Newer updates

I have not updated this blog for quite a long time. I have been using Instagram instead as a kind of both visual notebook and notepad.

Please follow me there: @manuelfranciscosousa

Thank you!

Your liberation is bound up with mine

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then, let us work together.” – words used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia

Beyond the Square @ CANactions 2015

Beyond the Square at CANactions 2015 “Urban Studies”
Photos by Liliia Kucher and Andrey Mikhaylov

Congratulations to the CANactions team for a fantastic event. Thank you for having my exhibition and all the work you put into it. It was a great privilege to be part of your programme, everything was amazing. Thanks Victor, Valentina, Emma, Masha, Ira, and all others in the team.

Beyond the Square @ Continuum collective

“Beyond the square” in “Continuum” (collective), London College of Communications, London, May 2015
Photos by Jessica Kelly

CANactions 2015 “Urban Studies”

CANactions 2015 “Urban Studies”

My Beyond the Square project is featured on CANactions 2015 International Architectural Festival’s visual programme, Kyiv, May 2015.

Late night printing

Manuel Sousa, Ticiana #7, October 25, 2009, 18:17:06/18:17:11 (5″), 2009

Late night printing! Printed this image in some Hahnemuhle Photo Rag and Epson Hot Press Natural. Both are really lovely papers but with quite different characters. The Hahnemule is very smooth and subtle, almost gentle on the tones, the Hot Press Natural is (visually) weightier, deeper, more assertive and with a texture which shows itself more. I think i’m going with the Hot Press Natural on this image, it gives it more strength and presence specially in a larger format.

Zeiss Touit lenses for Sony’s E-mount

It’s been years since I last did a product review, ever since my time as editor-in-chief of a consumer photo magazine. And I usually look at new equipment and machinery with a considerable amount of disinterest, to say the least. But alas, we do need our apparatuses, preferably adequate for our purposes and working properly although, in my view, as few and as little cumbersome as possible.

In that sense, last month I received from Sony the new Zeiss Touit lenses for E-mount (aps) to test for a while. These are a 12mm 2.8 and a 32mm 1.8, which offer an 18mm and 48mm equivalent focal length respectively. I currently use a nex-7 camera with a Sony Zeiss 24mm (36mm equivalent) lens for just about all of my work and so I was curious to try these options for a much wider and normal field of view.

I had a trip to London scheduled when I got them so I decided to take them with me and, whenever I had some free time, to do some photography around the city centre and try them out. Unbelievably, I caught a few days straight without any rain at all and so I managed to use them a few times while I was there. I have put together a small selection of images on my site: here (gallery “you are beautiful”).

Generally speaking, these are two really well built lenses, as one would expect from their make and price point. They both have a very good feel and handling and, visually speaking, an elegant and clean design.

I think I will start by saying upfront that I absolutely loved the 12mm but, on the other hand, I wasn’t too keen on the 32mm. This is not to say that other people won’t find it the exact opposite, as this is highly dependent on how you photograph and position yourself towards your subjects. The 12mm’s wide angle of view allows you to stand really close to people and things around you. You can make images ranging from reasonable close ups to environmental shots where you include several people and their interactions without having to distance yourself. This is rather lovely and, for me, perfectly suits my preference for a greater proximity to the people I’m photographing. Even when you are picturing them full-length and within their surroundings, you can be rather close. For example, in the image with the giant yellow blow-up duck, I was standing a couple of meters away at most, probably even less.

So, I have made my case for being partial to the 12mm as a focal length. But let’s turn our attention to the 32mm for a moment. In terms of its results, I found the 32mm to be an excellent lens. Unfortunately, its optics is marred by an exasperatingly slow auto-focus. This is probably one of the slowest lenses I have ever used in this regard. If you are doing any kind of photography where you need to continuously and somewhat rapidly shift and adjust your point of focus, and you work with auto-focus, then this lens’ focusing speed will be a serious problem. On the other hand, the manual focus is a strong point, with a nice smooth touch and solid response. The 12mm, despite its very wide angle, also offers great results, consistently from corner to corner especially when you stop it down to f/4 or f/5.6. This lens doesn’t suffer from the same auto-focus sluggishness as the 32mm, probably because it needs to operate smaller movements in its internal optic elements. Whatever the reason, I found no problems in using its auto-focus whereas with the 32mm I ended up only focusing it manually. This is not a problem for me personally, because my camera is always set to manual focus anyway, but it might be for some people.

In conclusion, I think these two lenses are welcome additions to the E-mount system, adding to Zeiss’ offering in short to normal focal lengths. The 32mm is a first-rate lens, well suited for portraiture for instance, and for any other general use such as street photography, with the above caveats regarding focusing. As long as you work with manual focus, it’s a good option. For me, though, it is the 12mm which really shines. I very much enjoyed its angle of view and overall quality. I would still find the 24mm to be the best of the three and, moreover, the 35mm equivalent is my usual focal length of choice. But I do think the 12mm is a lovely lens that can complement it on several occasions. Finally, taken together as a whole, these three lenses undoubtedly provide a complete set of choices for any aps sensor E-mount system.

Most honest review ever

Most honest review ever!

Yesterday near Charing Cross two girls asked me to take a photo of them with their camera. So i did, and then handed the camera back, and asked if the picture was ok.
One of them, visibly disappointed, replied, “it’ll do, i guess. thanks”.


Staging and Revelation at Gallery AFK

Staging and Revelation at Gallery AFK

I’ll be part of Gallery AFK’s exhibition “Staging and Revelation” opening on the 12th July, at 9pm. If you are in Lisbon please do be sure to come and visit!

Vou fazer parte da exposição “Encenação e Revelação” da Galeria AFK, com inauguração a 12 de Julho, às 21h. Se estiverem em Lisboa, não se esqueçam de vir visitar!

Exhibition at Gallery AFK

Collective exhibition “Contemporary Photography” at Gallery AFK, in Lisbon, opening Thursday, October 4th, 8pm.

Current favourite paper

Printing, printing, printing… spending an afternoon around paper and inks and definitely my current favourite paper is Epson’s Hot Press Natural 300g 100% cotton… and David Lynch agrees 🙂

Love me

Zed Nelson, from “Love Me”, 2009

The body is a cultural construct. Social, political, ideological, and it is a technology (1). It has its modern institutions not only in the arts and media, not only in the historical genealogies of political bodies of aristocratic or state representations, but very much today in the pharmaceutical and dietetic industry, the cosmetics industry, the advertising industries, the surgical industry. We are visual subjects (2) and our image, physical or networked through the internet and electronic media in general, is the constant site and mediation of our visual subjectivities. The medical, sexual and political discipline and mobilization of our bodies is central to the making of our idea of oneself.
In this context, Zed Nelson’s Love Me project is a very interesting look into the commoditization of beauty as a social asset, the shaping of body towards this ideal, and its surgical and cosmetic maintenance as an activity of self definition.
More images available on the author’s web site or in his book Love Me, published in 2009.

(1) i make reference here to Foucault’s concept of technologies of the self, as devices through which we effect the social construction of personal identity.
(2) defined by Mirzoeff as “By the visual subject, I mean a person who is both constituted as an agent of sight (regardless of his or her biological capacity to see) and as the effect of a series of categories of visual subjectivity.” (Mirzoeff, 2002)

City portraits in colour and rhythm

Sato Shintaro, from “Night lights” (1992-1994)

Sato Shintaro (b. 1969) is a Japanese photographer who has long been engaging in a visual exploration and portrayal of his home-city of Tokyo. His images mirror the character he finds in his city. Densely structured, between chaos and order. Each is carefully planned, into pictures of streets and cityscapes heavily filled with signs, billboards, buildings, shop fronts, apartment complexes, parking lots, glowing lights, colours and rhythms.
Night lights was published in 2000 and focuses on streets in Tokyo and Osaka. His second book, Tokyo twilight zone was published in 2009 and shows meticulously constructed above ground views, onto back streets and “behind-the-scenes” outlooks of the city.
Both bodies of work are currently on show on his site.

Shadows and metaphor

Alexey Titarenko, from “City of Shadows” (1992-1994)

Alexey Titarenko is a russian photographer, based in St. Petersburg, who works to portray urban atmospheres, memories and feelings. Deeply evocative, dreamy, and with tones of a certain visual romanticism, his images show us city scenes and cityscapes unfolding continuously, elapsing within their stillness. Hazy visions as metaphors for his view of the history and character of a city and its people.
I especially like his City of Shadows (1992 to 1994), Black and White Magic of St. Petersburg (1995 to 1997) and St. Petersburg (1991 to 2009) series. The image shown above is just an example of his work, but much more is available on his site.

More than Violet

Julia Peirone, Nike, 2010 and Signe, 2010

Stockholm based artist Julia Peirone’s work explores several creative processes such as visual deconstructions and collages, video, installations and photography. Her images present an interesting theme of reconstruction, reconstruction of body, of spaces, of being, of the relationship with and between people, within the space of her artistic process.
From her work, i would especially like to mention and highlight the series of portraits of female teenagers (Violet Vertigo, 2008 and More than Violet, 2010 and 2011) and images of bodies against a black background (Blackberry Bloom, Cherry Burst and Electric, 2008). i think these series are excellent and very lucid approaches to the exploration of the relationship between photographic image and personal representation, as performance, and so couldn’t help but be immediately drawn to them.
They are also, of course, very captivating images in themselves.
Peirone’s web-site contains images from her works and installation views of several of her exhibitions.

Poetry and illuminance

Rinko Kawauchi, from the series “Illuminance”, 2011

“The world of action-intuition — the world of poiesis — is none other than the world of pure experience.” (Nishida Kitarō, in preface to “An inquiry into the good”, p. xxxiii, Yale University Press, 1990)

Rinko Kawauchi (Japan, b. 1972) brings forth her images as objects of pure experience of the world, where artist and image construct and reflect each other mutually. Poetry, from the Greek poiesis, carries the root of its meaning in this concept of giving form. And formal making is in the essence of her work. There is an immense formal and evocative subtleness in her images. Shapes, colors, form, patterns.
But, more than that, there is this sense of a juxtaposition of feelings and atmospheres, intuitions, that are articulated as we move between images, linking them from one to the next and back. The visual organization of a sequence of images is thus very important in her work, as it opens up the work before the viewer to his own movement and engagement with the ephemeral living in each image, with new feelings and imagination.
Kawauchi’s latest book, Illuminance (2011), is published by Aperture and one that i would definitely recommend.

Latest editorial

Image from a new editorial in this month’s Parq Magazine.

Photography Manuel Sousa
Styling Margarida Brito Paes
Models Maegan e Duarte @ Best Models
Assistant styling Inese Soncika
Make-up Alex Me
Hair Marcos Pinheiro

Thanks to everyone for the great work! 🙂

Photography and the limits of representation

This is an excellent lecture delivered by Stephen Shore at the Photographer’s Gallery in London. The sound unfortunately is not great but i do think it is very much a must to watch. Here is the link: Stephen Shore, Photography and the Limits of Representation, 13.10.2010

“So because there are these four transformative factors, we have four different tools of selection. And they are focus, the moment we take the picture and the duration that the exposure lasts, the choice of the frame, and the choice of vantage point. And they define the image. (…) A photographer combines a perception, a perception of the world, a perception of photography, of art, a perception about perception, about themselves. A photographer combines a perception with an understanding of these transformations.” (Stephen Shore, in Photography and the Limits of Representation, 2010)

Creative motion

My thought for the month… probably fairly banal but i think valid nonetheless…

The creative process feeds on motion, not random but continuous and purposeful, directed motion. Creatively speaking, and also productively-wise, if you don’t step away from where you are, if you don’t commit fully to an idea or a project and move intentionally and decisively towards it, if you don’t move beyond what you already know, it’s true you won’t risk failure, but then again you’ll also never risk success.

Current motto

Value, enjoy, and celebrate uncertainty!

Nan Goldin’s The Hug, 1980

Nan Goldin, The Hug, 1980

A imagem “The Hug” de Nan Goldin regista um encontro, um momento de relacionamento. Esta é uma das premissas iniciais que é explorada no texto de Darsie Alexander (Alexander, 2005) e que serve também de ponto de partida para esta pequena análise.
Esse relacionamento é, numa primeira abordagem, de certa maneira reduzido aos dois “amantes” que se abraçam na imagem, numa proximidade que parece inquebrável e impossível de desafiar.
É possível, no entanto, talvez questionar se nesta imagem, o encontro se (só) dá entre os dois elementos que formam um casal, ou se não se estenderá também à própria Nan Goldin. A fotógrafa está ela própria também em interacção com a mulher, disputando a sua intimidade – a luz do flash, forte, imposta, agressiva, é o seu toque estendido, disputando a sua presença com o braço estendido que sai das sombras, de um terceiro personagem que fica de outro modo omisso. Tornam-se assim rivais, homem e fotógrafa, partilhando este momento de intimidade, e o abraço torna-se ambíguo.
Esta inserção da presença fotógrafa neste momento é algo de interessante na imagem. Voyerismo? Partilha? Empatia? Intrusão? Apropriação? Através da imagem, a intimidade do casal (da mulher?) é tomada por ela (lhe oferecida?) e tornada também sua. Nan Goldin regista um momento de intimidade de um outro, registando ao mesmo tempo a sua própria intimidade, o seu próprio desejo, a sua própria vida, presença, o seu abraço.
Quem são então os verdadeiros personagens desta história? Deste encontro?
Em primeiro lugar, a mulher. Esta permanece sem face, o seu corpo apenas, a sua figura, como expressão de um ser emocional entregando-se a uma partilha. Ela é ao mesmo tempo a figura de uma mulher, mas também um retrato da própria fotógrafa.
O homem desaparece na imagem, reduzido a um símbolo, a uma ideia. O seu braço expressa a sua presença como amante, possuidor, rival, num relacionamento que é ao mesmo tempo muito presente na imagem mas também muito ambíguo de significados.
Finalmente a própria fotografa que se apresenta numa dualidade de papéis. Por um lado ela é a criadora da imagem, fisicamente presente no espaço, aceite, a sua entrada e interacção é acção sentida tanto pelos habitantes da imagem como pelo observador, mas ela é também o objecto da própria imagem, representa-se a ela própria na pele e na vivência daquela mulher que é uma outra.
Não há uma contradição nesta ideia, pois o que é que pode representar uma vivência pessoal se não a soma dos nossos relacionamentos, das nossas interacções, das pessoas de cujas vivências também fazemos parte, e da nossa projecção sobre o mundo e sobre os outros? Somos definidos pelas pessoas que nos rodeiam e pela maneira como o mundo à nossa volta responde a nós. Projectamo-nos, inserimo-nos, pensamos, agimos, interagimos, agredimos.
Todo o nosso ser e as nossas acções existem através do reflexo que causam.
Esta ideia estende-se não só a esta imagem como a muitas outras fotografias da Nan Goldin (talvez à fotografia em geral?) – uma imagem transforma-se no testemunho de algo (Susan Sontag chamar-lhe-ia uma apropriação) e de uma vivência. É um reflexo, um registo, torna-se um substituto até.
Neste sentido, esta imagem, tal como todo o restante trabalho da autora, é um documento da sua vida, das suas emoções, e da sua existência através dos seus relacionamentos com as pessoas que a rodeiam, os seus amigos, amantes, abraços, rejeições, agressões, desejos, desesperos, libertações, em resumo, de si própria.

Alexander, Darsie (2005), The Hug, New York City, 1980 in Howarth, Sophie (ed.) (2005), Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs, London, Tate Publishing

Sato’s Photo Respiration

Tokihiro Sato, #330 Taiji, 1998

To start the day, i recommend one of my favourite photographic authors, Tokihiro Sato. The representation of the idea of time through the photographic medium is always an interesting question, and Tokihiro’s images transform themselves into a long, slow and sustained, lingering visual breath. And of course, they are absolutely beautiful. More can easily be found on a quick search over the net or why not check out his book “Photo Respiration”. It is a catalogue published by the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005, so it will probably be a bit difficult to find but some online store or reseller might carry some copies.

Fotografar é ver e ser visto

“Fotografar não é olhar o mundo através de um buraco de fechadura. Na rua, na praça, no campo aberto, não existem buracos de fechadura; eu quase nunca estou fotografando secretamente. De alguma forma, eu estou interagindo, estou interferindo. Por vezes, estou mesmo ferindo. (…) Fotografar é uma troca, você vê e é visto.” (Arthur Omar in O Zen e a Arte Gloriosa da Fotografia, 2003)