Spain’s back roads deliver a historical lesson of layered Christianity and Islam: fincas, plazas de toros, pastors, queseros, viñeros, oleicultors; and perhaps more than anything, a story guided by access to light, arable land, and fresh water.
The landscape and its people – particularly to this photographer with his reference to the new world – mirror the obvious influences in Mexico; and to anyone interested in photography, the work of Manuel Álvarez Bravo, one of the foremost visual artists of the 20th century. Born in Mexico City in 1902, Bravo bore witness to virtually the entire century, committing himself to photography in the 1930s when he documented the work of the Mexican muralists. He is most remembered for his deceivingly simple photographs of street life and rural traditions, distilled images of ordinary and religious objects at once instantly recognizable and at the same time achieving a higher aesthetic. Bravo’s philosophy (and the title of the published retrospective of his work), photopoetry (fotopoesía) accomplishes art from the everyday, resisting sentimentality. Manuel Álvarez Bravo said:
“When one takes a photograph, one doesn’t think about saying anything in particular. One doesn’t think about making a statement but rather of creating something visual which later can bear a meaning that one didn’t intend to transmit —depending on the viewer’s interpretation but not necessarily on the photographer’s.”
Bravo’s dedication to visual imagery without the gauze of romance, his trust and confidence that a well-composed image stands strongly on its own, opened wide to interpretation and re-interpretation, are significant influences on this photographer, despite the differences between Bravo’s low-contrast, mid-tone style and today’s preference for higher structure.
While the message is often contained within the medium, the medium can also sometimes itself be the message. That being said, the elements of black-and-white photography contain the elements of our most basic experience, as Bravo clearly wanted to convey.
“I think that light and shadow have exactly the same duality that exists between life and death.”
– Aaron C. Greenman
Aaron C. Greenman has been a photographer for over 25 years and has lived and worked on four continents. He has previously been profiled on The Leica Camera Blog for his work in Japan, Thailand, India, East Africa, Israel, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, and Western Europe. More of his fotopoesía images can be viewed here and his portfolio images at acuitycolorgrain.com. He has several books available for the iPad (here and here).