I look on this exhibition as a reunion with my photos, and therefore with myself. The set of images shown here posed a unique challenge in my photographic career when I decided to become my own curator, which is a rather uncomfortable and risky venture. However, it can be an interesting experience too, a mature comprehension of the force fields that have permeated the course I have been treading over time. My images constitute pleasant memories of feelings and practices combined with objects and contexts photographed in different places, at different times.
A journey along the course taken by our photographs ends up confounded with one’s own life journey. But there had to a different kind of logic for this exhibition: that of setting aside chronological arrangements – which are very convenient, by the way, but run the risk of coming close to something of the nature of an “inventory” or “retrospective”. From the beginning, I ruled out these options. What actually mattered was emphasizing the essence of my half-century’s work, while still showing it as a story with a planned roadmap on which yesterday’s images could share space perfectly with today’s. No conflict of form, no clashing contents.
On the other hand, there is an innate aesthetic concern in the constructive roots of my images; they emerge from the appreciation of the object, they arise from the way in which I perceive and represent something: this concern integrates the DNA of this development; it is its very expression. Artistic and content correlations dialogue between themselves over time and, with time, determine sets and subsets: editing adds meaning, narrative emerges.
By photographing, we create/construct realities. I have always noted how realities and fictions merge into a single message. It is a coexistence that lies not only in a theatrical setting such as my 1970s series named Viagem pelo Fantástico (Journey into the Fantastic), but in admitting the role of fiction as constituent of the actual production of photographic representation, actually a plot: technical, aesthetic, cultural and ideological. In other series in the following periods, I was able to see this and continue honing the idea that the atmosphere imposed on the scene and even the apparently innocent datum may cause estrangement, something that hangs in the air, impressions that are not precisely defined.
As a theoretical exercise, we do the opposite: we attempt to take image construction apart. Hence, interpretation has its foundation and instrument. Here we have a starting point to dismantle images, a path toward their inner knowledge: unveiling their hidden multiple inner-layers of meaning.
Once a photographic image has been created, it becomes a reality in itself, a second reality. The world of representation, an ambiguously parallel world consisting of constructed realities and documentary fictions in which images continue to exist and retain their resemblance to the object – but with a life of their own too, forever reinventing themselves.
At this point, I feel tempted to go on talking about my work, but it would be useless to repeat what I have specifically written elsewhere, in particular for the book Boris Kossoy, fotógrafo [Boris Kossoy, photographer] published by Cosac&Naify (São Paulo, 2008). Nevertheless, perhaps I should indicate certain aspects of my creative process.
Comics, mystery tales, theater and cinema, visual arts and architecture, fanciful history illustrations and magical realism have all inspired me since I was young and steered me toward the path I was to follow as a photographer. Indeed magic, mystery and memory have always been the essence of my work. I seek and find most of my themes in the context of what we call concrete or immediate reality. In this context I am intrigued by certain scenes and everyday events that other people not normally notice. I cannot fail to notice certain things taking place in houses, on streets, along paths, in windows at which I aim my camera Hitchcock style, trying to discover whatever drama may be taking place in a home, a shop window, or in the allure of a gesture, or the restlessness of a gaze.
Of course, some characters have been featured in my work more prominently, as shown by the mocking attitude of Mr. Américo; the mannequins sadly watching us here and there, or the lifeless stone, paper and crockery creatures in photographic image, elevated to the level of humans or vice versa. In this state, they are also static objects frozen by photographic image. There is fantasy too, as when we let ourselves be drawn into the silent evening landscape of an unending day in Marbach, or if we do not fear going into a forest, perhaps an enchanted one in which the air is green, at a mountain lookout point near São Paulo.
Through the camera shutter, I take an image of the outside world guided by intuition and emotion, by my own imaginary images: my mental kaleidoscope. As I watch the given, my imagination goes beyond it and points to a direction, everything contributes and comes together; scenes and events are shown to me and I translate them into photographic image scale. Creation and reflection.
I sometimes come across situations that seem familiar. I get a vague, blurred recollection from an earlier time, from a different period. This has been my path: images of journeys across unknown geographies, a means of discovering ourselves and tackling our phantom-shadows.
So in my photographs I am still attempting to reach beyond explicit objects, beyond apparent realities or appearances, beyond the raw material of photography and its outer reality. In the outer images, I am looking for pointers to historical recovery of their genesis and the facts they represent. So what I am talking about is that which a camera does not capture, the hidden part of re-presentation, its inner reality.
Fifty years after taking up photography, this apparent /hidden dichotomy is still the ongoing challenge that motivates and thrills me. Imaging yes, but beyond imaging too: representation. Every photo has a story behind it; every story is full of image representations. In my images, I seek to capture the soul of these representations. Therein lays the concept.
Finally, I would like to thank my friend Jorge Coli for his sensitive remarks on my work; my longtime friend and wise advisor Carlos Fadon Vicente and, in particular, my partner Malu for her affection and lasting support throughout this journey.