Written review by
Photo director of DU magazin, Switzerland
Above a pedestrian vision: The title of the workshop led by Juan Manuel Castro Prieto is: A personal journey. I take this credo to be about the path of finding ones’ individual voice in the photographic medium. To stay within the code of signifiers contained in this portfolio, that path is different for every photographer. That in a way is stating the obvious but it is still worth looking at different basic constellations of getting there: at crossroads, shortcuts and maybe oneway streets.
The images taken by Javier Garcia Blanco for this workshop are if historical buildings and sacred architecture. They are presented as dyptichs combining horizontal and vertical images as well as other combinations of differing formats. The portfolio is presented in a very classic black and white aesthetic and combines an almost godlike perspective from above with a pedestrian vision. In technical terms one image in the portfolio stands out and seems to me be taken with a smartphone camera, it is the square format of the old women walking framed by a black border. For me this image does not fit the otherwise coherent portfolio aesthetic. For me Garcia Blanco follows the idea of the photographer as flaneur, a credible if somewhat dated movement in the history of photography.
We are presented with the idea of the world as stage, a stage made of stone, lots of stone in fact. The massive stone walls and floors are structured through different visual elements. We see vertical pillars, closing arches, threatening doors and windows, spiral staircases and also sometimes stairs leading into the void. Where do they all lead one has to ask? A lot of the stones shown here has been used in the distant past to build massive manifestations of christianity and the power of the church. The basic mood of the images is gloomy and the image contrast is high. There is a lot of direct sunlight creating a harsh shadowplay, acting as the second structuring element in the images.
The third main element that makes up these images are human figures. I say figures as the are used as such, they do not become characters of their own, they are figures in this photographic game of chess. The human beings in these images do not communicate they coexist somewhat lonely. They do not look at me as a viewer and often their faces stay hidden in the shadows. These protagonists move around in time and space and yet the general mood seems to me to be that of calm, stasis and of being out of time and space.