Júlio de Matos Photography

MAIO CLARO (11 / 2009) [back]

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Photographic darkrooms and those other places, not so dark, yet ungratefully forgotten in the far reaches of History, are the natural habitat of Júlio de Matos.

A photographer by training but above all by a desperate passion dating back to his childhood, Júlio de Matos finds in photography “an extraordinary way of looking at the world” and revealing other realities. Proof of this are the countless projects and exhibitions that he has completed to-date, the most recent of which was Fading Hutongs: capturing with his camera the people, houses and life rhythms of an old Beijing which is rapidly succumbing to the relentless hand of progress. After appearing at the Portuguese Photography Centre, the Scientific and Cultural Centre of Macao and the Vila Flor Cultural Centre, the exhibition, also published in book form, is currently being shown at the Wolk Gallery of the MIT School of Architecture, and will subsequently tour the United States of America, the country which “broadened his photographic horizon” when he studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late 1970s. “In 2009, I’d like to take it to Beijing”, the photographer confides, as if he wished, after its passage from the Old Continent to the New World, to return it to where it belongs.

A true son of Portugal, a resident of Oporto and citizen of the world, Júlio de Matos has found a second home in Asia, to which he returns whenever he can. “Asia was the unknown, that part of the globe we were less informed about. And it ended up being the starting point for a whole new generation of projects”, he states, guiding us on a journey through time and space – two physical magnitudes inherent in his universe. He already has 20 years to his credit of wandering Asia’s most unlikely paths, discovering through his camera new ways of thinking, different lifestyles, portrayed in life-laden still images. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Tibet, Nepal and India are just some of the places “revealed” by the photographer in such projects as Manikarnika Ghat – Porta do Paraíso, published in 2003, and Ta Prohm – A Memória do Mundo, shown in 2001.

Casas de Brasileiro, however, the latest project to captivate him,is focused on his home country and portrays Brazilian construction in Portugal in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. “The Portuguese who emigrated to Brazil and later returned to Portugal brought with them a style of construction which, although lacking a unifying style, has an extremely strong presence, reflecting the newly acquired wealth of its owners”, he says. “It is an affective portrait of another time, and a return to childhood to the extent that some of the houses photographed are mythical houses which populate my childhood memories”. The first exhibition will be held on 29 October, at the Bahia Art Museum, in Salvador, moving to Brasilia, to the National Museum designed by Niemeyer, on 12 November, and to the National History Museum in Rio de Janeiro, on 25 November.

Photography has lived alongside architecture throughout Júlio de Matos’s career, a perfect alliance of two artistic expressions which have greatly influenced him and still inspire him. “My training in architecture has given me an enhanced sensitivity”, he explains, pointing out the importance of his studies at the Oporto Fine Arts School. Yet, for him, his “most heroic” period is the time he spent at the Árvore Cooperative where he established the Higher Education Photography Course, which he ran until 1986. “As there were no facilities, a huge professional and personal involvement was necessary”, he points out. “All my other projects were put on the back burner”. To understand Júlio de Matos and the complexity of the different personae that he harbours and which transpire in his work – the photographer-architect, the realist-dreamer, the sedentary-nomad – one can do no better than delve into the depths of his photographs.

Filipa Marques (Journalist)
November, 2009

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