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Luis Delgado-Qualtrough (Mexico/USA)

10 Carbon Conundrums


Carbon is, by mass, the fifteenth most abundant chemical element in the Earth’s crust and the fourth most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. It is present in all forms of carbon-based life and in the human body. Its abundance, together with the unique diversity of its organic compounds with their unusual polymer forming ability at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth, make carbon the chemical basis of all known life on this planet.

In the biogeochemical cycle, carbon is exchanged as it circulates among the Earth’s biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Along with the nitrogen and water cycles, the carbon cycle comprises a sequence of events that is key to enabling Earth to sustain life, which depends on carbon being recycled and reused.


My sense of self and of life’s personal meaning is deeply rooted in my long-held feeling of being at one with nature, and both my conscious and unconscious sense of being are deeply influenced by my habitual observation of nature. Over time, observation becomes thought and voice, and as observations are manifest in images and words, they become the perfect vehicles with which to address personally disturbing issues.

Knowing that the world has vastly changed since I became aware of nature is very disturbing. Being complicit in these changes is doubly so. Yet becoming aware of and understanding my own carbon footprint is what allows me to make choices that can positively affect the world I live in. Creating 10 Carbon Conundrums is my contribution to educate, entice, amuse, and criticize the world about the carbon accumulation now affecting Earth.


My thoughts on carbon have conjured two voices, materializing in the characters of Lisdebertus and Cedric Tlapaltotoli, who riff on issues and expound different views regarding the changing circumstances of Earth and the human impact on its environment. Lisdebertus channels the perspective of someone curious about the ever-present past, working from a fact-based knowledge of history and adding a twist of historical perceptive. Cedric Tlapaltotoli speaks from multiple cultural traditions and a humanistic vision while imparting a more sardonic analysis and language.

The images and text are linked through a common date, connecting common paths of experience and awareness. Utilizing this mechanism of association, Lisdebertus and Cedric Tlapaltotoli conjure a vision based on facts and figures, and can place a seemingly mundane photograph of the sky within a resonant context. That context is the substrate for the work’s ten basic carbon conundrums. These are the puzzles that confront us as the human population inhabiting the Earth today.

Luis Delgado-Qualtrough


Luis Delgado-Qualtrough, born in Mexico City, now lives in San Francisco. His work has been exhibited worldwide at venues including the Zurab Tsereteli Museum of Modern Art, Tbilisi, Georgia; FotoTriennale, Odense, Denmark; FotoFest, Houston; Fotofestiwal Lodz, Poland; Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, D.C.; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; Museu de Arte Moderno do Rio de Janeiro; Noorderlicht International Photofestival, Groningen,the Netherlands; Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires; Centro Colombo Americano Medellín, Colombia; RayKo Photo Center, San Francisco; Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, Oregon; SF Camerawork, San Francisco; and Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City.

Delgado’s prints and artist’s books are held by many museums, institutions, and private collectors, including the San Francisco Museum of Fine Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Harry Ransom Center, Austin; Green Library, Stanford University, California; Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley; Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa; The Mexican Museum, San Francisco; Museet for Fotokunst, Odense, Denmark; Bibliothèque national de France, Paris; Museu de Arte Moderno do Rio de Janeiro; and Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City.

His most recent exhibitions have been of contemporary prints made between 1975 and 1980, featured in a 2015 show at Corden|Potts Gallery, San Francisco, and of vintage silver prints from 1980 at Paris Photo 2015; the latter were placed in the Leticia and Stanislas Poniatowski Collection as well as in the Jean-Louis Larivière Collection. Also from that era, his artist’s book The people of San Miguel: A portrait collection of Sierra Totonaco Indians (San Francisco: Califrisco Press, 1975-2005) was added to The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos. Images from his artist’s book Cuentos Chinos (2008) were exhibited in Seeing China: Photographic Views and Viewpoints (2015) at the Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, and then joined the collection of Michigan State University Libraries. His artist’s books 47 Diaries (2014) and Le canto por un pan (2013) were exhibited at RayKo Photo Center, San Francisco in 2014. (The three recent artist’s books are publications of San Francisco’s Malulu Editions.)

Delgado has been recognized in the Discoveries of the Meeting Place exhibition at FotoFest; he has received grants from the Peter S. Reed Foundation, Potrero Nuevo Fund, and MexAm Foundation; and he is a member of the Arts & Letters Council of The Mexican Museum, San Francisco.

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