SÃO PAULO, 2007
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK "ECCENTRIS"
PUBLISHED IN 2012 BY LES ÉDITIONS LUMIÈRE
ince childhood, I've been creating images in one form or another. As a kid, much to my parents’ discontent, I produced countless Crayola masterpieces on the walls of our house. Then I set out to become a painter, so unconsciously — even before I
got into photography — I trained my eyes to perceive everything in terms of geometry and light. In a sense, you could say photography was a byproduct of painting.
When I began painting people, my subjects rarely agreed to pose for more than an hour, so I often had to photograph them, then transfer their image to the canvass later via the photo. Pretty soon I realized it was a redundant process, especially since I could produce my ideas in a photograph in a fraction of the time it took to create a painting. Perhaps it was the impatience or impetuosity of youth, or an organic progression, but I abandoned the brush and embraced the camera. And I haven't looked back since.
Unfortunately, my first photographs weren’t very good. I began taking pictures seriously at age fourteen with a hand-me-down Minolta camera from my dad. It was only half functional, which would explain why those images were poorly exposed. Why they weren’t compelling... well... that was something I had yet to learn. Still, rather than giving up, I persisted. A year later, I saved up enough money from a summer job to buy a used Leica R3 and a 50 mm lens. It took me all summer to scrounge up the necessary cash, and when I finally put my hands on the Leica, it sparked my life-long love affair with German cameras.
The R3 was a sexy piece of machinery that invited me to experiment with different styles and techniques. It was such a joy to use that I never needed to take a photography class. I got my schooling on the streets, photographing just about anything and anyone, and learning from my mistakes. In the city that never sleeps, you could find me under the rattling subways, near the tenement buildings, or inside sleazy cocktail bars in the seediest parts of town. Anywhere that had any character, I’d be there with my Leica in hand, waiting for an elusive moment. Those experiences taught me more about photography than any classroom ever could.
I was fascinated early on by fashion photography. As a teenager, my male friends thought I was strange. While they were at the corner bodega trying to sneak a peek inside Playboy, I’d be on the other side, flipping through the pages of Vogue. For me, that’s where the real beautiful women were. I remember spending countless hours in the art section of the local library, poring over the works of the photographers I admired. The clean, minimalist monochrome portraits of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn were as poignant to me as the graphic, sexually-charged imagery of Helmut Newton. Their images spoke to me in a language that transcended words. And I too wanted to communicate in that language.
THE ICONIC IMAGES OF MY YOUTH BY AVEDON, NEWTON AND PENN (LEFT TO RIGHT)
hile photography spent its first hundred years slowly perfecting its mechanics, its lenses, cameras, film emulsions and lighting, the pace of its evolution has accelerated exponentially in recent years. Today, photography is a complex
and contradictory mixture of variables. As computers become more prevalent and accepted in art, photographers and retouchers manipulate or enhance images to create realistic ideas that blur the line between fantasy and reality. Digitization, sampling, recycling, automation, genetic engineering, cloning, cosmetic surgery, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality — all these fields are expanding into mainstream society. And each one brings into question the separation between nature and technology, organic and synthetic, real and virtual, truth and fabrication — and ultimately, human versus non-human.
If all this is an indication of where we're headed as a society, then technology is destined to democratize the media industry, meaning the era of analog photography, as we know it, is probably over. This doesn't imply that images will no longer be made, but rather that there will most likely be a dramatic transformation in the way they are made, and consequently in their intrinsic value and significance within society. As a lover of analog photography, I lament the prospect of its demise, yet on the other hand, I can only hope that the new era will herald a new way of seeing and being that will transform not only photography but also the way we interact with one another in the real world.
Perhaps the new generation of Avedons, Penns and Newtons to emerge will be the sensory architects and computer cognoscenti of tomorrow who design brand new immersive hyper-realistic worlds, offering unique experiences and feelings, accessible to all. These new pioneers will break through and manipulate space itself — something akin to what we are able to do now via video games. It is quite conceivable that the new sensory elements and beings born out of their imagination could even co-exist amongst us, not merely on a neurological level but also on the physical one. It would be a world of holograms and simulations interacting with atoms and electrons in real time. My 2002 website, Eccentris.com, which was a manifestation of the cyberpunk influences of Bladerunner and Japanese manga from my youth, was heavily inspired by such a vision of the future.
GHOST IN THE MACHINE: HOMEPAGE AND TITLE TRACK FROM ECCENTRIS.COM, 2002
consciousness. Our experience of colors, smells, tastes and sounds are all subjective creations of our mammalian neurological evolution, yet as little as a hundred years ago, humans perceived a different reality from ours. Reality continues to change, transform, and evolve with our consciousness.
In the next generation, we won't interface with the electronic world via computers; rather we'll be directly immersed in it. The Internet will be like electricity — a utility that's always on, transparent, omnipresent. We'll always be plugged in to this brave new augmented world, floating freely in a sea of data, completely unaware of its presence, and without questioning its purpose. Eventually, the Internet may even begin to develop its own consciousness, a symbiosis of algorithms, code and fuzzy logic that allows it to interface with human consciousness.
All this is a long way from the makeshift darkroom I set up in the basement of my parents’ house where I learned my craft, honed my skills, and developed my love for mixing chemicals like a mad scientist. There was no greater magic than watching a black and white print miraculously come to life under a dim red light. All this may one day be a lost art in our hectic modern world, where increasingly, everything seems to be about quick thrills, where style over substance rules, and where the destination often seems more important than the journey. Whatever the future holds, photography, in whatever form, will always be more than just technique. Photography is an exercise in touching the world by viewing it, and we will always need new eyes to imagine it as others wouldn’t.▪️
s technology topples old paradigms across the board, new pieces are being strategically arranged to radically change the way we play the game. That game, our reality, was manufactured over millennia by the evolution of human