Category: Tomas Van Houtryve

Lines and Lineage

Lines and Lineage tomas van houtryve

Selected as a finalist for the 2019 Leica Oskar Barnack Award, seventeen prints of Tomas van Houtryve’s Lines and Lineage will be exhibited in Berlin with the other finalists from September 25 to October 25, 2019.

Lines and Lineage takes aim at America’s collective amnesia of history. The work addresses the missing photographic record of the period when Mexico ruled what we now know as the American West. To visualize the people and places from the remarkable yet unseen Mexican era, Tomas van Houtryve chose to photograph the region with glass plates and a 19th-century wooden camera. Portraits of direct descendants of early inhabitants of the West—mestizo, Afro-Latin, indigenous, Crypto-Jewish—are paired with photographs of landscapes inside the original border and architecture from the Mexican period. Lines and Lineage lifts the pervasive fog of dominant Western mythology and makes us question the role that photographs—both present and missing—have played in shaping the identity of the West. The work will be published as a monograph by Radius Books in Autumn 2019.

The Leica Oskar Barnack Award honors “professional photographers whose unerring powers of observation capture and express the relationship between man and the environment in the most graphic form.” It is named after Oskar Barnack, the inventor of the Leica camera, and it has been awarded since 1979. Previous winners include Martin Kollar, Guy Tillim, Andrea Hoyer, Luc Delahaye, Claudine Doury, Larry Towell, Eugene Richards and Sebastiao Salgado. Tomas’ series, Behind the Curtains, was also chosen as LOBA finalist in 2011. For the 2019 award, the members of the jury were Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Max Pinckers, Milena Carstens, Enrico Stefanelli and Steve McCurry.

Photo by Tomas Van Houtryve

Tomas Van Houtryve’s “Lines and Lineage,” a series of photos about the missing photographic history of the American West, is the winner of France’s prestigious 2019 Roger Pic Award which will be presented tonight in Paris. 

For the 27th edition of the award, there was a tie and the jury selected two award winners. The other winner is Denis Dailleux for his series “In Ghana – We shall meet again.”

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Tomas Van Houtryve followed Mexico’s long-forgotten northern boundary to meet families who have lived in the region, now forming part of the United States, for centuries. His project, “Lines and Lineage,” is featured in The New York Times Lens Blog

Mr. van Houtryve, 44, wanted to challenge what he calls the West’s “puffed-up mythology” in which Hollywood nurtured the view that the expansion of the United States spread ideas like equality, liberty and democracy in conquered lands.

“In reality, these values arrived in the West straight from Mexico City,” said Mr. van Houtryve, who was raised in California and now lives in Paris. “The main ideological import of Anglo-Americans to the West at the time was actually strident white supremacy.”

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