Júlio de Matos Photography



Ballet and photography fall in love in a pas de deux. The "writing" of ballet choreography that only exists in the ephemeral memory
of the dancers' bodies is materialised by ethereal light in the photographic image. The photographer reinterprets dance and this combination perpetuates the flow of life and human emotions.

May, 12th 2009

This is a revised version of the 1981 text published with some images from this gallery, in Nova Imagem, a Portuguese photographic magazine.


Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation's Dance Company has for many years been an unparalleled feature of Portuguese cultural life; it is no wonder then that I and several other photographers have used it as a starting point for personal projects. For me, it was somehow a catalyst for photographic production and a process that made me undergo a rapid learning curve.

I took my earliest photographic training in 1966, in Oporto, with Dr. Cobeira at the Atelier de Artes Plásticas (Plastic Arts Studio), a project begun by the architect Maria Manuela Malpique and the artist Elvira Leite. When I started to write this article, I tried to remember what went on 15 years ago (in 1976) and was surprised to recall that, once during that time, I saw Dr. Cobeira making several attempts to perfect a multiple flash exposure technique on black and white film. I can only assume that the type of pictures that ensued remained imprinted in my mind. On the other hand, at that time in Portugal, access to other references in visual arts was scant, and the panorama of photographic exhibitions was virtually non-existent. It was only years later that I came into contact with Photo (France) and Camera (Switzerland) magazines.

It was within this context that, 10 years later, in 1976, I resumed photography after a gap of several years. Yet I was mentally preconditioned by certain concepts that I had not been aware of.

Between 1976 and 1979, firstly through the back door in Porto and after, by special invitation of Jorge Salavisa, in FCB, I researched, experimented with, and developed a system of multiple and long photographic exposures, which is shown in these images, and might be visually compatible with my sensitivity at the time. By obsessively perfecting this technique, I could at last start working in other visual directions.

In fact, this series of Experiências em Luz e Movimento (Experiments in Light and Movement) was my first significant body of photographic work. When pursuing this theme, I always tried to be aware that technique, whatever it is, is always only a tool to support imagination and creativity.

I found in the seductive and ephemeral reality of the Gulbenkian Ballet coreographies, most of them created by Vasco Wellenkamp, the response to my inner need to expand my personal fantasy world. The dreamlike and dainty world of sound-music-light-colour-movement-dance-myth fascinated me and it was from the desire to preserve these emotions on film that this series was born. Because these were visual rather than verbal fantasies, the photographic medium was the most suitable for feeding, through the interpretation of the dance, my insatiable need for visual excitement.

Júlio de Matos
Rochester, 1981

Notes: The images in this portfolio were published in 1980 in the United States, in Washington DC’s Continuum magazine, and later reviewed in Art Direction Magazine. In 1978/79, they were shown at an individual exhibition at the Módulo Gallery in Oporto, which was widely publicised in the media. In the same year, 1979, a further two exhibitions of these photographs were scheduled: one at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and another at the Centro de Artes Plásticas in Funchal, both of which were cancelled due to my departure to the United States. Some pictures in this series are part of Portuguese, as well as American and Canadian collections. The Ballet Department at the Gulbenkian Foundation purchased the copyright for one of the pictures in this series to become their publicity image for the 1980/81 season. In 2006 the Ballet Gulbenkian company was dissolved.

© 2009-2017 All Photographs and texts by Júlio de Matos | All rights reserved | © Júlio de Matos, 2009-2017