Category Archives: books

Collecting (17) – Zamora

Every year, in the beginning of November, book-sellers from Granada and other parts of Andaluzia gather around Fuente de las Batallas, in the city’s centre. In this used-book fair, you may buy, for two or three euros, some of the most representative works of the most representative authors of the 20th century’s Spanish literature, like Lorca, Cela, Delibes, Marsé or Blasco Ibañez. Amongst these books, you may also find photo-related items, such as postcards, old prints and photo-books. Some of the most interesting objects are the old books published by government agencies, or at the expenses of those agencies, with the aim of promoting regions and historical monuments of Spain. For instance, if you’re lucky, you may find a pristine copy of the Avila’s tourist guide, with text by the Nobel prize-winner Camilo José Cela and photos by the famous Spanish photographer Francesc Catalá Roca. Or something like this guide to the city of Zamora, printed and published in 1929, with texts in Spanish, French and English.

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Collecting (10) – Catalogo Descriptivo de Photographias

Bellos modelos do nu e admiraveis phantasias picantes

This is a funny and bizarre item I found in an antiquarian bookseller in Lisbon: a catalog of erotic (porno?) photographs (photographias galantes), not dated, but probably from the first third of the 20th century. It comes with no images, just descriptions, in naïf, silly and vulgar rhymes, of sets of photographs supposedly depicting typical erotic fantasies and fetishes — a woman and two men, a man and two women, two cousins, and, believe it or not, a man, a woman and a little girl (menina, in Portuguese)! Those photographs could be ordered and sent by mail, and the catalog provides the prices, according to the number of photos, their size and type of paper (albumen, platinum prints, glass negatives, etc.). There is an introduction by the editor proudly presenting the product, which, he states, could not be found until then in Portugal.

Carlos M. Fernandes

Collecting (9) – British Photographers

Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) is best known for his photos and for his work in the cinema. He photographed the Royal Family, worked for the Ministry of Information during the war, designed the customes for My Fair Lady (1964) and even collaborated with a production of Puccini’s Turandot. He also wrote this small book on British photography, in 1944. My edition is from 1987 and I found it in Judd Books, in London, a couple of years ago.

Mr. Instead, who, like many others, started life as a painter but became a photographer instead, made delightful Chelsea-ish compositions, placing figures against a wall covered with potato sacking, balanced by a framed engraving, or a classical statuette.

Cecil Beaton, in British Photographers

Carlos M. Fernandes

Collecting (8) – Thank You

capa

I bought Robert Frank’s Thank You in 1998, at a bookstore located in the ground floor of one of the Twin Towers, in New York, together with a PhilipLorca diCorcia’s monograph. I was leaving for the airport, after my first visit to Manhattan. The towers were the first thing I saw when I arrived at city centre, coming from Penn Station in Newark. When I pick up this book that is what comes to my mind: the towers, the crowded bookstore, the Polaroid I took when I first stepped outside the World Trade Center train station. Frank and diCorcia are two of most important portraitists of America’s zeitgeist(s), and there I was, on the spot that was about to become the symbol of a new era.

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Thank You is not a Robert Frank’s photobook, but merely a set of postcards and letters that he collected over many years, tokens of esteem sent by his relatives, friends and fans. Some photos are from anonymous postcards, others are authored by those that sent him the letters. But in the end, after seeing the 78 messages gathered by Frank in this odd book, we get the feeling of having looked trough one of his works. And, in a sense, it is.

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I have saved these cards over many years

I was touched how many people wanted to tell me

their appreciation of what I was doing

without asking anything in return

This small book is my way of saying Thank You

Robert Frank

 

Carlos M. Fernandes

Back to Hell

I have recently published a book in www.lulu.com, the homepage of a print-on-demand system. Its name is quia in inferno nulla est redemption and I already talked about it in this blog. It has 24 pages, 12 black-and-white photographs and a text I wrote about the project (a reviewed version of one I previously posted). You may browse the first pages here.

By the way, the portfolio number 4 (out of 10) of the same work (but with only 9 photos) is already available at P4Photography, in a cardboard case I made specifically for portfolios 4 and 5.

capa1

Europe barely survived the widespread paranoia that smothered it for nearly a century. Wherever we look, there are signs telling us that the scars are neither forgotten nor healed, symbols that could be the perfect altars for the Memory. However, the European man insists on living in the present. He has no past; he refuses to look over his shoulder, maybe because he fears that, as a consequence, he must face the future.

After falling from the cultural melting pot of the 19th century Mitteleuropa directly into Inferno, western Europeans covered themselves with a veil of delusion that was soon revealed to be no more than a drag, stretched enough to cover the shame, but not enough to protect them from a changing world. Convinced they found the way to prosperity and peace, inebriated by Bismarck’s legacy, and overlooking (sometimes even denying) the flames of Hell that were still burning in the other side of the Curtain, they thought that a new life was possible after the World War II, away from the dreadfulness witnessed by mankind in the first decades of the 20th century. As a result of a quasi-religious conduct, they dreamed of a kind of Eden, an earthly reward for all that former suffering. But History never ends, and those who ignore this fact engage in an existence on the edge of oblivion.

What can possibly be the cause of this crisis, of such a long romantic opera’s libretto (if not Romanticism itself)? Is Europe’s past — not only its dark history but also its glorious achievements — a burden too heavy to bear? In fact, what is left for a culture that already nourished Mozart’s Jupiter, Beethoven’s Seventh and Wagner’s Ring? As Lou Reed puts it (with a pessimism and humility so rare in the pop environment, with all its celebration of the lower culture and refusal of higher standards): you can’t be Shakespeare and you can’t be Joyce, so what is left instead? There’s not much left, indeed. To worsen the situation, Europe collapsed to hysteria and then fell on the last circle of Hell. And, once in Hell, there is no redemption. That, above all, is Europe’s contemporary tragedy.

The photographs in this book aim at portraying that distressed Europe, not literally, not figuratively, but instead in an evocative approach. Colour is now recurrently used to show the grief of the modern middle classes or the monotony of the suburbs, but only black-and-white can properly suggest the misfortune of a fading Europe.

Carlos M. Fernandes, in quia in inferno nulla est redemptio

Collecting (7) – Avila

Here is a beautiful and unconventional tourist guide, written by Camilo Jose Cela, the Spanish novelist that has been awarded the 1989 Nobel prize in literature. Hardcover, a map, and photos by Francesc Catalá Roca (1922-1998) and Josip Ciganovic (b.1922), amongst others. I found a few in my favourite Granada’s used bookstores, but this is the only one that still had the map (and in perfect conditions).

Avilax

Carlos M. Fernandes

Photography in Budapest

I visit regularly Budapest since 1997 and I have never heard of the Vintage Gallery (open since 1996), although I have passed many times by Magyar utca and the Karoly park, the place where this gallery dedicated to the Hungarian photography is located, in the heart of the city. Last Tuesday I went there finally. I saw Lucien Hervé’s (1910-2007) exhibition — and there were the photos of Le Corbusier (1887-1965) works, with whom the Hungarian photographer, born László Elkán, collaborated, from 1949 to 1965 — and talked with gallery’s director Attila Pocze., who kindly offered me the catalog of a surprising work by László Kaldor (1905-1963), shown at the gallery in 2002. Afterwards, I went to the Ludwig Múzeum. It was a long journey to get there; I had to take a tram, then a bus, and then a tram again, due to the works on the tramline that crosses the city along the banks of Danube. Objective: Robert Capa’s exhibition (until October 11). When I got there, I was so tired after a long day that I chose instead museum’s café terrace, a few meters from the river.

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Vintage Gallery, Budapest, 2009

On the following day, I went to the Nessim Gallery, which is at the 16 of Paulay utca, in one of my favorite neighborhoods of Budapest. The friendly director of the gallery, Mihály Surányi, welcomed us with enthusiasm, talked about the photos of the Czechoslovakian Ladislav Postupa (n.1929) which are currently on exhibition at the gallery and showed us the works of some of the artists represent by the gallery. Of two of them, Ivo Přeček (b.1935) e Minyo Szert (b.1955), Mihály offered me the catalogs of their most recent exhibitions (I also had the pleasure of knowing Szert, who was in the gallery at that time, a good habit that so many artists disregard; well, at least in Portugal…). I think that the foundations of a future collaboration may have been raised last Wednesday at the Nessim Gallery.

ludwigBudapest

Ludwig Múzeum, Budapest, 2009

The last step of this photo-journey was the House of Hungarian Photography. The place, which does not have a permanent exhibition and currently has a show on astronomy photography, was disappointing, although the building itself is fascinating. Built for the photographer Manó Mai (1855-1917) in 1894 it has beautiful revivalist façade and a sunlight studio on the top-floor. After a quick visit to the interesting bookstore, I went to the nearest café and prepared myself to enjoy the last final hours in Budapest, while I watched, with a bit of envy, the people entering the Opera for Beethoven’s Fidelio. Maybe one day I manage to get my “year in Budapest”. Until then, I have to keep on with these short visits in order to maintain alive the old relation that I have with Budapest.

minyo

Minyo Szert

Carlos M. Fernandes