The neo-realism that inspires Igor Sterpin expresses artistic simplicity and an approach to the social, to the historic and the poetic, in pursuit of how things used to be. The Italian neo-realism, especially in the movies, was inspired by the poetic realism of Jean Renoir and other French directors of the ‘30s. Therefore, when I see the photographs of Sterpin, I see a lot of the French humanism, since all the elements that contributed to the originality of that movement are, in some way, present in his work: daily life, moments of joy, children in the street, women and men at work, their habits, the city of Porto, the riverbanks of the Douro, the coffee shops… a watchful eye to the reality, but a reality that is adorned by the lights and shadows, by the obscurity, by the snow, by the rain and by so many other elements that you can create a work of art. Images that also have a political and social conscience in connexion to his time.
This book, that accompanies the Voyage exposition, recovers a small part of the photographic archive of Sterpin, stored for years. It is an archive that talks about his identity and his family memories made with images of characters that, at that time, did not imagine they would appear in an exposition and a publication made in the following century.
The photographic archives are important and useful, registering a time and space that shape the plot of the history, both of the great deeds and the life of the “common people”. These archives are windows that show us where we come from, a society in which these people, in their daily chores, were also creating the story of our history, unaware of the mark their footsteps would leave behind their anonymity.
A more voyeuristic work, entitled Apnea, also from the archive of this photographer, could well have been done today. It is more about intimacy and appearance, on the threshold of fetishism, immobilizing, arresting and haunting our gaze. It is a work where Sterpin navigates between the spectacular and the decadence of human expression, observing with almost being unseen, showing attraction and distance between photographer and fetish-object, in a visual investigation that requires a specific sensitivity.
The Mexican poet Octavio Paz wrote, “the poetry is the memory of life and the archives are its language”. The poetry preserves the memory and the emotion of the vital action, while the language serves to order this memory, placing it on a timeline, and giving syntax to one´s memory of life.
January 18 - March 7, 2020