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On The Edge of Reality

Where fact and fiction shake hands, the photographs of Cristina de Middel reside. Like nimble tightrope walkers, her images walk the edge of reality and entice the audience to follow suit. Everything appears easy, understandable, and entirely real at first glance. There is a likelihood that the more confident might fall off the edge, slipping over their own conviction that everything is clear.

With Cristina de Middel, everything is clear, yet simultaneously, nothing is as it seems. She is an experienced guide through worlds, stories, and dimensions. Her work is a palette of impressions from both actual occurrences and the unoccurred. A journey through her art is only possible for those who have managed to set their own open hearts as a safety net.

On The Edge of Reality is Cristina de Middel's exhibition within the framework of the FotoFabrika festival, which will take place at the National Gallery – The Palace from January 25th to March 17th. The exhibition will feature five of the photographer's most popular series: Afronauts, This Is What Hatred Did, Party, Jan Mayen, and Gentlemen's Club.

©Bruno Marais

Cristina de Middel is a Spanish photographer whose work explores the dual relationship between photography and truth. By blending documentary and conceptual photography, she toys with reconstructions and symbols to blur the boundary between reality and fiction while commenting on pressing issues of our contemporary world.

A full member of Magnum, she currently serves as the agency's president. Her photographic journey began as a photojournalist. In 2012, she created her exceptionally popular series Afronauts, which brought her worldwide fame. Through this series, de Middel embarked on the path of conceptual photography, continuously challenging perceptions about where documentary ends and fiction begins. She has curated major global photography festivals, including Photo España and festivals in Lagos, Nigeria, and San José, Uruguay. She is the author of over 14 photo books.

Series included in On The Edge of Reality


The series Afronauts reconstructs the events surrounding the attempt to create an African space program in 1964 by the Zambian Edward Makuka Nkoloso. Cristina de Middel skillfully juggles Western clichéd perceptions of Africa and space, intertwining them with the historical facts about Zambia's space program.

This Is What Hatred Did

Cristina de Middel reconstructs the plot of one of the novels by the popular Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola, transporting the fantasy narrative into contemporary Nigeria.


A view of contemporary China through a combination of text and images. Cristina de Middel's images are combined with excerpts from the second most printed book in world history, Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong. The excerpts are censored and edited to reflect much more the current state of the country, diverging from the classical communist slogans.

Jan Mayen

In 1911, an Arctic expedition set sail to rediscover the island of Jan Mayen, located east of the shores of Greenland. Not everything goes according to plan, and ultimately, the result of the expedition is a series of photographs taken along the shores of Iceland. Using the original archive and based on the expedition's cinematic screenplay, Cristina de Middel "stages" her photo series along the shores of the Scottish island of Skye. The two sets of photographs are then blended and hand-colored to narrate the story of this ill-fated expedition.

Gentlemen's Clud

In 2015, aiming to achieve a better visual balance in portraying prostitution, Cristina de Middel placed an advertisement in a newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, seeking clients willing to pose for her in exchange for payment. To her surprise, numerous men responded to the advertisement, and their portraits and interviews became the first chapter of the "Gentlemen's Club" – a visual indicator of sex service users around the world.

Over a span of 7 years, the photographer traveled to various cities directly linked to this business, collecting 100 photographs and interviews where men shared their motivations and perspectives on paid sex. The locations included Havana, Mexico City, Paris, Bangkok, Los Angeles, Lagos, Kabul, Amsterdam, and Mumbai. Some are well-known for their sex tourism, others contribute to romanticizing prostitution, while some showcase the cultural differences that burden this significant global secret.


January 25th – March 17th

National Gallery – The Palace

1 Knyaz Alexander I Square

January 25th (Thursday)18:30 – 20:00

FotoFabrika festival is a part of the Cultural Events Calendar of the Sofia Municipality.