Stranger Than Fiction exhibition, National Media Museum, Bradford

PUBLISHED: 11:15 16 December 2014

Miracle of the Mirror, 2002, Joan Fontcuberta

Miracle of the Mirror, 2002, Joan Fontcuberta


Portraits of mermaids, miracles, flying hybrid beasts and recently discovered galaxies are just some of the remarkable subjects of a subversive new exhibition at the National Media Museum in Bradford. Stranger Than Fiction, which runs until February 5th, gathers together more than 30 years’ work by award-winning photographer Joan Fontcuberta. Using the visual languages of journalism, advertising, museum displays and scientific journals, his convincing yet subversive and deadpan works are an investigation of photography’s authority and our natural inclination to believe what we see.

Since the 1980s, Fontcuberta has been cataloguing his quest to reveal new and unexplained phenomena, taking hundreds of photographs and documenting archaeological findings – details of which have been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world.

Now, the National Media Museum is showcasing a startling collection of work from the Catalan photographer, whose awards include the National Prize in Photography from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and the Hasselblad International Award in Photography. This is his first UK retrospective, and comes to the region following its inaugural run at Media Space at the Science Museum, London.

Fontcuberta is renowned for introducing previously unseen wonders to the public through a unique collection of photographs and objects. Six of his projects are included in the exhibition, covering subjects as diverse as mermaid fossils; a secret order of Scandinavian monks practising miracles; undocumented plants and creatures, such as four-legged baboons and flying goats; plus newly mapped landscapes and constellations.

‘It is a constant inspiration to investigate and document the unknown and unbelievable, especially when I see how people react,’ said the gifted photographer. ‘Mostly it is astonishment and I am often asked ‘can it be real?’ But seeing is believing, and it is a great privilege to present these visions before the eyes of the world.’

Greg Hobson, curator of photographs at the National Media Museum, added: ‘Joan’s celebrated work forms part of a legacy that goes back to the dawn of photography, showing phenomena that would otherwise go unseen or unimagined.

His great skill is not just in taking these images, but also highlighting the role of photography in capturing scenes we could not otherwise witness.’

Entry to the museum and the Stranger Than Fiction exhibition is free. For details, phone 0844 8563797 or visit

Strange happenings

An Evening in Stranger than Fiction

Tuesday January 27th, 7pm (from £22)
Greg Hobson, curator of Joan Fontcuberta: Stranger than Fiction, hosts this special evening event. The ticket price includes a private guided tour of the exhibition, a look at specially selected items in the National Photography Collection that challenge perceptions of truth, and a two-course meal served in the Media Cafe.

Lates at National Media Museum

Thursday February 5th (free)
Can we rely on the photographic image as evidence? Is seeing always believing? These are just some of the hot topics up for debate at the second of the National Media Museum’s ‘Lates’. Inspired by Joan Fontcuberta ground-breaking exhibition, the event will give visitors the chance to explore the science and art of deception, lies and illusion.

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