MANUEL SONSECA: NON-PHOTOGRAPHER

MANUEL SONSECA: NON-PHOTOGRAPHER

Manuel Sonseca is not a photographer. Or, at least, the most perceptive critiques of his work tend to regard him as a thinking poet rather than a mere capturer of images. He himself has observed that the onset of his professional maturity as a photographer was marked by the realisation that it was his hand, rather than his eye, that took the photograph: his work may thus be seen as the outcome of a process – a not entirely painless process – of intellectual reflection.
A tremulous reflection, even so, whose blurred edges and grey dreamscapes are imbued with intensely poetic feelings. A reflection on life, on the living and the departed; on what shines out under the beguiling light, but also on the shadows or, in fact, what is not wholly perceived by the eye. An exploration, therefore, of the evocative power of images and of what lies beyond reality.
Yet Sonseca also focuses on absence and the spirit, on the unheard conversations that remain concealed behind the arcana of an apparent reality. His is an intellectual and profoundly literary idiom, which he describes as grounded in metaphor and ellipsis; rather than illustrating a given viewpoint, his pictures at times seem to shape that viewpoint.
Sonseca once described his pictures as “images stolen from destiny”, and his work conveys a preoccupation with time, with the remorseless ticking away of life. As a traveller, he defends the journey from one side to the other; as a geographer of human emotion, sheltering behind his metaphors, he addresses intimate themes, and is always the subject of his visual poetry.
Plossu coined the much-reported phrase: Sonseca is ‘a free poet”. Juan Manuel Bonet, in an essay published to mark the award of the THIRD PILAR CITOLER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY, has also stressed that Sonseca is ‘a poet of the camera’. Sonseca himself chose an aphorism by another poet, René Char, to describe his latest work: “To live is to insist on completing a memory”.
Yet Sonseca is a heterodox poet, resolutely rejecting the fashions of the moment. He is an advocate of movement, of all that is fleeting and ephemeral, and as a creator believes firmly in the independence of the image. Each of his pictures has its own life, its own absolute meaning; it requires no other narrative structure to give it sense. Thus it is freed from the bondage –whatever form it may take – of the word. It is the transhumance of language.