A striking book with the title “Ontem” (yesterday) has recently been released by the Belgian publishing house Le caillou bleu. André Cepeda is a young Portuguese photographer who for a number of years has photographed the inhabitants of a small district located on the outskirts of the city of Porto. Many people here eke out a living only through prostitution and petty crime. The book contains portraits, (drastic scenes), apartments, and landscapes, often in the colours of dusk or under a grey sky. Some portraits reminded me of Chauncey Hare or Jacob Holdt. These are interspersed with pictures of sex or trashed rooms. There are also portraits in which people have been photographed with great clarity and sobriety. (It takes time for these pictures to reveal their meaning). They seem to show a “bare life” (Agamben), one that is reduced to the absolute minimum. But they also show the full sympathy the photographer has for his sitters. In an interview at the end of the book, Cepeda mentions a couple who found one another only late in life and describes their love under these difficult circumstances. This allows us to understand small details, such as plant pots outside a closed door or a broken window, and we are more willing to accept nakedness and unadorned physicality in the images. This is an important book alongside “Messina” by Pieter Hugo and “Niagara” by Alec Soth. It too uses the means of a new documentary style (flash, reduction, the artistic use of colour) to confront viewers with the inhabitants of a small peripheral world that is more representative of ours than we wish to acknowledge.
In the past few years I’ve been developing several projects in which the Portuguese contemporary landscape is my workspace. I‘ve chosen the large format camera (4x5 inch) because, adding to its precision and technique rigour, it has a slow work process. This work method is determinant for the attentive and prolonged observation, allowing me to get engaged in and connected with the object or landscape that I wish to photograph.
I’m always trying to build new ways of looking at reality and at the space that is presented to me. I essentially look for the forgotten or rejected spaces or moments, things that belong to us and we are used to look at. This interests me in the way that it forces me to create an image and relate to its space, while trying to forget its history and original reception contexts. Concentrating only in light, space and time, I feel freer to create new contexts for the images, as if this almost sculptural treatment gave them back an apparently forgotten or neglected dignity. Thus these images become moments that propitiate a wider reflexion on the way we build our cultural and social identity.
Born in Coimbra in 1976 and lives and works in Oporto, Portugal.
André Cepeda began exhibiting regularly in 1999, the year in which he received a residency grant at the Espace Photographique Contretype, in Brussels, Belgium. In 2001 he undertook two projects in response to institutional commissions, a first one in connection with the programming of Porto 2001 – European Capital of Culture, by the Portuguese Center of Photography from Oporto and Roterdam, and a second one for the Encontros de Imagem at the Museu da Imagem in Braga, Portugal. In 2002 he was awarded a fellowship from Centro Nacional de Cultura, and the following year he undertook another artistic residency at the António Henriques Galeria de Arte Contemporânea in Viseu, Portugal. In 2007 he was shortlisted for the EDP new artists prize and developed a project curated by Sérgio Mah (director of PhotoEspanha at that time) for the Instituto de Emprego e Formação Profissional. In 2008, after exhibiting at the Faulconer Gallery, in Grinnell (Iowa, USA), in an exhibition curated by Lesley Wright, he undertook the project River, which was developed along the Mississippi, presented at the Galeria Pedro Cera, in Lisbon, in 2009, and published by Chromma, under the same title. The same year he took part of the exhibition “Paraísos Indómitos”, curated by Virginia Torrente and presented at MARCO Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Spain. Between 2006 and 2009, he developed the project Ontem, with the support of the Fundação Ilídio Pinho, which was presented for the first time in 2008 at the Galeria Zé dos Bois, in Lisbon, and at the Espace Photographique Contretype, Brussels and the Photographic Festival in Rome. The same project was published by Le Caillou Bleu. In 2010 he was nominated for the BESPhoto Photography Prize, in Lisbon, and developed two big projects, one for the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, and the other for the Champalimaud Foundation. He participated in two exhibitions, “Impresiones Y comentários - Fotografia Contemporánea Portuguesa”, na Fundació Foto Colectania, Barcelona, Spain, and at “Mostra de Video Arte e Fotografia Portuguesa” no Centro de Artes Helio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 2010.?In 2011 he was shortlisted for the Paul Huf Award, Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam. His new book “Rien”, is coming soon published by Pierre Von Kleist Editions.
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