8 – 22 February 2017


From the start of his artistic career as a photographer, the work of José Pedro Cortes (b. 1976) has been characterised by continual technical and aesthetic experimentation. This experimentation, however, derives from a distinctive method of experiencing, perceiving and engaging in the photographic act. His visual heterodoxy can be seen as belonging to the more subjective tendencies of photographic reportage, as a polymorphous genre within which crossover and fluctuation between a degree of conceptual and lyrical intentionality and the performativity and spontaneity inherent to the photographic snapshot are possible.

Most of his series are set against the backdrop of urban life, the confrontation between public and private spaces, the distance between anonymity and intimacy. It is within the context of this territory, these chance occurrences of life, that José Pedro Cortes channels his photographic attention, as a way of marking significant moments and expressions of daily experience, as well as the emotional and poetic resonances awakened by a particular place, in his interaction with the people around him and with the objects and situations he encounters. Thus José Pedro Cortes’ series take the form of photographic essays, not only because they are the result of periods of work that coincide with periods of experiences, travels and personal relationships, but also as a method of marking the boundaries of a thematic territory with a tendency to fluctuate between reality and fiction.

In “Costa”, José Pedro Cortes examined Costa da Caparica, a suburb to the south of Lisbon whose beaches are among the most visited by inhabitants of that city. Costa de Caparica is also, however, a zone with pockets of social and urban precarity, a place in which the leisure economy and urban regeneration policies have not been enough to eliminate social, architectural and environmental vulnerability. The series comprises around 30 images depicting numerous features of this hybrid territory, including places, rudimentary constructions and objects. The sequence of images suggests a physical (but also mental and critical) journey made by the photographer through various locations along the Costa Caparica. According to José Pedro Cortes, “these images speak of that strip that exists between the last stretch of civilisation and the beach. Shacks, some belonging to fishermen, with little reason for existing; outmoded architecture, remains of houses, dirt left by the tide; an agglomeration of nondescript houses and streets – a peripheral, end-of-the-line location. A frontier zone, on the outskirts of a larger mass, disfigured by time and by the anarchic will of man”.

Finally, mention should be made of the strange luminosity that permeates these images, a dazzling and mysterious light which imbues these spaces with a disconcerting and unreal atmosphere, like something seen while in a hypnagogic state, encouraging the spectator to participate in a suggestive and paradoxical exploration of individual experience and public awareness, between factography and imagination.

Sérgio Mah


Born in 1976 in Porto, Portugal, José Pedro Cortes studied at Kent Institute of Art and Design (Master of Arts in Photography) in the UK.

In 2005, after 3 years living in London, moved back to Lisbon and was part of Gulbenkian Creativity and Artistic Creation Program in Photography (Lisbon). On that same year had his first solo exhibitions in Centro Português de Fotografia “(I will not reveal you)” and Silo “(Silence)”, both in Porto, Portugal. Cortes was also selected for the Photo London – Emerging Artists Presentations and, in 2006, took part in the Getty Images curated exhibition New Photographers 2007. Other solo exhibitions include Museu da Imagem (Braga, 2006), Módulo – Centro Difusor de Arte (Lisboa, 2008, 2010), White Space Gallery (London, 2006), CAV – Centro de Artes Visuais (Coimbra, 2013), Robert Morat Galerie (Berlin, 2015). In 2015, as part of the exhibition “EDIT: Sequence / Meaning”, his body of work “Costa” was exhibited at CGAC – Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, in Santiago de Compostela.

In recent years Cortes was invited for some projects that include EPEA – European Photo Exhibition Award, with work shown in four European venues (Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Centre Gulbenkian Paris, Fondazione Monte di Luca, Italy, and Oslo Peace Center, Norway), European Eyes on Japan (with book and exhibition) and O Processo SAAL: Arquitectura e Participação, 1974-1976, with work shown at Museu de Serralves, Porto and at Canadian Centre for Architecture, Toronto. In 2014 Cortes participated in the event “Live Editing Show” at Le Bal, Paris, where visitors could produce a book in collaboration with the artist.

Recently was nominated for the prestigious award BES Photo 2014 with exhibitions at Museu Berardo, Lisboa, and Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo.

In 2015, he exhibited “One’s Own Arena” at Museu da Electricidade, Lisboa, and in 2016 was one of the commissioned artists for the BF16 – Bienal de Fotografia de Vila Franca de Xira.

From his early career, José Pedro Cortes considered the book as an important medium for his work. His publications include “Silence” (2005), “Things Here and Things Still to Come” (2011), “Costa” (2013) and “One’s Own Arena” (2015). All four books were published by his own imprint Pierre von Kleist editions, which has published 21 books from many artists.

His work is represented in the following public collections: BES Art, PLMJ and Coleção Nacional de Fotografia / Centro Português de Fotografia, Fundação EDP / Coleção MAAT.




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