Logo reconnectats Fotoconnexió

 

Social conventions, perhaps influenced by a recreational mathematics, give relevance to birthdays that imply a number of years that are determined multiples of five, and extol the lustrums and, even more, the decades of existence. Fortunately, it is so, since if nine had been the reference figure, it would hardly have been possible to celebrate anything in 2020. Fortunately (and fortune has nothing to do with this), this year the situation is more benevolent and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to join a favorable convention.

The foundation of Fotoconnexió on October 6, 2011, was the result of the good relations that years before had been established between photography enthusiasts, and who at a specific moment chose to formalize their meetings. The tempting foundational epic (always comfortable) vanishes when remembering a fact: the first official meeting was linked to a confusing call, the result of which was that for quite some time the entity was constituted by a board that included approximately 80% of partners . Now, leaving aside the innocent anecdote, the truth is that the results are unquestionable. Although ten years is a sigh (half of nothing if we pay attention to tango), arriving is a merit in itself and much more so with the associated baggage. In fact, what has been done so far in Fotoconnexió is what really gives relevance to the celebration, the result of the selfless dedication of its members and, also, of the collaboration of other individuals and entities, to whom we are deeply grateful.

Reconnectats, the exhibition that opens today (November 4, 2021), wants to celebrate where we are, project ourselves forward and contribute, within the limited possibilities of a modest association, a small publication about its authors, with some of the photographs. Manel Úbeda shows us a compilation of unpublished images of Morocco, the result of his interest in the country and its people. In the ten photographs that the exhibition includes by author, Manuel Serra provides an adaptation of his series of thirteen lunar images. And Josep Rigol exhibits five photographs taken during the 1970s (all unpublished, except for one that was only seen once at the opening of the Procés gallery) and another five that have been obtained lately (one in 2015 and the rest, expressly for the sample, in 2020 and 2021). The exhibition, therefore, brings together three photographers who have known each other for decades and who after many years have tackled a joint project thanks to Fotoconnexió.

We hope you enjoy everything.

The Fotoconnexió board

Manel Úbeda

Manel Úbeda did not hesitate when the exhibition project was presented to him. With words and silences, he immediately made it clear that he was already seeing a first set of unpublished photographs that were candidates to be exhibited. In fact, in a short time he responded with a concrete proposal: a review of photographs taken in Morocco in 1993, 2009 and 2015.

Far from being an amendment to past projects, for him the review has been a recreation, understood in two of the meanings that the word has: both the one that refers to enjoyment, and the one related to redoing, which demonstrates , at least, continuity in the generation of work. It is, in part, an attitude that contrasts with the approach that the photographer expresses about artistic creation. He considers that each author has a moment of fulfillment that, only in exceptional cases, he manages to maintain, either by refining his work and/or opening new paths. The statement is made without the intention of discrediting anyone and in no case is it related to the loss of faculties often associated with age (a circumstance that, by the way, he faces sportingly). The, shall we say, temporary creative peak is, simply, a natural fact that must be accepted and that, without making it explicit, it is clear that he welcomes it (although he hints at a certain regret).

Related to the previous approach, the idea that an author bequeaths to posterity only what he considers defines him is not alien to him, destroying the rest. In this way, any reinterpretation that may take into account nothing more than what the creator has considered as defining its essence is eliminated.

Now, more than finalist approaches, the feeling conveyed by his words is that the above ideas are some of the possible answers to questions of a current personal search, and that none of them has to be one hundred percent satisfactory. They are doubts and groping that have their origin in the firm determination to dedicate himself to photography that a sixteen-year-old adolescent made, back in 1967. The moment, fixed in memory (and one could even say that it toned into gold), refers us to to the first vision of the appearance of the image on photographic paper in the laboratory of a friend who is fond of photography. From then on, it was all about combining various jobs with learning photography from various sources. And this while he paid for the four high school courses of the time, studies that he completed in just two years.

Learning in the laboratory had surprises, such as the one that took place in the Luis Baltá photography shop in Portal del Àngel in Barcelona; he was forced to go from his native Mollet to buy paper, because the friend who was taking him couldn’t do it. There he discovered that there was not a single photographic paper, the one that indicated grade 6 (maximum contrast) on the box. If until then he had achieved the desired tonal gradations with all kinds of technical resources, now the new possibilities opened up unexpected horizons for him. All this meant that printing was never a limitation, but the natural way of transferring the image he had seen in his head to the silver.

Over the years he began to spread the experience acquired as a professional photographer in Mallorca (during a peculiar military service) and, especially, in a studio in Barcelona. He did it through teaching, shared with other classmates who thought alike and same generation. At first he went with more enthusiasm than pedagogy, but always with an honesty that they had missed in some suspicious predecessors, to whom, on occasion, they had resorted. In any case, in addition to being a professional project, teaching was also an opportunity to learn: on the one hand, there is nothing like having to explain things to get immersed and, on the other, contact with other people’s ideas was always motivating for him. It is a motivation that he, he recognizes, is not exempt from the danger of the conscious appropriation of the conceptions of others, a behaviour in which he knows that there are those who have fallen.

Despite the dedication that teaching and running a school required, Manel did not stop photographing. His thematic and stylistic preferences identify him clearly and attest to a coherent and in-depth approach. Some oracles will perhaps say that he is not capable of reinventing himself, and they should be congratulated because they will be very successful: nothing could be further from his spirit than embarking on a new path if it does not emerge without forced artifices.

He exercises what we can call slow photography, far from the immediacy of digital photography, which, however, he does not deny (curiously, he experimented with it in a pioneering way during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics). The aforementioned slowness is the product of meditation and results, in general, in a single shot of the image: if you are certain that you have captured what you want, why insist on repetitions or variations? But the obtaining of the final image must still experience another delay, a kind of sentimental estrangement. The reel (yes, it still shoots analog) spends some time in the fridge before final development and printing. This helps free the photograph from the stimuli of the moment, from the sensations that the author experiences at the moment it was taken. The deferred vision of him thus favors a more objective assessment, stripped of everything that will ignore someone else who sees it later. The photo must be able to speak for itself.

This way of working contains in itself a second creation, a review of his own work, which is precisely what Manel offers us with the photographs of Morocco. Who knows if in the not too distant future someone will allow it -and us- to be recreated much more extensively.

 

Manuel Serra

Manuel Serra’s photographic proposal is lunar (Amazing journey to nowhere beyond the horizon) and belongs to one of the two preferred lines of his career: on the one hand, the fragmentation of space with regular tessellations and, on the other, that of the time by sequence. The case that concerns us belongs to the second option: a full moon rise on a fixed continent made up of a marine audience and a celestial stage, spaces that gradually disappear as the satellite takes flight and the sunlight fades. The work is added to those that for about fifteen years he has dedicated to the star when he looks at us without hiding. It is, therefore, a long-term activity that manifests the captivating effect that the moon exerts on the photographer (luckily he doesn’t live on Tatooine!), and if it weren’t for the associated poetic evocations, it could well be described as obsessive.

Much further back in time, in the winter of 1978, is the first fragmentary work he made: a composition of twelve images obtained in England, where he had arrived in 1975, at the age of twenty-six. His stay on the island meant the culmination of an evolution that made him not only dedicate himself fully to photography, but also do it in a certain way. Because Manuel’s photographic establishment was progressive.

Although since he was a child he was related to photography based on the photographic collection of his grandfather and the Kodak Brownie 127 that was given to him when he was seven years old (it was soon stolen), young Manuel did not feel particularly attracted to it. After finishing high school, he became interested in design and entered the Eina school. He remembers very well the classes with América Sánchez and, also, how he had to face with a 6 x 6 Brownie the academic papers that Xavier Miserachs asked for, and that he failed regularly (and, let’s say it all, with a certain indifference). Having completed two of the three courses in the program, and with the itch for photography, he went to the military and when he returned he joined the designer Enric Franch’s studio. At this time he increases his interest in photography, but he is disappointed in industrial design, since not everything he creates on paper materializes. Thus he begins his transition to photography, which he finds pleasant, among other things, because of its efficiency in terms of results.

The change accelerated in 1973 when he left the design studio, delved deeper into the technical aspects of photography and in the winter of the following year he entered the Princeps de Espanya Hospital in Bellvitge as a photographer. But his salary does not compensate for living with the corruption that he sees and he leaves his job in 1975 to work for private traumatologists. Two other events will prompt him to leave the country shortly. One of them was meeting the English photographer and doctor Richard Wood, who opened an exhibition at the Spectrum Gallery in Barcelona. The exceptionally low attendance at the event (Wood, Manuel, their partners and the gallery owner Sandra Solsona herself with her inseparable dog), conditioned by the celebration of the Arles festival, allowed both photographers to establish a sufficiently cordial relationship so that later Wood introduce Manuel to the photographic environment of London. The last fact that catapults Manuel across the English Channel has to do with his experimentation with the Ektachrome 64T in night photography, an activity that caused him to be arrested at gunpoint on Barcelona’s Diagonal while obtaining an image in which In the background was the door of a bank, a type of entity that in those years was the object of terrorist attacks and that enjoyed special protection. The experience did not go beyond staying one night at the Via Laietana police station waiting for a police decision (exculpatory) and a house search, but it was traumatic enough to end up deciding to buy a one-way ticket to England.

Installed in London in the fall of 1975 with his partner Montse Noguera, he found out that he cannot work as a photographer in hospitals, since it is necessary to have a degree that regulated studies give. Shortly thereafter, he attends Gerry Badger’s photography seminars, exhibits in London, and enters Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham, where he completes three years of photography. Finished the training, with a clear vision of what he wants and does (he understands photography as a transformation of reality), and with a degree under his arm, he buys the return ticket.

In 1980 Manuel was hired at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona, ​​but as the English degree was not recognized, he was not recognized as a teacher, but as a workshop teacher. In search of better conditions, he quit his job the following year and began printing for other photographers, such as C. Fontserè, A. Centelles, X. Miserachs, J. Ubiña and H. Rivas. Thus he combines personal creation with the new work activity, in which he has become a guide. Now, to the inherent darkness of the laboratory must be added the gloom of recognition, which is not always obvious: at least one must appreciate the ability to execute exactly what the client wants. In the case of Manuel, as he confesses, he goes a little further and tries to disguise himself as the photographer to see through his eyes and even advise him on some aspects. It is a measured intervention that becomes freer when he applies it to posthumous prints, and that flows even more when there are no author prints to serve as a reference.

In any case, the control of the print is his mark, the result of reducing uncertainty to a minimum with resources and experience. A chance that, paradoxically, intervened in the lunar sequence, where two unexpected actors sneak in and play roles that, despite being improvised, complete the staging. A fortuitous event, yes, but you had to be there to take advantage of it.

 

Josep Rigol

In a certain sense, for Josep Rigol -Pep-, the exhibition has been a reunion with himself. There is a considerable time gap between the five images on display made in the 1970s and the other five, made more recently. Between both groups there is a long parenthesis regarding the public exhibition of his work; it is an interruption conditioned by facts, curiously, entirely photographic. When proposing the project to him, he immediately said that he would return to the type of photography that is characteristic of him: approximations and compositional games that seek to catch the viewer. It is his way of expressing himself, with an unconventional look; transgressive, he likes to say, residing terminologically in the time when he began to work seriously as a photographer, defying the iron rules that ruled in certain environments. They are small kicks that shake our visual perception to generate, depending on the viewer, surprise, joy, bewilderment, restlessness or, perhaps, also rejection, because of so many heads, so many hats.

The indicated reunion can lead to an uncomfortable situation for two reasons: on the one hand, resuming creative activity after several decades of hibernation is an obvious personal challenge; But he hasn’t lacked encouragement or encouragers, like his wife, Janine, who encouraged him to get ahead, or friends who told him “aren’t we photographers? So let’s take a photo.” The other inconvenience has to do with suddenly standing on the other side of the mirror, when exhibiting his work, since Pep’s long hiatus has been a consequence of his dedication to disseminating photography. This has been the case since approximately 1978, when at the age of twenty-five he interrupted (temporarily, he thought) his journalism studies when he realized that he was already working as a journalist. It is the time when he is in charge of photographic information in El Correo Catalán, Avui and La Vanguardia, is editor-in-chief of the Spanish version of Zoom, and participates in the creation of Ajoblanco where, in addition, he is part of the editorial board. All this within a sustained photographic effervescence that had started at the beginning of the 1970s, the results of which have already been described in detail in several studies (see, for example, ZELICH C., «Creative» photography in Catalonia, 1973 -1982, Barcelona City Council, ​​2018). A couple of anecdotes that Pep remembers immerse us in the environment in which he and many other photographers moved, and verify how personal relationships were, many times, the key factor for many projects of those years to come together. For example, in the workplace, in 1977, during a tumultuous meeting for the dissolution of the vertical union of photographers (a body that granted professional licenses), the photographer and PSUC activist Idil·li Tàpia demanded the rapid creation of new professional associations absolutely detached from the dying Francoist union. However, the confrontation was not inconvenient so that shortly after Miquel Galmes, who had been part of the examining boards of the union, had him as head of studies at the Institute of Photographic Studies of Catalonia, of which he was the director. On the other hand, in what is another demonstration of the collaboration between some colleagues, Idil·li selflessly ceded part of his photographic establishment to Josep Rigol and Manel Úbeda for the creation of the Procés gallery. Pep has these and other memories of that time wrapped in tissue paper; he affirms that they correspond to facts that he does not idealize and defends their veracity, for example, due to the longevity of the friendships that were established at that time.

It is in the 80s when Pep stops shooting professionally due to the increasing activity that he carries out as a promoter of photography. He does not experience resignation in a traumatic way, since he confirms that there are good photographers who apply themselves in the field that he had begun to tackle: the regeneration of urban photography. Since then and until his recent retirement, he has been involved in many of the great photographic events -public and private- that have taken place in Catalonia. It is a dedication to which he confesses that he will only return eventually, and as long as it does not involve any administrative management (now it’s time to relax).

From the extensive experience accumulated, Rigol defends the creation of a center dedicated to photography from a global point of view. He considers that it would have a favorable impact on the galleries and on the author’s work, which, despite the fact that there are public entities that acquire it, must be disseminated more. However, he thinks that self-publishing has opened up many possibilities for promotion and that the current photo book is of high quality. In the field of festivals he is optimistic and possible: he encourages them to be held and believes that they always include some interesting proposals.

For him, currently the population has reached a certain basic visual culture, but that does not elicit enough recognition from photographers. To solve it, he advocates the inclusion of a minimum content of photography within the educational system. In his case, this historical lack of training was circumvented from childhood thanks to an artistic family environment (his uncle was the painter Jaume Muxart). Later, the cultural stimuli continued with a four-year stay at the Escolania de Montserrat (where he began to take photos) and, later, at the Lumen Cultural Institution, where he set up a photographic laboratory. From then on, the specialized press -such as Nueva Lente-, the photographic encounters in Arles, and authors such as Ródchenko, Kertész and Plossu, will be the sources of inspiration for a young photographer who ela- elaborates his visual preferences, preferences which he exhibits again today.

 

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