Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Meetings with Remarkable People #7: Massao Mascaro

Jul 26, 2017 - Federico Clavarino

I have had the privilege of witnessing the evolution of Massao Mascaro’s photography during the last few years. “Ramo” was his first foray into his peculiar mix of documentary and poetry, “Jardin” the conscious application of a mature visual form of expression, and the photographs you can see here are part of the first harvest of his newest body of work.

The photographs have been taken in Ceuta, a Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa, just opposite Gibraltar, and one of the main gateways for migrants who try to enter Europe. The series is meant to be part of a larger project Massao is working on around the Mediterranean, using the journey of Ulysses as a loose guideline.

Massao’s work is always a delicate balance between autobiography, topography and politics, and as such it is a good starting point for a novel definition of poetry.

His point of view is always intimate, his use of a soft focus, a tight cropping and a narrow depth of field evokes touch. If his narrative style were to be translated to a literary form, it would be something like a stream of consciousness. His work often revolves around territory. In “Ramo” it was his ancestor’s Calabria, in “Jardin” the mythical space of the garden, found in the streets and parks of Madrid, here it is the coast of the Mediterranean, cradle of many civilisations. The scope of his work is profoundly political, as it is rooted in the need to explore how humans relate to the spaces (both cultural and geographical) they inhabit.

Massao’s photography is always somehow understated but at the same time capable of powerful metaphors. He prefers to photograph a plastic bag hanging from a barbed wire fence, shaken around by the wind, or a discarded door amidst trash cans, than photographing the six-metre fences surrounding Ceuta. He turns his lens towards piles of coins, the most ridiculously material incarnation of economy. He makes us look at how a plant sticks its thorns in its own body, and I can’t avoid thinking about our current predicament.