,” Gonzalez said.
The event will also be satisfying on a personal level for Gonzalez, who has written a little bit about Cartagena’s work during his time at Duke.
“He is one of the most important, exciting photographers working in Mexico today,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said McDonald’s inclusion is equally exciting because her curation at the Ransom Center has helped put together one of the world’s most important photography collections.
“The quality of programming that she has put on at the Ransom Center is unrivaled,” Gonzalez said. “Given her kind of depth of experience and knowledge in the field of photography, I think there’s really no one better to pair with Alejandro, in that respect.”
Gonzalez also said he encouraged those that may not know much about photography to attend. He believes the event will offer a unique perspective of the art form.
“It’s often through photography, through the visual, that we register the world around us,” Gonzalez said. “Photos are often more complex than they might seem. They might seem familiar, or they might seem ordinary in some sense. The role of photography is, in some ways, to estrange the ordinary and to make it visible in a new way.”
The event was planned with accessibility in mind, even with regard to the venue, Strecker said.
“It was very intentional that the venue is in downtown Durham, instead of on Duke’s campus,” Strecker said. “We want people from Duke to come, but also from Durham and the Triangle area to come. We want to use this in-depth medium to bring in people beyond academia.”
Cartagena, the guest artist for Thursday’s talk, has worked in photography for 15 years and has had work published in The New York Times, Newsweek, The New Yorker and others.
He hopes the talk will offer a better understanding of authorship in photography.
“It’ll give you an introduction to a contemporary moment of photography, where it is right now, where it came from and where it’s going,” Cartagena said. “To take the image is just one part of being an author as a photographer. You take the image and then what you do with that image, either sequence it or collage it. What you do with that image, that’s where authorship really lies right now. It’s not only about taking the click.”
Cartagena is currently working as an archiver, no longer capturing images himself. He is now taking images by other photographers and working to edit, sequence, collage and physically manipulate the images.
“That’s where my authorship is right now,” Cartagena said.
Artists are great storytellers, Strecker said, and events like this one give the public the ability to experience that in a live setting.
“When I give a lecture, I try to tell a story," Cartagena said. "It’s about telling a story that makes you see that there are other ways that you can see the world. I’m going to show you my way of how I’ve seen the world. I hope they can take that away from the lecture.”
Part two of the series will be held on Nov. 14 from 7-9 p.m. at the Nasher Museum Auditorium. It will feature New York City-based photographer Daniel Shea with Walter Benn Michaels, an English professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago.