A year ago, we thought of photography as matter that we knew needed to be elevated. The characteristic restlessness of photographic practices matched with the audacity that invaded us when having the gallery shairart dst as a blank space. A continuous action between talent search and encounter returned got us back to the original exhibition’s name: BE A PHOTOGRAPHER. shairart is enhanced in its first International Collective Photography Exhibition, through the course of six authors: André Castanho Correia, Miguel De, limamil, Dimitri Mellos, Gabriel Tizón and Ricardo Reis.
“In 1989, 150 years after Fox Talbot’s announcement of ‘photographic drawing’ (the calotype), the Royal Academy, London, mounted his first ever photography exhibition, The Art of Photography. (…) The first major photography show at the Tate (Tate Modern, London), titled Cruel and Tender, was not until 2003.” 1
This exhibition’s title refers to a characterization of the body of work of documentary photographer Walker Evans (1903-1975), attributed to the founder of the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Kirsten (1907-1996): “tender cruelty.” The historical path of conquest of place by Photography in exhibition sites eliminated several stereotypes: highlight the the photographic record as the culmination of a wait for the perfect moment, exalting the spontaneity and eliminating the possibility of a (pre) staging (either conceptual or physical). This sense of belonging was accompanied by a paradigm change, in which the photographing act shifts from the field of art, in lowercase to the scope of Art, in capital letters, predicted in 1988: “It must be admitted by the most determined opponent of photography as fine art that the same object represented by different photographers will produce different pictorial results and this invariably not only because the one man uses different lenses and chemicals than the other but because there is something different in each man’s mind which somehow gets communicated to his fingers’ ends and thence to his pictures”.2
Different motivations for creation have their own space in the Art world, from the grace of pictorial photography to the capacity to report of the documentary genre. Reading the gallery’s space and the spaces represented through the images is an opportunity to meet our own frame of reference: taken to spaces uninhabited or abandoned, transported to places of and in transition, sent to daily practices that are not our own, but which bring us back to individual experience. All the identities recorded in one image could be of others, could be ours, if born in other places, identified in different ethnic groups or in new social circumstances.
The international circuit of social neighborhoods designed by André Castanho Correia brings them together through the concept of transformation, mostly in demolition, abandonment and requalification processes. The formative frontier of architecture is surpassed and we come across a neutral aesthetic, detailed resolution and careful framing, typical of medium-format photography, reinstating the exercise of study, observation and deep insertion in the registered communities. Without any opportunity for distraction, it is denied the possibility of entertainment by potential contrasts or tone saturation, being evidenced the territory’s symbolic elements, such as barriers, entrances, stairs or urban art. The brutality of the buildings – whether of grandeur or lack of them – contextualizes the spectator in the time-space duality, creating an imaginative area for infinite domestic narratives.
The present photographic project is the debut of Miguel De as a photographer in a physical exhibition space: there was a journey until finding himself at “A Body of Land“, a series composed by diptychs that unite human figure – real or simulated – to landscape – natural or constructed. The forms of one are those of another: natural, beautiful and classic. Each set revisits moments that, in unison, become a single poem, a voice. As if it was a minimalist and careful writing, it translates the beauty of the male body, here ennobled, and of nature, in a single common form, generating a gesture in shared light, although photographed on different occasions. The praise of physical forms is amplified in the exaltation of intimacy, where it is not concealed the absence of modesty of the photographed before the photographer.
Transversal to the gallery, in physical terms, and to the Photography itself, in its field of possibilities, objects of the authorship of limamil cross the different photographic series exposed, framing themselves and/or questioning, challenging the visitor to participate in the photographic process. The concept of machinery and operability is contrasted by the praise of the beauty in the simplicity of lines. In the infinite ground of photographic reproduction, highlight to the introduction of cyanotype, an alternative technique to the traditional process of obtaining copies based on silver salts. Cyan is the element that inserts the color for the present selection, in one of the only pieces whose designation is not personalized by its artistic name. It shifts the traditional concept of printed photography into a white wall, guiding us through the optics of the functionality and representativeness of each artwork.
Dimitri Mellos permeates his vision with the knowledge from the areas of study: psychology and philosophy. Narratives are created so that can give answer to the possible connection of the characters: if by chance, if by a life together; whether by the presence of the camera or by the coincidence of being on a rally. The condensation of color transports us, even after we stop looking at the image, to a cinematographic universe that goes beyond the frontier of photojournalism as an original reference. The consolidated author’s path is fed by an insatiable curiosity on the other: mostly in transit, an optic that fascinate the author, but with openness to landscape photography, in which the human element is constant. From a sea of possible indistinct population, a face is raised up and their particularities dignifyed.
Gabriel Tizón portrays the meanwhile. At a sea or in land, where our feet and family could stand (or hover in the absence of it), there are no territorial boundaries that contain the recorded present time, in which the compass of survival reigns. The image does not generate answers or solutions – it raises questions, gives voice to doubts and uncovers the what is hidden. This insurgency against the moments of forced transition, of an involuntary journey, which, for a moment, make us hold our breath along with those photographed, gives body and face to the current situation that arrives at us in an avalanche of information, mostly arbitrary.
Ricardo Reis, on a path of inspiration in cinematographic and journalistic references, sustains the possibility of simultaneous representation of movement and pause: black and white photography as a possibility of order in the chaotic city. He starts on spaces included in the majority’s routine and coats them with a new meaning, as if the photograph compelled us to see again. Without abandoning common places, a new perception is gained, as if they were others: centers of other cities, downtowns of distant capitals, suburbs that are not those which surround us. The technique of multiple exposures takes our eyes from an obvious first reading and situates us in the plurality of possibilities inserted in a single artwork. The ability to revisit already known topographies will bring us closer to the ability to truly look at the spaces we inhabit.
Photography, in particular, and Art, in general, interconnects creators and audiences. We celebrate them in their continuous reinvention and we think shairart as innovation in permanence, that returns to the community what is best created nowadays. The blank space referred to at the beginning of the present reflection – felt at shairart’s restructuring, full of potential – was also filled by the new wave of the city’s programming where we are based. In a network system, we associate ourselves with the various projects of Braga Media Arts, whose challenge launched to the city emerges potential that intersects analog and digital languages. This duality characterizes our action: we retrieve printed catalogs, in limited editions; we create daily content on online platforms, bringing together the power of the image with the power of the word; we finalize with the physical and virtual presence of the shairart’ists: inside or outside the gallery, but with its essence captured in video, in our networks. A year later, still filled with bravery, we are a trio (with beginning at dst group, guided by its history and supported by so many people) that finds inspiration in artists who emerge and consolidate, cyclically. What remains for us is to create space, daily, so that each of the shairart represents – in Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Illustration and Drawing; inside and outside of Portugal – trace path on own track.
shairart’s Head of Communication
BE A PHOTOGRAPHER’s co-curator
1 WELLS, Liz – Photography; A Critical Introduction. Glasgow: Routledge, 2004. Terceira Edição. Página 248.
2 HARKER, Margaret – The Linked Ring: The Secession Movement in Photography in Britain, 1892-1910. Londres: Heinemann, 1988. Página 46.