Júlio de Matos Photography

DIÁRIO DE NOTÍCIAS (08 / 2008) [back]

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THE ARCHITECT AND PHOTOGRAPHER ENTHRALLED BY ASIA

Júlio de Matos. One day, turning a corner in Beijing, he found himself in a time and space utterly different from today’s China. He recorded this typical urban scene, which has been disappearing drastically, as a way of preserving a piece of History. This is what Júlio de Matos strives after: to participate, through his own aesthetics, in the preservation of cultural diversity. This is what he has been doing for the last twenty years. His first passion was Architecture, and this is what took him to the Oporto Fine Arts School. Along with architecture, another passion, that of capturing images, would go on to have a deep impact on his life. His first contact with photography happened through his father. Later, “and in an almost self-taught way”, he learned how to develop and print. “I had discovered that photography was an extraordinary way of looking at the world”, says de Matos, who had a recent exhibition at the Portuguese Photography Centre, in Oporto, entitled Fading Hutongs – his artistic documentary project about the fast disappearing urban fabric of old Beijing.

Between individual and collective exhibitions, publications and anthologies in which he is represented – and speaking only of the field of photography – Júlio de Matos has travelled through many landscapes in the last 20 years which he has recorded with his camera, and has an extensive curriculum vitae in this area.

It is impossible to talk about de Matos without referring to Asia, the great continent to which he has been returning frequently for about two decades, with his wife or friends, for both business and holidays. "I’ve been to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, the whole of Indochina, Tibet, Nepal, India (Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Sikkim, Goa...)", he says, different places where he has witnessed pieces of the same story: "Disappearance and destruction [like has happened with the traditional hutongs in China], often without warning [unlike what is happening in the most populated country on earth]."

"Wherever you look, you can see a great cultural and historic divide opening up, the likes of which have never been seen before. The effects of globalisation", like the fact that the interview with the Diàrio de Notícias newspaper is being conducted by telephone between Porto and Goa, where he is now – here, as an example, the current generation of young people no longer speak Portuguese, unlike their parents. A "rapid cultural change, in which globalisation has arrived in places we were used to thinking were too far removed". Through his journeys, de Matos says he has been “increasingly aware of the importance of participating in an active and personal way in the preservation of cultural diversity".

It is from this that projects like Manikarnika Ghat - Porta do Paraíso arose: a project photographed in 2003 in Benares, in India, and published as a book; or Ta Prohm – A Memória do Mundo, a record of Seam Riep in Cambodia, dating from 2004, currently on exhibition, in the SanPayo Convent in Vila Nova de Cerveira, owned by the sculptor José Rodrigues.

Although perhaps somehow on stand-by, because photography seems to be ruling the day in his life, architecture has not been forgotten. Júlio de Matos is associated with the conception of several thematic pavilions in the Alentejo, and he designed the Alqueva Memorial and the Museu Mar da Língua Portuguesa, which has yet to be finalised. He was also the architect/photographer who conceived the audiovisual presentation for the launching of the Douro Region as a World Heritage Site.

Joana de Belém (Journalist)
August, 2008


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