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Personal profile

Research interests

Xavier Ribas' work explores notions of practice and experience of space, the relationship between centre and periphery, the built and the unbuilt environment, and the contemporary fragmentation of landscape. In a wider context his research considers the relationship of man and territory, engaging with the notion of the production of space (ref: Lefebvre), the experience of the landscape from the perspective of the everyday (Ref: de Certeau) and the notion of anthropological place (Ref: Augé). 

Ribas' documentary photographic practice embraces cross-disciplinary approaches to research. Trained as an anthropologist interested in geography (ref: Davis, Harvey), microhistory and the philosophy of history (ref: Bloch, Benjamin), his work is also informed by former professional experience in the fields of urban planning and architecture. His large photographic grids, often including text, archive materials and moving image, investigate histories and geographies of abandonment, contested sites and objects, temporary settlements, spaces of urban corporate development and exclusion, border territories, and geographies of extraction.

Xavier Ribas is the Principal Investigator of the AHRC funded research project Traces of Nitrate: Mining History and Photography Between Britain and Chile, developed at the University of Brighton in collaboration with historian Louise Purbrick (Co-Investigator) and Ignacio Acosta (completed PhD in 2016). The research explores the histories and legacies of British investment in Chilean nitrate mines and involvement in its global trafficking. Through an examination of sites, artifacts and images, the project traces nitrate’s route from natural mineral state processed in the oficinas of the Atacama desert through transported commodity and stock market exchange value to become, ultimately, part of the material and symbolic inheritances of London mansions and of estates in the capital’s surrounding countryside. It undertakes new photographic documentation of geographically disparate but historically connected landscapes, remote nitrate fields and metropolitan financial districts, accompanied by an analysis of nitrate’s material and visual culture. Traces of Nitrate has received two AHRC awards: 2012-16 (http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/projects?ref=AH/I021671/1), and 2017-18 (https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=AH%2FR001391%2F1 ). Traces of Nitrate has also attracted external funding from partners in Spain, UK and Chile. A comprehensive website on the research project exists here: www.tracesofnitrate.org.

Xavier Ribas studied BA Social Anthropology at the University of Barcelona, Spain (1990) and Documentary Photography at the Newport School of Art and Design (1993). He has been involved in many international exhibitions including the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS), the Stedelijk Museum, the Bluecoat Liverpool, Museo Universidad de Navarra (MUN), Belfast Exposed, Aperture Gallery, George Eastman House, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Centro Huarte de Arte Contemporáneo and the Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo.

His work is represented in major public and private collections including the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Stedelijk Museum, Fonds Nacional d'Art Contemporain, Museo Universidad de Navarra, Fotocollectie Universiteit Leiden, Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo, and Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo.

He has received awards, commissions and fellowships from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2012-16 and 2017-18), the International Photography Research Network (2006), Commande Publique du Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication/Centre National des Arts Plastiques (2006), and Université de Toulouse II-Le Mirail (2007-2008), among others.

Ribas has also collaborated on research, exhibition and publication projects with the Universidad de Salamanca (1998, 2000, 2009), Universitat Politècnica de València (2008), Université de Toulouse II-Le Mirail (2007-2008), Universiteit Leiden (2006), UNIACC Santiago (2010), and Universidad de Navarra (2009, 2014-2015).

Supervisory Interests

Xavier Ribas is interested in developing postgraduate research in the following areas: contested sites and histories, legacies of colonialism, border territories, geographies of extraction, environmentalism, climate justice, art and activism.

External positions

Associate Lecturer, Universitat Politècnica de València

1 Sep 2004 → …


  • N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
  • G Geography (General)
  • CC Archaeology
  • C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)

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Research Output

A Handful of Dust: From the Cosmic to the Domestic

Ribas, X., 22 Jan 2020

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition

  • A handful of Dust: From the Cosmic to the Domestic

    Ribas, X. & Campany, D., 7 Feb 2019

    Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


    Translated title of the contribution: The Camera and the City: Urban Life in Photography and CinemaRibas, X., Ebner, F. & Dahó, M., 31 Oct 2019

    Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition

  • El tráfico de la Tierra

    Translated title of the contribution: Trafficking the EarthRibas, X., Purbrick, L. & Acosta, I., 24 Oct 2019

    Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition

  • Setze barris, mil ciutats

    Translated title of the contribution: Sixteen Neighbourhoods, A Thousand CitiesRibas, X., Dahó, M. & Delclos, M., 17 Feb 2019

    Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition