Alexandre Cabrita

Alexandre Cabrita


Worked With Models

Nasceu em Lisboa, em Março, 1974.
Licenciou-se em Artes-plásticas / Pintura pela Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade de Lisboa, em 1999.

Em 2001 concluíu o curso de Pós-graduação MA Fine-Art pelo Central St-Martins, College of Art and Design do London Institute.

I’m an artist based in Lisbon, Portugal. I work both the medium of painting and of photography. After graduating at the Lisbon Faculty of Arts in 1999, I decided to further my education by studying abroad. At the time London was the hot center for arts so I applied to Central Saint Martins, College of Arts and was granted a scholarship. Studying in London was the wildest time of my live. Never since then was I able to surround myself with such creative and inspirational people as well as an artistic environment, combined of art galleries, museums and educational institutions.

The aspect I most miss about studying in London was being able to sit at the pub with other schoolmates and discuss arts for extensive lengths of time. As I concluded my studies I moved back to Lisbon and worked there for almost a decade as a painter.

In 2009, I moved to Berlin. I was close to fellow artists who already lived there, at the time Berlin was a true magnet for artists. Rents were somewhat affordable and the cultural scene was dynamic and flourishing. Walking the same streets of Schoeneberg, where David Bowie lived almost 40 years back, alone was quite thrilling. Being based in Berlin helped ease the transition from painting to photography as the painting scene there wasn’t quite as dynamic as that which I witnessed while living in London. It became apparent to me that Berlin art galleries weren’t friendly towards figurative painting. That alone wasn’t the reason for my transition to photography but it helped set the path.

I started shooting digitally but somewhere along the way I decided to take a step back and properly learn to shoot analog and develop my own negatives. This shift towards analog had also to do with the need to find the correct medium that would allow me to produce large scale prints that could be exhibited in galleries and other public venues. I had recently been introduced to the work of Clyde Butcher and became enamored with his large format prints which he develops and prints himself.

It became apparent that large format photography was the way to go so I purchased my first view camera which included a 210mm Japanese lens and four film loaders. I tried to learn as much as I could about how to work these old and clunky cameras, the movement of the lens board, the loading of the film into the film loaders, being able to measure light and understanding reciprocity failure, and so on. Large format analog photography is a language of its own and it’s less permissive than the digital medium. In fact, it requires a more thoughtful approach to shooting. by way of example, not all light setups work well with analog.

I always liked to work in series, each consisting of a different theme or subject. My latest work entitled “Hoffmann’s Doll” explores the concept of a formless body. I started working on this concept just as the Covid-19 pandemic begun to spread and quarantine measures were implemented, thus making it increasingly more difficult and ultimately impossible to hire models for shoots. The focus shifted towards the processing of old Raw files, in an attempt to convey to them a new meaning and a new interpretation. I was seduced by the concept of the shattered/formless body.

In Formless, a user guide, Rosalind Krauss referred to Poupée, (“Doll”) a work by the German photographer Hans Bellmer, to describe Freud’s concept of “uncanny” (Das Unheimliche), the feeling of uneasiness we experience when we gaze at a humanoid or a clone, something akin to nature but, at the same time, fundamentally split from it.

People often use the expression “uncanny valley” to describe James Cameron’s movie Avatar. Michael Tigar, CEO at Possible Reality, a startup responsible for developing INTERACT, a software capable of creating realistic 3D avatars, believes that the human eye is “wired innately to understand the human face and all of its subtle expressions […] So when we see a digital representation of the human face — in cartoon form, or all the way to photorealism and beyond — which goes into uncanny valley, we have a built-in acceptance of what it is we’re seeing. But when what we’re seeing crosses a certain threshold that we know both consciously and subconsciously when we cross into the uncanny valley, our mind dismisses what we’re seeing. We disengage and we don’t buy into it.”

I was interested in this notion of uncanny as linked to the concept of double or simulacra. According to Krauss, Bellmer’s work with dolls is a sort of photographic theatre where the uncanny manifests itself as “the drama of castration anxiety, in which doubling is symptomatic of the dream work’s effort to protect the threatened phallus by representing it through what Freud describes as the multiplication or doubling of the genital symbol.”

The concept of body as double is also present in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman” (Der Sandmann), in the figure of an automaton (Olympia), with whom Nathanael, the main character, falls in love. According to Freud, the uncanny can be understood as something belonging to the subject but simultaneously detached from him and it  points to the idea of anxiety resulting from the fear of castration. This is very well illustrated in Hoffmann’s tale by the fear experienced by Nathanael of being deprived of is eyes and it establishes a clear link between the castration anxiety and the scopic drive. The act of seeing becomes also a libidinal act.

Albums and Galleries

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