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Barras das Almas is Valter Vinagre’s contribution to the photo project Um diario da Republica (Diary of a Republic), developed in 2012 by the Kameraphoto collective. From a photojournalism background, today Vinagre feels closer to documentary photography. For him photography is a reflection of his doubts about the world. “My decision to become a photographer arose from a profound need to observe and analyse the world around me,” says Vinagre, “and from that analysis produce work that would reflect the sense of discomfort that I felt. I chose photography as my medium as it seemed the most appropriate tool for this task.”

His worries are those of a man watching his country change as economic and social difficulties appear in daily life. Without mentioning the financial crisis, poverty, widespread layoffs and reduction of purchasing power, he shows the rising melancholy in rural Portugal. 

For Vinagre, the change to his approach to photography was obvious: “My work is no longer focused on representing man in its space. Now it is much more about the vestiges, or marks left over from his behavior.” The human face has not quite disappeared in his work, and when it isn’t visible, it seems that the intent is to better see the emptiness it leaves behind. We see a child with an absent look wearing a pepper necklace and a few older people. Then there are fragments of bodies: hands, feet, the top of a man’s head. A gradual disappearance is already underway.

Barras das Almas offers a glimpse of a small piece of countryside that can still be found today in Portugal. The region bears the parks of a past that persists in the present despite the erosion of time. After a career that lasted 30 years, a unique relationship formed between the Lisbon-born photographer and the countryside where he moved and which became his subject. This project is neither a flashback nor a work of nostalgia for the economic prehistory of a country. It is the anchor of a cultural reality that forms the shared imagination of this country which, like Proust’s madeleine, reminds us of the old but ever-present taste of a reality to which we became attached. 

The photographer documents the traces that, piece by piece, recreate the spirit of the region, the spirit of a place which persists despite the changes and will not die. But regret hangs over these lands and it comes to light in these photographs. Things are changing or will change. Nothing will be uprooted. Rather, the roots themselves will die.

It is time to look more closely at this deserted microcosm, with its details, colors and evasive glances. Through these photographs, a new web is woven between reality and perception.

“My work is no longer focused on representing man in its space. Now it is much more about the vestiges, or marks left over from his behaviour.” 

Barra das Almas
Valter Vinagre/Kameraphoto – A Diary of the Republic 2012
Publié par: Kameraphoto/Huggly Books
Editorial project: Valter Vinagre and Susana Paiva
Texte: Luisa Soares de Oliveira
350 copies, Pages: 172
Format: 34,2 x 23,5cm
Prix: 15€
ISBN: 978-989-96380-7-5

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Valter Vinagre

VALTER VINAGRE, 1954     Born in Avelãs de Caminho, Anadia, Valter Vinagre studied Photography at AR.CO (Centro de Arte e Comunicação Visual) in Lisbon, and began his career in the late ‘80s making in...