During the Month of Photography, Manuela Marques will show, in gallery anne barrault, a new set of photographs shot in Sao Paulo, between 2010 and 2011. Here are some extracts of the talk between Manuela Marques and Jacinto Lageira which took place when her exhibitions were on Berardo Museum, Collection of Modern and Contemporary, Lisbon, and in Sao Paulo Pinacoteca.
JACINTO LAGEIRA : Your recent works play with the ideas of the general and the particular, the detail and the whole, near and far. What’s the purpose of focusing on one point, an unseen moment, an abandoned situation, knowing that your approach is neither documentary nor social ?
MANUELA MARQUES : To answer your question, I think we have to go back to the origin of this work, which developed around the idea of an experiment. An attempt to use a few visual points to portray a city, a megapolis, in this case São Paulo. The photographic images taken as a whole, which is presented here, is part of a larger corpus built up over a period of several months spent in this city, which I visit quite often. Every time I stay there, the same question comes up: what should I photograph ?
What should I convey through a picture and in what form? I wanted to address these questions which have always been at the centre of my work confronting them with a situation that hadn’t been mine until that point, namely putting myself in a position to grasp a more global reality, one that was less centred upon the particular. São Paulo is a city with blurred outlines, where all kinds of images seeking to capture its details are obviously possible, but necessarily inadequate if you want to try and give an account of its physical and human dimension. This city therefore needed to be seen as a whole in order to implement this research centred upon this photographic experiment. Nothing seems to
me to be fixed in advance, and social, cultural and architectural differences often coexist in the same space. It isn’t a linear city and I was interested in the possibilities of this nonuniformity for continuing my photographic work. My stay there also allowed me to undertake a work that lay outside the notion of a series, which is so well understood in photography, and to take some steps both towards appropriating the real and making some new suggestions for capturing its shape. In some ways, I wanted to follow circumvolutions, avoiding the series of photographs, as well as any (obviously useless) idea of reducing the city to just a few emblematic images.
JACINTO LAGEIRA : Can we really ignore this social space as such, even if no narrative or obvious state
has been presented to us; what should we see or perceive in your opinion ?
MANUELA MARQUES : I don’t think one can ignore the social space; I’d say my work appropriates it by giving it a particular form. Let’s take these high angle shots, such as the views taken through security cameras. What’s presented by this type of shot doesn’t open up any field to what would normally be seen when a photographer seeks to depict an urban situation: the idea of documenting a reality. One often uses the documentary approach as a stylistic response to this type of problematics, this attempt to address the social and the political. The experiment I’m talking about consists
of my appropriating this photographic space with other more formal media than those that are normally used.
I think my work is also political in nature, in the primary sense of the word. I also believe that the real cannot be dissolved into the style. Most of the photographs were taken in two or three relatively dangerous places in São Paulo: areas where there was drug dealing, consumption of crack cocaine, rundown areas beset with precariousness and poverty, giving rise to situations of conflict.
I placed myself in the position of an observer, although, in the end, the visual report suggests very little of what was observed. In this photographic proposal, the aim is not to give any precise answer through one single interpretation of what there is to see in these images. As in my previous works, I wanted the spectator to have to make a certain effort to create links that are simultaneously visual and intellectual between the different components.
I more certainly achieve a sort of subtraction of the visible in order to highlight the fact that reality is by nature multiform, abstract and fleeting. It’s undoubtedly because of this that, more than any other medium, photography or video are the tools that are best suited to this attempt to infiltrate between the two poles of the visible and the hidden. What creates a doubt is the driving force behind my work. That’s where I think I’m closest to what people call “real”.