This text is a reflection that I wrote by invitation to present Flat Water project to the chinese public. It will be published in Mandarin in the April 2010 issue of the chinese Beijing based FOTO-VIDEO magazine.
Flat Water is an ongoing photography project, begun in 2007 in Northern Portugal. Actually I am still photographing with this project in mind.
In 2008 I wrote down these 3 statements that summarize in a condensed way my thinking and approach to this project:
1 - The two-dimensionality and horizontality of the water surface when calm. Water as an initial concept of mirror, which later generated the concept of mirror with a memory.
2 - The two-dimensionality of the photographic print, and its apparent three-dimensionality caused by our uncontrolled capacity to decode photographic information as a window on reality.
3 - The two-dimensionality of the graphic artifacts juxtaposed with pixel accuracy on the surface of the photograph, could question the apparent three-dimensionality of the image as it challenges the eye to a mental exercise in perceptive reconciliation.
Now allow me to explain a little:
The photographic print is a two dimensional reality. Although we to tend to look to a “print” and most of the times interpret it as a window in a 3D world. But the real fact is that a “print” is just a flat surface. It is well known fact that there were tribal peoples found that lived outside of our cultural universe, that were incapable of interpreting a photographic print of a space with receding background. Only after being taught how to read a photographic print, they reach another level of using the information contained on a photograph.
We are so automatized and conditioned in our way of looking and reading images, be them in Prints, in Magazines, in Movies, in TV, in Computers, (…) It is really an huge intellectual effort to see the two dimensional reality in photos depicting the three dimensional world. Because photography is an art that most of the times deals with the “real” world, and we have grown in a visual culture hyper-abundant with pictures, we normally just cannot see those images as a two dimensional information. It is something that is beyond our control.
When I draw in my computer those small lines that are digitally rigorous and abstract on their organization, because they do not intend to reproduce any object or emotion, we all are obliged to look into that information the same way we look when we read a text on a piece of paper. And suddenly what was apparently three dimensional becomes shapes, colors and two dimensional almost abstract forms.
For me, as an artist, it was a challenge making that happen on the surface of a landscape photograph, that deals with the the concept of the surface of water, that when calm is horizontal and two-dimensional and sometimes mirror like. This idea association made me recall the initial concept of Photography: the Mirror with Memory.
Júlio de Matos
Porto, March 2010