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The word ‘capitolio’ refers to the domed building that houses a government. Here, the city of Caracas, Venezuela, is itself a metaphorical capitolio building. The decaying Modernist architecture, with a jungle growing through the cracks, becomes the walls of this building and the violent streets become the corridors where the human drama plays itself out in what President Hugo Chavez called a ‘revolution.’
Originally published as a traditional book in 2010 by RM, “Capitolio” is an intimate journey through a time of revolution in Hugo Chavez’ Caracas, Venezuela. This series was photographed between 2004 and 2008.
“Capitolio” is the first authored monograph photography book for the iPhone and iPad.
DAH – Chris Anderson Interview
This is an excerpt of a recent skype conversation with Chris Anderson, talking about how the iPad application of his most recent book, Capitolio, came to be. This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
David Alan Harvey: …tell me in your own words a little bit about where you got the idea [to make an iPad monograph out of Capitolio] and what you did.
Chris Anderson: Basically, the book was starting to sell out, and I started thinking, only a certain number of people can actually get this book, and the ultimate expression of what I did in Venezuela really comes together in a book. You know, a slideshow on the web doesn’t really capture the whole thing, seeing a print doesn’t really capture it, it’s in this book form, and the way I put the pictures together, and the way the pictures come one after another, the relationship between the other one…this final book form that we think of, that’s what this book was. Not just a collection of pictures. And, I sorta think, well, there’s only 3000 copies of this book printed, so there’s only a certain select people who are actually going to experience that book, and because it’s an expensive book, only a certain number of people with the money to buy the thing. So, I started thinking, you know, it was kind of the confluence of a lot of things. Thinking about the finite audience of a printed book at the same time that I’m sitting here holding this new technology in my hand, an iPad and an iPhone, and thinking,
Maybe this is a way to have an in-finite audience. And, that really I could, even though my first love is the printed book, I could still kinda get this experience and get across what I was trying to say to a much larger audience than I ever could with the printed book. And the applications of that in terms of reaching audience and what does that mean, even in an academic setting with students, you know? Think about a university classroom that’s teaching photojournalism, or that’s teaching book making, or even in the case of this book, you know, political science or something. And being able to have that book, which you could never have in a college curriculum, you could never have everyone in the class buy the printed book, but here’s a way that in an academic setting…
DAH: Everyone could be sitting there with their iPads looking at it.
DAH: The quality, you know, it looks amazing. The quality is kind of better there than…I mean, in terms of there’s a certain texture or quality to it that you see on the iPad that kind of beats everything, don’t you think?
CA: Yeah, oh yeah. And actually, I just saw it recently on the iPhone for the first time, and that’s actually where I really liked it.
…I think it has something to do with being able to have something to say. You know, nice pictures photographers want to look at or people who like pictures want to look at, but to reach that other audience, you have to have something to say to them…We as photographers, we’re going to have to find a way to then become a writer and also a filmmaker, and also a radio producer and everything like that…maybe that’s one path to it. But it’s also just about having something to say about the world, even purely through pictures…somehow that voice of whatever you want to call it, authorship or whatever, is really important.
You know, I think about Paul Fusco’s Chernobyl Magnum in Motion, which is something I show my students a lot, it’s really, it’s pretty simple, there’s not really any whistles and bells. It’s him talking and showing his pictures. But it’s so powerful because he really has something to say, you know what I mean? And, it’s not about having fancy music as the background track, it’s not about slick jump cuts, it’s really about having something to say. I have a feeling that in the future, you know, I imagine…this app that I did is pretty basic in the end. There’s a pdf, a digital version of the book pdf style, to look through, theres some extra pictures, there’s a video interview, pretty basic. There’s not too many bells and whistles. I can imagine though that in the future, people are going to do things that will really be amazing in terms of how to use this medium, how to use this technology to tell stories, or to offer the public things that a printed book can never do.
DAH: Oh yeah, you can imagine that if you had 10 or 15 or 30 or 50K to spend on building the app, yeah, you could imagine…you’ve got directors cut, you’ve got the video component, you’ve got the about, you’ve got those kinds of things, but you could go even further, right? You could even go back there and have a 5 minute movie on there, or on some other topic….but you can imagine having an incredible thing. Are you guys gonna have that for Postcards [From America]?
CA: Well, we don’t have an app version yet, but we want to try and incorporate as much as we can in terms of like…
DAH: You don’t have anybody shooting video or anything though?
CA: I’m going to try and shoot a lot of video.
DAH: Yeah, I was gonna say, that would be, that would always be an interesting component for any app. How long is your interview in your app?
CA: It’s ten minutes.
DAH: ..You’ve already reached I don’t know how many people with it, but we’ll just, we want to just promote the app, but in the best possible way. And to get it on some Facebook pages, like people who are interested in political science in Venezuela, and see what happens, outside of your fan club. You know, your fanclub is gonna buy the app. But, you’re right, you want to see if you can sell it to other people as well.
CA: Yeah, that’s the real test, if you can find a way to break out of that.
Christopher Anderson was born in Canada in 1970 and grew up in west Texas. He first gained recognition for his pictures in 1999 when he boarded a handmade, wooden boat with Haitian refugees trying to sail to America. The boat, named the Believe In God, sank in the Caribbean. In 2000 the images from that journey would receive the Robert Capa Gold Medal. They would also mark the emergence of an emotionally charged style that he refers to as “experiential documentary” and has come to characterize his work since. Christopher’s photographs often explore themes of truth and subjectivity, and his subjects range from war to fashion to his own family.
Christopher is a member of Magnum Photos. He is the author of two monographs: Nonfiction, published in 2003 and CAPITOLIO, published in 2009 by RM and named one of the best photography books of 2009/10 at the Kassel Photo Book Festival in Germany.