A change of context; a change in mindset. I was looking around the property and started noticing that which had I paid careful attention to before would have always been noticeable to me. I was always fascinated by the idea of ghosts and now wanted to do a photographic project based on that idea. My original thought was to get a bunch of people of both sexes and have them pose naked in select locations on the property (doing strange stuff like lying on the ground huddled to the earth, hugging a tree, etc.) and then use double exposure to enhance the mood of ghostliness. That idea (thank the Lord) proved kitsch and well-worn. So I let the project fade out of my mind.
Now, having actually arrived on the property, I started noticing that which had I paid careful attention to on noticing it before would have always been noticeable to me. The idea was still to do a photographic project based on the theme of ghosts. And so now I set off clicking…
Looking at the finished work, I was utterly surprised how a simple change of location would completely alter the way I took photographs. The only time I felt a similar sense of surprise on looking at my own work was when I finished the photographic project Machina. That too was completely new to me, aided by the set of restrictions in place when I took those photographs… I was shooting down from the front balcony, four floors up, at my parents’ home in Malta, late at night, with the machinery being operated at street level in continuous motion… there was just no time to compose the images in the usual manner or spend minutes before each take fidgeting in the camera’s menus.
But the mind is one hell of a cruel bitch… and after the surprise came the disappointment. Looking at the photographs that made up the project Alcaide, I came to realise that all I was unconsciously after, or was implicitly intrigued by, when working on that project was the concept of human presence. That (involuntarily) coupled with the idea of ghosts (and is it sensical to define a stage within the process that led to that finished work in a way that somehow intimates the involvement of a coupling of notions? Isn’t human presence, after all, inherently ghostlike?), naturally led me to photograph the “remains” of human presence, the aftermath after the human invasion.
And that is what basically all photographers have been doing since the discovery of photography: practically all photographers to date have been photographing human presence.
So Alcaide, seemingly, did not turn out to be a photographic project but merely a photographic exercise.
It could be that my innate misanthropy was what led me to initially experience those photographs with such awe and wonderment. Wow! I was finally photographing something faintly human!
Days passed after that initial victory and the ensuing fall, and I was still stuck in the mindset that had given birth to that project. Wherever I looked, I could see potential photographs that I thought could so beautifully supplement that project. But what’s done cannot be redone.
There is though one enduring victory to be had from the photographic project Alcaide. With the accomplishment of that project, the photographic universe had been depleted of one photographic Idea. There are many photographs around in this world, but an intention is unique.
Untitled (from personal project Alcaide). Photographed June 2021 at Alcaide, Portugal. Photograph by the author.