what does the word ‘landscape’ mean in André Cepeda’s photography?
When you look up close and in travelling, André Cepeda’s pictures are views of outskirts, partitions and fences, roadsides and backs of houses. They are landscapes, indeed, but apparently disqualified, as far as ‘Landscape’ is concerned. What change makes them be worthy of his look, and of all the lengthy process of capturing and fixating them on a medium whose dimension brings it closer to the logic of the painting than of photographic tradition?
André Cepeda has come to produce an increasingly more accurate photography from the beginning of his path. This is apparent in the technical device he resorts to – a large format camera, which allows for the correction of perspective –, an operation that works counter-cycle in relation to the apparent displeasure of his motif. Captured as if they were casual snapshots of that which you usually only glance at or is unworthy of a straight look, his pictures need to generate intensity in any given zone of their construction in order to become meaningful. It is there, in that fine limbo between the difficulty of naming a visual typology and the power to draw your attention to a field of the visible that would not be its natural object, that Cepeda does his photographic work. How do you define that process, then?
Firstly, his pictures run in series. This means that, apart from their value per se, they are part of an interchangeable reference system, i.e., each picture takes on an added meaning which is given to it by the following picture and activates something powerful in the previous picture. That power derives from a logic of continuity – a partition whose line is extended to a slope in the next picture, a vase whose shape is similar to another shape from another photograph –, but also from a thematic recurrence: the shapes of fields which delimit spaces cross several pictures, as if this was about creating a common theme whose presence is almost subliminal, or discrete (so discrete, in fact, that the less attentive spectator may be unaware of it). And so André Cepeda’s photography finds a second vehicle of specificity: landscape, its inner logic, inscribed in a logic of a narrative look, disperse by definition; its procedure is exactly the opposite, both demanding a focused attention to narrative (landscape) motifs, and being the object of subtle connections from a vernacular reference world.
This way of dealing with landscape in André Cepeda’s photographs is linked to a typology of dislocation.
Whereas, up to after WWII, landscape was a typology of thought on the order and hierarchy of the visible, it shifted, since its reconversion focusing on a moving observer, towards an interest for what lies on the outskirts, much because the idea of a centre gets lost as the observer moves. In that sense, Cepeda’s photography owes to this process, in a relation with the involuntary and cumulative architecture that is a staple of the city as living experience.
Cepeda’s photography therefore uses an intrinsic play with realism as a device. Yet, this is done ironically, as the real that is highlighted in his pictures is, in fact, a visual construction, which, however, does not take on the theatricality that might signal its condition.
That is why his version of landscape holds no shred of the monumental, does not order or classify – quite the opposite: it sculpturally elects a situation, searches for its tri-dimensional nature and captures it, in a dubious documental play, promoting to the subject of the look that is merely so because a camera was placed before it.
To answer the question asked in the beginning, landscape in André Cepeda’s photography is a quest for the insignificant detail that has risen to a sculpturic condition.
Which is why his photography is so close to sculpture.