Homeless, East Village, New York City, EE.UU. 2016
Archivo digital. © Jorge Represa
The exhibition Mi lugar en cualquier lugar (My Place in Any Place) shows the work of the photographer from Valladolid, Jorge Represa, from his own particular and original point of view.
The show brings together a total of 76 photographs organised around a central concept, a sort of Visual Diary, beginning in 2004 with Valsaín (Segovia) as the main witness, and representing a fundamental change in the artist’s career.
For a year and a half, Jorge Represa undertook this intimate, personal voyage towards a type of photography feeding off the “soul” of the place and the moment experienced. He observes reality, internalises it and captures it in an exercise of purification. The tale of his own life begins with photographs showing his family, the surrounding landscape and the fauna living in it. In recent years, he has centred on portraying the splendour of the countryside of Cantabria in suggestive, lyrical photographs where the luxuriant vegetation or the raging sea come into collision with the Castilian desert. These images do not attempt a true description of the landscape, and so they are executed in a subjective key placing them on the limits of reality.
Represa is a self-taught photographer, who studied in depth the great photographers of history, such as Edward Weston, Weegee, Larry Towell, Cariter Bresson, Winogrand, etc. From them he learned photographic language, compositional technique and, above all, what has become his main creative drive – the search for the essence.
Lisette Model said: “you have to photograph with your guts”, in other words, with feeling and passion, and this is what we see in the photographs Represa has made since 2008, when he began to travel and “portray” cities in an unconventional manner, without clichés or typical images. He is concerned with seeking out the hidden physiognomy, the soul, the beating heart of cities large and small projected naturally onto their inhabitants. This poetic interpretation allows us to make a decontextualised analysis of cities such as Venice, Rome, New York, London, Havana or Buenos Aires, and in turn leads us to show the shots of these cities all together, as if they formed a sequence, with priority on the whole rather than the individuality.
Like the photographers from whom he learned his trade, and with his camera as his only luggage, he wanders through the streets – his main scenario – like any other resident, attempting to go unnoticed, not disturbing the usual order and rhythm of the people who, unintentionally, become the protagonists of the scene.
His main interest is to find singularity in the everyday, just as the great masters who shaped the history of photography did in the last century. Jorge Represa thus transforms reality into fantasy, and reveals to us a refined image built out of beauty, contemplation of which not only enriches our sight, but also our thought. What mystery might there be behind the canvas covering that typical New York building? Who is dancing to the sound of what music in an empty studio in Havana? The viewer considers multiple situations and makes different readings faced with the absence, the silence and the memory of what was or might have been… At the same time the artist makes us complicit to a constant challenge of the elementary notions of photography, leading to some magnificent framing transmitting mystery and magic.
To close the exhibition, we make a nod to the portraiture of famous people, which was Represa’s main occupation between the late 80s and 2004. We show a small selection in which celebrities from the worlds of cinema, music, dance or literature are revealed to us thanks to the photographer’s capacity to extract the innermost essence of the person – not the personality – in order to enhance it. On viewing these pictures we are reminded of Richard Avedon, one of the great figures of photography, who transformed the portrait as a photographic genre, and remember one of his famous sentences: “I’ve worked out of a series of no’s. No to exquisite light, no to apparent compositions, no to the seduction of poses or narrative. And all these no’s force me to the ‘yes’. I have a white background. I have the person I’m interested in and the thing that happens between us.”
Names such as Penélope Cruz, Miguel Delibes, Leonard Cohen, Willem Dafoe, Woody Allen, Monica Belucci, B.B. King, or Samuel L. Jackson, among others, “appeal” to the photographer’s ingenuity, not to capture their outer beauty, visible to all, but their most secret splendour, resulting in images with a strong expressive power.
Esteban Vicente said, “I see with the heart, not with the eyes,” but we could just as well apply the sentence to Jorge Represa. It matters not whether the instrument used to capture that inner reality is a brush or a photographic camera, the important thing is to be able to transmit sensations and push viewers to question themselves about what they are seeing. Thus, and only thus, will the artist achieve his aim.
In a society surrounded by images, quick to capture and share, we call for a deeper vision, to stop to look, to enjoy and to contemplate how artists explain reality to us, for, to paraphrase Schopenhauer: “the artist lends us his eyes to look at the world.”
Ana Doldán de Cáceres
Director Curator of the Esteban Vicente Museum of Contemporary Art