Júlio de Matos Photography




It’s a recurring fact of life.

As student I did not know the whole story. Now, I can recall that I never completely took advantage of the privileged and unrestrained access to teachers, I could have as a student.

Later as a teacher, I felt the same was happening with my students. Alike me, most of them were not understanding that what in a certain time they can take for granted, a few years later is a rare privilege or an common impossibility!

These 3 RIT Portraits were made 29 years ago in the same week, if not in the in the same day. Looking back I wished I had made 3 more portraits of persons who also in many ways helped me to grow as an artist and as a person. I just forgive myself because I put my priorities on class assignments.


This portrait was inspired by his recent work (at the time): "Altered Landscapes" 1974-78. This highly poetic body work deals with perception issues, related to the singularities of the photographic one point perspective, in his altered landscapes.

His class lectures opened my sensibility to color photography, and were a unique first hand opportunity to come in contact with his work, philosophy and vision. They touched down into my deepest levels and became a permanent imprinted reference of an artistic photographic life.

His way of looking to my work was always positive and supportive. With him I understood the artistic potential of SX-70. And I learned to “see” in color, and the "color" can be another dimension in photography. It is not too much to say that his influence lasted much longer than my stay at the RIT Campus. Some of my recent works can find its roots to his inspiration. A few years later he resigned from RIT to pursue a full time photographic career.

In the Winter break of 1979/80 I had the visit of some friends and family from Portugal for New Year's Eve. We planed to go to Niagara Falls, and at a certain moment I realized that was impossible to rent a car without a Credit Card. And I had none! John volunteered to let me use his. I don’t know if I would do the same in a similar circumstance. I will never forget that. This personal note of an event long gone, speaks a lot of his personal involvement and generosity as an educator.


In his outstanding classes of “History & Aesthetics of Photography”, I had formed my backbone of my understanding of the history and aesthetics of the media. Each class was designed as a part of a series of deep lectures. I will never forget when, on a darkened classroom, I saw for the first time Avedon’s father portraits, or his lectures about Edward Curtis. Or still on Bruce Davidson. He was enthusiastic about each of his chosen subject matters.

Next year he invited me to be his Graduate Assistant. Besides assisting him on the day to day matters, I had the responsibility of replacing him on two occasions. So I prepared two full length Undergraduate Classes. On the Winter Quarter I gave a class on the History of Fashion Photography, on Spring Quarter, Alternative Processes were my subject matter.

I spent many hours at Elliott's office. I learned a lot about what is to be a teacher just for being there, with Elliott. A couple of years later that experience was nuclear when I founded the Photography School at Árvore, in Porto, Portugal. And in the first years I also taught History of Photography.


He used to define himself as a “Thing Person”, someone who loved beautiful small things. So it is not surprising that his lifetime body of work is a beautiful and exquisite, strange and unique set of Electro-Photographs of “Things”. His photographic tool was an Halloid Xerox Camera. The first Xerox Copier, that looked more like a large format camera.

His enthusiasm with his work and his media was contagious. Later I took the RIT's Halloid Xerox Camera to the studio, where I did a large series of Electro-Photographic Portraits.

Recently, we spoke a couple of times by phone, and I learned that his unique “one of a kind” Halloid Xerox Prints, are now part of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the University of Rochester. I have the privilege of owning a complete and authorized set of Kodachrome reproductions of his work up to 1981. I used these slides many times in lectures and classes.

I met him for the first time in 1979 Summer Quarter, During my two years stay at RIT, I felt many times his protection. As a teacher he was inspiring and generous, playful and fun. He could “see” beyond the surface of prints. I remember one time, after a class trip to Ottawa photographic milieu, to be questioned on a “crit” by a classmate about the “pertinence” of a specific print that depicted an Hindu bass relief. Charles Arnold, said: “Júlio must have a strong reason to show us this image...” Many years later, after a decade of personal travels to India, I published my first book “Heaven’s Door - Manikarnika Ghat “. It all made sense. He was right!

The Charles Arnold Jr. Lecture Series was created at RIT in his honor when he was named Professor Emeritus, in 1987.

Showing these portraits is a modest personal tribute to my RIT years. In page #2 of my book “Heaven’s Door - Manikarnika Ghat “, 2003, you may read:

Charles A. Arnold Jr.
Owen Butler
Bea Nettles
John Pfahl
Elliott Rubenstein
Richard Zakia
For everything that they taught me while at RIT and for the heritage that they passed me...

Júlio de Matos
May, 4th 2009

All Photographs and Texts by Júlio de Matos | All rights reserved | © Júlio de Matos, 2009-2019