It was in 2010 and thanks to ESTAÇÃO IMAGEM that I was first acquainted with the work of António Gonçalves Pedro (AGP). I was immediately impressed – his instinct and the quality that stems from it, and also the motivation I felt by his quest of the common citizen, the unmasked. António Gonçalves Pedro arrived in Mora when he was 16 years old and there he lived for most of his life. During half a century he practiced seeing; searching for identities amongst the genuine of his time, he came to focus on the people of Mora and its region.
My first contact with AGP came through a book published by the Mora Town Council in 2003. This book is the result of a long term work of observation, recovery, and edition of an archive of around 100 thousand negatives, with the bulk of these being portraits – material kindly handed in by family members of AGP and today under ESTAÇÃO IMAGEM’s trust. With the AGP archive as a starting point, my proposal is to – with all due respect – give continuity to the cycle of generations that sought AGP’s Stúdio Fotográfico throughout the years to have their portraits taken.
I learned that the archive contains plenty of images of children posing for their anniversary, brides covered in white, young women of country folk groups, families dressed up for Sundays, women seated in tables writing love letters to boyfriends and war combatants in Africa, and many other documents. Many of these people would return to his studio some years later to be portrayed in Communion days or for a child’s birthday. Also, many of these people are possibly still alive or have descendants, and perhaps they are part of an active, collective life in Mora – remnants of a living memory, a history to be completed.
AGP must have surely portrayed almost all the inhabitants of Mora for decades – it only proves that AGP’s work is now an invaluable heritage.
With that said, I am compelled to find some of these people portrayed in the AGP archive and ‘crystallise’ them in their present Natures and life circumstances. Such compelling urgency stems from my awareness about the passing of time, as for each day that passes, more and more links are lost with the death and fading memories of those “who saw the emperor” (Roland Barthes, “La Chambre Claire”, 1980) – because our lives, contrary to what the images seem to capture, are indeed ephemeral.
This project will necessarily entail linking the work of image archaeology with social narratives – the evolution of people’s lives and, above all, the history of a people and their place. The photography of today is tomorrow’s bequest and here the photographer becomes the middleman of human nature, a generational messenger if you will.
Yesterday’s photography doesn’t rest in the past because its history continues indefinitely. What is the face and identity of one of the many babies portrayed by AGP?
To resume the broken cycle of memory documentation – that is the aim of this project for the ESTAÇÃO IMAGEM GRANT 2012.
2013 will be the 10th year since the book’s publishing. This project comes as an opportunity to celebrate the memory of a photographer who united generations and dedicated his life to photography and to the town of Mora.