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Max de Esteban



The work of Max de Esteban made a strong impression on me the very first time I came across it while going through his portfolio in my capacity as a reviewer at the FotoFest 2014 Meeting Place. Formally, his photographs evoke the work of Robert Heinecken created many years earlier, but they contain a much more personal message, as well as a spirit of contemporary, complexly fragmented perception, that differs from Heinecken’s social and political—though highly provocative—collages. De Esteban’s collages also have a distant connection to collages from the heyday of Surrealism, stimulating the viewer’s imagination in similar ways. The art historical is, however, just one of the layers we can uncover from these works. What stands out above all is a sense of ambiguity in our perception of the reality around us—the physical reality as well as the ephemeral reality that batters us through the media, the Internet, and social networks, of which we get such an overdose that everything sometimes begins to blur together or morph into a completely new reality of its own. It would further appear that just as the new communication technologies have enhanced a fusion of reality and fiction and of the present and the past (and the anticipated future), the absolute power of the mass media has impacted the major narratives of the human race, including both the horrific ones— such as war, the exodus of whole nations, famine—and those joyous ones, too, along with supremely intimate stories such as the moment of conception or the birth of a new life. Thanks to the media, we can nowadays view all of these live, and our physical reality constantly intertwines with the virtual world.

De Esteban has found his own distinctive solution to the problem of how to reflect on all these different realities. He has decided to serve up a peculiar concoction that combines all the sensory sources attacking his imagination and, in doing so, to create a trademark product. His aim is not the making of individual images but rather the launching of a continuous game, one that creates a new hybrid substance.

He builds all this in the form of collages or digital montages, providing a sketchily suggested storyline and creating a world of its own with its own laws, as well as a new aesthetics. He keeps us, the viewers, in permanent suspense and gradually draws us into his inner world so skillfully that we quite forget to miss the physical, “palpable” reality. Willing to follow him into the unknown, we never cease to be curious about what we find out about him personally, for we can sense another hidden narrative just under the surface of each picture/collage: the story of the author himself, the story of Max de Esteban.

Pavel Baňka, Editor-in-Chief, Fotograf, Prague, Czech Republic


Spanish artist Max de Esteban won a Fulbright grant, studied engineering at Universitat Politècnica de Barcelona, and holds a Ph.D. from the Universitat Ramon Llull and a master’s degree from Stanford University. His work has been exhibited at the Deutsche Technikmuseum Berlin, Rencontres Internationales at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie in Germany, among others. He is the recipient of a Spain National Award of Professional Photography and won the 2010 Jury’s Special Award at Fotofestiwal in Lodz, Poland. His monographs include Elegies of Manumission (Manchester, England: Nazraeli, 2012), Heads will Roll (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2014), and Propositions (Madrid: La Fábrica, 2015). Heads will Roll was recently listed as a photo book of the year by Lens Culture magazine. Shown in solo and group exhibitions at art institutions worldwide, De Esteban’s work is in the museum collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro; and Deutsche Technikmuseum Berlin. He is represented by Uno Art Space in Stuttgart (Germany), Gallery NoW in Seoul (Korea), and Klompching Gallery in New York (USA).

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