32 / 50 by Joan Fontcuberta, 1997
Ivan Istochnikov, the subject of this photograph, was a Soviet cosmonaut who disappeared in 1968 during a space mission aboard the Soyuz 2 spacecraft. He was erased from official history because the authorities were unable to explain his disappearance. This account was rescued from oblivion by journalist Mike Arena, who had access to declassified documents from the former Soviet Union.
Can you really always believe your eyes? The man in the photograph is not Istochnikov, but Joan Fontcuberta, photographer and creator of this fabricated story of the dematerialized Russian cosmonaut.
For decades, Fontcuberta has been questioning the fact that photography proves that something is real. He questions such a universal concept through works that challenge his viewers’ credibility. Thus, photography is shown as fiction posing as truth, an authenticating tool of an author’s inventions.
Thanks to his questioning of the objectivity of photographs and his unmistakable style when developing his projects, Fontcuberta received the National Photography Award in 1998, as well as the prestigious Hasselblad Award in 2013.