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A Conversation with Aldeide Delgado

episode 38
Sept 1 2022

Founder of the Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA), Aldeide Delgado comes in to talk about her organization, the ongoing research project that unveiled the work of past generations of women artists/photographers in Cuba, leading to a career defined by her contributions to photography, empowering women and gender equality through establishing meaningful connections and threads across multiple organizations, eventually redefining art history.

About our guest

Aldeide Delgado is the founder and director of WOPHA: Women Photographers International Archive. She has a background in advising and presenting at art history forums based on photography including: lectures at the Tate Modern, Perez Art Museum Miami, The New School, and California Institute of the Arts. Delgado is a recent recipient of a 2019 Knight Arts Challenge, 2018 School of Art Criticism Fellowship, and a 2017 Research and Production of Critic Essay Fellowship.

She is the author of the online archive Catalog of Cuban Women Photographers, as well as the namesake ongoing book. Publications, where she has contributed, include Cuban Art News, Artishock, Terremoto, C&America Latina, Arcadia, as well as diverse independent art blogs. She is an active member of PAMM’s International Women’s Committee, IKT International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art, US Latinx Art Forum and Art Table.


Fast Forward Manifesto

Becoming Sisters: Women Photography Collectives & Organizations

“It’s so different from the pure act of taking a photograph. With a collage, whatever you put together (if it’s photographs, papers, tape…), whatever material you want to put in your collage, there’s this fine line of adding too much or too little”

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Aldeide Delgado has been on a mission to uncover lost art and artists, particularly women photographers, particularly in Cuba, where she started out. She founded the Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA). While studying art history she noticed a gap in the curriculum that had failed to notice women in the history of Cuban Photography before the 90s. This has led to her ongoing research that aims to uncover some of this lost art and forgotten women photographers. This in turn led to the creation of WOPHA – Women Photographers International Archive, a rising non profit, and the first edition of a free international congress that gathers artists and numerous organizations with similar interests. She discusses the challenges of the research, the “Fast Forward Manifesto”, and the highlights of the Congress.

Conversation Highlights:

  • Redefining art history by unveiling lost photography of women in Cuba and its challenges
  • WOPHA and the first Congress
  • The Fast Forward Manifesto

Redefining art history by unveiling lost photography of women in Cuba and its challenges.

When Aldeide was studying art history, she noticed that photography wasn’t included in the Art History curriculum, and the need for an update. A professor told the class that there weren't a lot of women before the nineties, a fact Aldeide was immediately skeptical of. This mysterious gap triggered immense curiosity in Aldeide who did not have women in her family to turn to for reference since they all passed away in the early sixties. She believed that it was necessary to unveil this work to get a better understanding of Cuban history and the evolution of its society.

She was told that women in Cuba’s history of photography were practically nonexistent. “Someone told me,” says Aldeide, “‘oh, there are no Cuban women artists in photography, and if there are, they are no good.’” Aldeide had to dive deep: “There was no research about that before, so I had to go to the library site. I had to specifically go to the newspapers and magazines, from the 19th century through the first part of the 20th century.” She discovered 58 Cuban women photographers. One of the most beautiful moments, she recounts, was when she discovered the catalogs of the Cuban photography club. “This institution,” she says, “was the most important institution dedicated to Photographic Arts during the Republican period that spanned from 1902 to 1959.”

She found out that this feminine division created their own competitions, and started a platform to make their work visible. They were claiming the right to a social life and exposure to their arts.

Aldeide expresses the challenges of such research: the archives are not public. To receive access requires going through an arduous process of obtaining  numerous authorisations and permissions. Other than going through piles of unfinished work from the archives, Aldeide had to reach out to families of those photographers. “I’m trying to track the history of who the family was, where they were living, what the legacies were, how I can get in contact with someone familiar and who is able to show some of the work that the artist could have made.”

What she has found out was that, in some cases, families would destroy the work as they didn’t consider them important when the particular artist had passed away. Sometimes they only kept family photos “because they don’t consider the work of the grandmother or auntie very artistic or has any value”. One person even wrote to her that they would only sell the work in question (this was the work of a “crucial figure” according to Aldeide). With little funds, Aldeide accepted but they never sent her any photos in the end.

WOPHA and the first Congress

Before Aldeide moved to Miami, Florida, she was living in Cuba where she couldn’t easily access the internet and only then managed to get in touch with photographers around the world. She discovered a world of artists living scattered around the globe.

After her migration, Aldeide’s identity was morphing into something less monocultural, experiencing this dislocation many artist and humans feel in this globalized world in which they do not feel a 100% of one culture anymore: “you are not 100% Cuban but at the same time not 100% American,” she says.

“From this perspective,” Aldeide adds, “WOPHA assumes an international character, but with a specific focus on the artistic production from Latin America and the Caribbean and Latinx communities.”

One of the goals Aldeide has with the organization is to create an archive of international reference “where people can go about the culture of women photographers, but also an archive that is specialized in researching and promoting the work of women photographers from the Caribbean, Latin America and Latinx communities.”

The First Congress Women Photography and Feminism

Last November 17th to 20th 2021, the first Congress Women Photography and Feminism took place at the Paris Art Museum in Miami. Aldeide united important women photographers, curators and art historians from all over the world. According to Aldeide’s website, this event presented seminal and emerging research and discourse in the field, considering both national and international discussion about women and feminism in the history of photography.

Before this event, Aldeide had found that she wasn’t alone in her mission. She discovered other organizations and other women doing similar work and creating their own platforms. “We were creating projects,” she says, “we were making books, and we didn’t know each other.”

She found this fact astonishing, and one of the focus of the Congress was the notion of photography as a collaborative practice. “And in that sense,” she continues, “the notions of collaboration, the notions of collectivity, the notions of sisterhood, were crucial for the understanding of this event.”

Out of the Congress was the production of this photo book titled Becoming Sisters: Women Photography Collectives and Organizations, available for purchase and whose proceeds will “directly impact the production of the programming of WOPHA in 2022.”

“One of the main ideas with the Congress,” Aldeide says, “was creating this gathering of all these organizations, creating a platform in which we can all get together.” Her vision is to “continue having these annual meetings with all the organizations.”

The Congress tackled and unpacked a lot, expanding the mission to actionable steps for the coming years. One of the main topics of the Congress centered around archives: “how to decolonize those archives”. It also emphasized the importance of the photographic process, “the interactions, the social relations that occur within the photographic act”,and not only the final result. Aldeide tells us they also launched an Artists in Residence programme in Miami. “The good news is,” she continues, “everything is available online.”

The Fast Forward Manifesto: a manifesto for increased involvement of women in photography.

So far, 984 people have signed the Fast Forward Manifesto, available on the WOPHA.org website. “I think that the manifesto is a very powerful way to provoke action,” Aldeide says. “It’s very powerful because it gives us the opportunity for the people that signed the document to take real action, it can affect their own institutions from their practice, they can consciously affect those changes that we are claiming.” She goes on to add that the manifesto is “an ongoing project.” Something that also resulted from the Congress that tackled the question: “how can we go beyond the work of making visible women’s photographers’ practices?”

Aldeide informs us that the next WOPHA Congress will take place in 2024 and that she is enjoying “getting prepared for that process.” She invites anyone that is listening to this episode or reading the show notes to get in touch with any ideas, a will to collaborate or get involved in some way. Aldeide is reachable on social media or at info@wopha.org.

Her Artist in Residence program in Miami invites artists that want to work on a specific project within the city, who would be hosted for one week. Aldeide’s next project centers around women photographers from the Dominican Republic. “This is the first project that will address this topic in the context of the island,” she says. “So again, it refers to the lack of research and the amount of work that is the fertile ground for doing research and ongoing work.”

She invites everyone to look into the book available for purchase online, which will support the mission of promoting and researching other work of women artists in photography. 


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