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Like a dream


The two series "Peru, Viaje al Sol" and "Extranos" by Juan Manuel Castro Prieto are presented at the Box Galerie in Brussels.

"Perú, viaje al sol" is the result of a dozen trips to Peru, undertaken between the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Even before he became known as a photographer, Castro Prieto was appreciated and hailed as a true magician of the darkroom, making exhibition and collection prints in his Madrid studio for many renowned authors. It was at the request of a Spanish publisher that he went to Peru for the first time, in this case to work on the archives of Martín Chambi, the famous Peruvian photographer, active from the 1920s to the 1950s. However, the images proposed by Juan Manuel were unanimously accepted by the specialists, to such an extent that he has since been the only one authorised to carry them out on behalf of the heirs of the "Master of Cuzco".
It is to follow Chambi's footsteps that Castro Prieto chose to travel through Peru, armed with a heavy 20x25 chamber, working at a pace reminiscent of the pioneers of the medium, a mode of operation that corresponds well to his creative process, which is willingly turned towards the past. The very large negatives give the images a precision and a richness of truly spectacular details, the final result further magnified by the virtuosity of the prints. Moreover, the camera's allowed switching sets lead to optical aberrations that open the field to a very particular shape, to an in-between where the documentary tends towards dreams.

Onirism is even more present and evident in the other opus presented here, "Extraños" (Strange), a more introspective series where nudes rub shoulders with portraits, landscapes or still lifes. Naturally attracted by the incongruous, especially when it emerges from the banal and the everyday, Castro Prieto invites us with Extraños to share some of his obsessions: nostalgia for childhood and its mysteries, sex, death.
But in many ways, whatever the subject, whatever the location... Castro Prieto's photographs are mainly about photography itself, about the unique way in which it makes incessant back and forth between reality and fiction, about which it makes no sense at all. The author invites us to be moved and amazed with him by the photographic material in the strict sense, taking advantage of its fragility as well as the whole range of its formal possibilities.



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