Photographing heritage

Porto has a very special photographer: Luís Ferreira Alves is dedicated to capturing Porto’s spirit through its architectural heritage. As much as to the city’s historical landmarks, his architectural photography focuses to the more contemporary built legacy created by protagonists of the Porto School of Architecture.

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They actually seem to be the reason why Luís Ferreira Alves dedicated to the architectural photography in the early 1980s, after some soul searching in the area of experimental film and amateur photography. At that time, he helped out a friend who needed photos of his project for an exhibition, and after it was presented at the Faculty of Architecture, interest was raised among architects and commissions followed. Alves then made a risky move: he abandoned his permanent job to dedicate completely to architectural photography.

It turned out the right choice.

Now we know him best through beautiful photos capturing his city and its heritage, like the ones that embellish the recently reissued luxury album Sentimento do Porto. But there is one more curiosity about this author: he specializes in exposing the process of heritage transformation through photographing restoration works. These are far beyond the documents testifying of the works done in the project dossiers, they make one rethink heritage and see it more clearly as a living thing, with a potential to change and adapt to the present times.

This gives visibility to the hidden layers of the monuments’ and the city’s history that often remain inaccessible and overlooked, and (here I borrow the spot-on expression of Pedro Bandeira), helps demystifying heritage that comprises a significant part of our surroundings and daily lives.

My “discovery” of Luís Ferreira Alves comes just on time to share the news of an exhibition that is about to be open in Porto: “Nasoni – Regressos” is about the restoration works on the city’s symbol – the Clérigos church. The opening is on April 21st, 2016, in MMIPO (Museu da Misericórdia do Porto). No need to mention the name of the author!

Details on the exhibition are here.

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Sivan Askayo’s trips

Recently I discovered an amazing, artful travel blog of Sivan Askayo, a photographer from New York/Tel Aviv. She has a dream job – traveling and photographing for the world’s most renowned magazines. But traveling is more than that for her: it is “a state of mind”, she says. From Portugal, there are photos and impressions from Aveiro, Coimbra, Lisbon (a lot) and, of course, from Porto.

She also pursues some personal projects, like this, named “Intimacy under the wires”. None of these photos are from the streets of Porto or Lisbon, but they could easily be depicting everyday life of the Portuguese cities!

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Here is the link to her blog: http://sivanaskayoblog.com/?s=portugal

Now I have the photo-guides to Aveiro and Coimbra!

 

Deciphering. The Saramago’s travelogue revisited

I am back to José Saramago’s Viagem a Portugal (1981), but this time I look carefully at the cover of the recently translated Serbian edition, published by Laguna (Belgrade) in 2012, within their complete collection of Saramago’s works.

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The image represents a detail of a panorama of the historical center of Porto, with the – the city cathedral overlooking the downtown – as its main focus.The appearance of the image brings to mind an old drawing or etching. Seemingly, this is an old photograph done in sepia technique, which gives it a particularly poetic touch and evokes nostalgia for the times long gone.

The book contains twelve other, duly credited images: Saramago’s text is accompanied with photographs commissioned from Dragoljub Zamurović, a well–known serbian artist. Strangely, there is no data about the source of the cover page photo.

A closer inspection reveals an interesting detail of the cover image – the sky was replaced with a background consisting of a fragment of an ancient map of Portugal. However, the origin of the map could not be determined. The part of the map title included, though, indicates that it may be from a Dutch or Flemish source. Also, the sepia effect was used with intention to conceal the fact that the initial photo was a fragment of a contemporary urban setting. This effect made the old and the new elements of urban tissue blend better.

The exact spot where the panoramic photo was taken can also be determined – it is the little belvedere in Rua da Bataria da Vitória, near São Bento da Vitória monastery.

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I easily found an image very similar to the one actually used for the book cover through an online search. However, the panorama included contemporary structures, such as a number of residential buildings, or reconstruction of the tower next to the cathedral (work by Fernando Távora, developed between 1995 and 2002, built on the foundations of the so called Casa dos 24, I already wrote about).

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The contemporary structures were mostly excluded by cropping the picture.

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Then, artistic filters were applied using graphic software, to blend older and newer structures. The original background was replaced with an image of an ancient map of Portugal.

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It is even possible to determine approximately how old the image actually used for the book cover is, without particular field investigation. The following image (kindly provided by Manuel Morais, as well as the details of the location where it was taken) is from September 2007, while the above panorama that was then cropped was taken by Francisco Bernardo in November 2009. The roof of the deteriorated building next to the yellow house on the photos had already collapsed between 2007 and 2009, so the initial photo (where the roof still existed) has to be older than that period, but also more recent than 2002, when Fernando Távora’s tower was completed.

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Saramago, member of the Portuguese communist party since 1969, considered himself an atheist and pessimist, and was also well known as a severe critic of catholicism. However, in the introduction of the book, the writer himself emphasized that he had no intent to advise, and also that his journey was just one of the possible stories, representing both the person experiencing and the places experienced. It is his version of a journey through Portuguese culture, encompassing 588 settlements, from far north to extreme south of the country.

Significance of artistic and built heritage for understanding contemporary Portuguese cultural identity was decisive to Saramago. Among the sites visited, a great number is dedicated to religious buildings and sites, being the Church powerful and dedicated to creating lasting values. Thus, the unknown designer’s choice of the cover image is not surprising, despite the writer’s political views.

Thank you, M!

More about the amazing Dragoljub Zamurović: http://www.serbia-photo.com/ (will get back to his artistic photography!)

 

The city through its windows.

My daily dose of art (and architecture) was obtained at the CPF – Portuguese Center of Photography in Porto, the place I will certainly be coming back to.

The 18th century building used to be a prison, but since 2000 it is a home to photographic exhibitions and documentation. Eduardo Souto Moura and Humberto Vieira were in charge for the adaptation project. The interior consist of just mighty stone in thick walls and cold floors, cast iron bars (it was a prison, after all) and a touch of red given by painting wooden shutters.

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One of the current exhibitions attracted me particularly: “O Porto à janela” by Pedro Mesquita. It tells so much about the city, but also about its inhabitants: to make the photos possible, the artist asked people to enter their homes and get to have the views as real people do. He was ready for all kinds of hesitation and decline of access. However, hardly anyone said no!

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And that’s also informative of Porto and Portugal.

P.S. The photos are from the CPF web page; the second one is my favourite Pedro Mesquita’s work from the exhibition.

The latest reports!

I am sure all Portuguese already know about it, still very excited to share the important and amazing link:

http://ultimasreportagens.com

It is a website of Fernando Guerra, the architect and architecture photographer, containing a whole bank of images related to contemporary Portuguese architecture. And not only Portuguese! He has founded the site together with his brother. His greatest privilege, as he says, is to work with Siza and be the photographer of Siza’s architecture.

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Note to self: research thoroughly, investigate how he sees the relations of contemporary and inherited in architecture!

More about Fernando Guerra in this interview:

http://www.knstrct.com/architecture-blog/2013/01/30/the-man-behind-the-camera-of-modern-architecture-an-insightful-interview-with-fernando-guerra

And a big obrigada to my special source of information 🙂

Viewing Arouca.

Some weekends ago, I visited the town named Arouca, situated not far north from my base, Porto. I went prepared, of course, and the preparation was based on studying the referent pages of Saramago’s Viagem pelo Portugal (its Serbian version, that is). Saramago said it all about the Monastery of Arouca and St. Mafalda’s grave, a must-see of the place and a classified national monument, where I spent an educative morning myself.

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I got to know the town center and made a photographic record above. And then I went to a belvedere some 8 kilometers from the center, to see the entire Arouca valley and the chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Mó (Our Lady of Mill Stone).

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The view speaks for itself, but for the chapel a brief history / legend needs to be told. The building probably dates from the 16th century, and the legend goes much further in the past, refering to miraculous liberation of a local christian that was captured by a Moor somewhere in 1027. The christian was pressed with a mill stone, and that’s where the chapel’s name comes from.

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I looked at the IGESPAR’s inventories and was surprised not to find the chapel registered. Upon a little internet research, it turns out the building was not at its best and only recently repaired, with some imposing additional elements next to it.

Arouca is also famous for its geological heritage, of international relevance (more at the site of recently established geopark: http://www.geoparquearouca.com).

Another twin story.

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Oh yes, it seems Lisbon has a twin across the Atlantic ocean (and land) – it’s San Francisco. I haven’t been to North America yet, but according to photos I could find there is a little bit of deja vu feeling regarding the two places!

The similarities of those suspended bridges, iconic for both cities, comes from the fact that the very same company has built them, and, well, didn’t bother to “invent warm water” (as they say in my homeland) when it came to the bridge design (on the photo, Lisbon’s 25 Abril bridge is top left and bottom right, while the other two pictures are of the SF’s Golden Gate). The hilly streets are also characteristic for both, and there are exactly seven huge hills in each of the cities. There is a history of earthquakes in both, the similar mild climate, they are both situated between the bay and the ocean. Parallels go up to wine culture and street art!

All this is nicely explained and supported by comparative photos at: http://globetrottergirls.com/2011/09/san-francisco-lisbon-twin-cities/. I thank the Globetrotter girls for the photo I borrowed, and to M. for discovering this story to me!

P.S. Maybe this is all because California was discovered by a Portuguese, João Rodrigues Cabrilho  (however, he was working for Spain).