An eye-opening collection of photographs and artefacts is set to intrigue visitors to the Science Museum this summer as Media Space stages the first major UK exhibition by award-winning Catalan artist Joan Fontcuberta.

Fontcuberta subtly questions the use of the photographic image as evidence, by combining visually compelling and mischievous narratives with an acute, deadpan humour.

With highlights including astonishing photographs of mermaid fossils and incredible reports on mysterious fauna, Stranger Than Fiction presents six conceptually independent narratives from Fontcuberta’s body of work; a visual universe in which the real and the imagined combine to startling effect.

A youth under the Franco dictatorship and an early career in advertising piqued Fontcuberta’s interest in the use of the photographic image as a storytelling tool: an interest which has developed into a life-long creative interrogation of photography’s veracity. In constantly shifting his methods to encompass new developments in photographic practice, Fontcuberta remains one of the most innovative practitioners in his field.

Co-curated by the artist with Greg Hobson, Curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum, the exhibition will feature some of Fontcuberta’s best-known works, including photographs, film, dioramas, scientific reports and related ephemera to form the second show in the Science Museum’s 550m² Media Space gallery.

Born in Barcelona in 1955, artist, teacher, writer and curator Joan Fontcuberta is one of the most significant figures in contemporary photography. After beginning his career in advertising, he went on to teach in the faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona, as well as numerous other institutions including Harvard University. He co-founded PhotoVision magazine in 1980 and has many other publications to his name. He was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture in 1994, received the 1998 National Prize in Photography from the Spanish Ministry of Culture, the National Prize in Culture for Visual Arts from the Catalan Government and was last year chosen as the recipient of the Hasselblad International Award in Photography.

Joan Fontcuberta said: ‘Photography is a tool to negotiate our idea of reality. Thus it is the responsibility of photographers to not contribute with anaesthetic images but rather to provide images that shake consciousness. My work tries to implement a pedagogy for critical doubt.’

Greg Hobson said: ‘Fontcuberta’s work is astonishing. It combines articulate and persuasive storytelling with a deep questioning of photography’s role in our understanding of the world.’

Media Space is a collaboration between the Science Museum, London and the National Media Museum, Bradford, home of the National Photography Collection.

The inaugural Media Space exhibition, Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, was critically-acclaimed and welcomed 43,968 visitors during its run in London. It is now open at the National Media Museum, Bradford, where it runs until Sunday 29 June.

Hannah Redler, Head of Media Space and Arts Progamme at the Science Museum commented: ‘We’ve been delighted by the public and critical response to Only in England, which has succeeded in bringing a significant new adult audience to the Museum. I’m confident that Fontcuberta’s challenging, revelatory and thought-provoking work will confirm the reputation of Media Space as a destination for anyone with an interest in the photographic image.’

Research by the Museum has found that for 86% of visitors to Only in England, the exhibition was the main reason for coming to the Science Museum.

Offering an eclectic series of exhibitions and events, the Media Space programme draws on the National Photography Collection and the broader Science Museum Collections. Bringing together photographers, artists, curators and the creative industries Media Space explores relationships between, and lesser-known histories of, photography, art, science and technology.

The Principal Founding Major Donors and drive behind Media Space are Michael and Jane Wilson; Founder Donor is the Dana and Albert R Broccoli Foundation and the Principal Founding Sponsor of Media Space is Virgin Media. Media Space has also received generous support in the form of donations or artworks from a large number of individuals, companies and artists.

Joan Fontcuberta: Stranger Than Fiction will run at Media Space, Science Museum, London from 23 July to 9 November 2014, before transferring to National Media Museum, Bradford from 19 November 2014 to 8 February 2015.

Stranger Than Fiction is presented in collaboration with the Government of Catalonia, organiser of the Catalan Tercentenary programme.