29 11 2023

Gramaxo Foundation and Rachadouro Cloister of Alcobaça Monastery books

Teresa Siza Porto, November 28th, 2023

These are architectural books. Their entire structure characterises them in this way. They have good, enlightening interviews — which I enjoyed reading — critical texts, sketches, drawings, technical drawings. About this, i don't want to — nor can i — say anything about this. I don't like ploughing into other people´s fields.

But I welcome the editor's idea: to invite two proven photographers to work on the projects, even if it's not exactly architecture photography that we know them best for. A challenge for them, who thus prove that the best can do anything. And well.

As is natural with architectural books, they contain many — and very good — photographs. The relationship between photography and architecture is paramount in the history of photography. Firstly, of course, for technical reasons. The built works are there, quietly; in times of very long poses, they didn't pose much of a problem. And they offered the first «figures of astonishment» to a public enamoured with the novelty. Photographers were sent to distant and then still exotic places - think, for example, of the «Daguerrean Excursions», published in Paris in 1842, the «Mission Héliographique», a survey of French heritage (1851), or Frith's images in Egypt (1856-1859) — and presented the European public with a seductive stranger. Photography was then a recent novelty and would necessarily have to be influenced by other ways of transforming and representing the visible and the invisible. It drank in painting, drawing and architectural design, and is not indifferent to the vision of architecture defined early on by the Greeks.

But this relationship goes deeper. Photography and architecture have two things in common: the control of light and the structuring of shapes in space. They are also two sheltering devices - for the soul, with the reliquary that the photographic image represents, guarding the inconceivable metamorphism of absence-presence; for the body, which allows it to circulate, recognising it, and protects from the visibility and invisibility of the world.

Construcion photography help architecture professionals not only in recording a project; it is an essential tool even before that project (Eduardo draws on the prospecting photographs), during the construction and after it is finished. No architect denies this, even those who never photographs, even those for whom a pencil or the black Bic is the primary tool.

We know António Júlio Duarte for his images of people. In his own words: «I photograph bustling cities and troubled people, trapped creatures and unlikely things. They are my map of the world. I'm drawn to them, moved by the sympathy and restlessness we share. I get to know these restless beings in their trivial affairs and daily dispositions, I sense in them and try to capture the vital tension that is the universal desire for life and meaning. »

Here he is confronted with Álvaro's architecture: no tribulations, no restlessness, nothing improbable, no restlessness. He then chooses black and white — a good choice. The landscape is given to us as peace, the architecture rests on it without harming it. The people aren't there [yet], but he anticipates them and offers them ways, privileged angles to come and enjoy the place. He looks for detail: photography is the art of cutting and detail, as is Álvaro's architecture. And in between, he briefly, in passing, winks at the history of the building - what will no longer be seen, what remains hidden. Through the play of light, he shows that he has understood what the architect wanted — always wants — to do. Finally, without a single portrait, he makes a portrait of Álvaro: through the office, his most sacred place, where there is no shortage of coffee and cigarettes, a few ever-present references, the organised mess.

It's good to return to this António Júlio. Peaceful? I doubt it.

André Príncipe isn't exactly identified as an architecture photographer either. Not even as a documentary photographer, although he has a very special — and very certain! — understanding document, never exempting it from the authorial marking. He's interested in the poetic quality of the images and that certainly will make them good documents. And that all these have. The discipline that is always imposed, he applied it to the history he has built, as the architectural project was also being built. Through sequencing, the confusion of the first phases gives way, through sequencing, to more «classic» images, this away including, of course, the dimension of time, which he cherishes so much. «I like it when you can feel the time in the photograph, I like the photograph to be dated. That makes things more demanding». So it becomes apparent what I always thought he was: the "boy» who — some — judged rebellious, and who was never anything more than the author with a very distinctive eye, turns out to be, for those who had their doubts, a mature author, capable of transforming any commission into a finished work. He never fooled me.