< TextsThe House of the Seven Women

The House of the Seven Women

“I believe that the ethnographic gaze is a vice since ethnography is a science of what comes afterwards. In the same way, we have cast aside the picturesque or religious view of the Northeast. We were obviously interested in the anthropological problems presented by the region through Celtic literature, and so on. [...] Yet always aiming at selecting, intensifying – on the grounds that reading a landscape only from the standpoint of its “beauty” would be reductive. On the other hand if we can simultaneously read the beauty of a landscape, its economic aspect, and the aspect of its political geography, then all of this is the reality of a landscape. Integrated landscape with no transformations, cultivated landscape, etc.”1

Landscape is a complex word. At times it is misinterpreted as relating to nature or geography; at others with the way a territory is organised, the houses built on it, the bridges that are constructed, the lakes that are created. It is also used as a metaphor to identify the diverse elements which make up a person and this is when the term inner landscape is appropriate. And then there are many other uses that the landscape metaphor fosters and allows. In all those cases there is heterogeneity and wholeness hardly embraceable through a single look, a single word or a single image.

The work that Tito Mouraz presents here can be included in the long tradition of the relationship of images to landscape, but, for this photographer, landscape does not mean something one describes, represents or witnesses, but a place which is inhabited by tension and where the visible elements seem to invoke not only material presence, but also absences, spirits and magic. His gaze does not focus attention on objects in the scenery, on their more or less picturesque configurations, nor does he care about the exoticism which faraway places seem to promise.​

1 António Reis about his work “Trás-os-Montes” (1976) in an interview published in the the 276th issue of Cahiers du Cinéma Magazine, pages 37-41, May 1977, translated by Isabel Câmara Pestana & Miguel Wandschneider

It is important to contextualize how this work presents a small part of Beira-Alta (where these images were made) and the way the images are a kind of biography of that place. A biography containing all its enigmas and contradictions. This is not a material description of the things which belong there, but its mechanism is evocative and summons all the elements as determinants in the construction of life and of different times which are registered on the faces, homes, forests and ruins. There are no ethnographic or documentary ambitions; in the good old way of António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro, they originate from the presence in a place: simply being at the location one wants to watch and letting oneself be a part of the landscape that one wants to show others. Not a passive presence, but one which imposes a dialectical relationship with the place: presence and closeness follow on from withdrawal and distance, conditions which allow the possibility of image making.

Essential to this point of view is that each image results from an experimentation with the geography, the houses, the people, and, of course, from a confrontation with all the mysteries and magic which establish the density and intensity of a place. In this intensification of a territory Tito Mouraz finds a kind of methodology that is no more than a way of thinking about a place he knows so well (this is where he spent his childhood). Consequently these works do not express strangeness; rather, they are the visible face of intimacy and of the presence of the photographer in the place he wanted to transform into image.

But each image has no complete value in itself; it is the different relationships between each element of the series that give these photographs their energy. When shifting concentration towards the full set of images, one realises that they are a kind of gateway to a time, not chronological and totally undetermined, when the world was not explained but told in stories and the biggest secrets were visible to everyone.

Nuno Crespo