spring 2003
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 In Our Own Likeness, (A IMAXE E SEMELLANZA) - Non-Digital Photography
Fran Herbello

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Statement: "I like to play with everyday elements creating new situations that break the usual way of seeing the familiar. I carve on the skin, I make ephemeral interventions which I document with truthful, scientifically rigorous black and white images.

Neutral backgrounds and opposites that dance between rejection and laughter, between what is seen and what is, making use of the closest and least elements. These are broken times.

We are living a return to the intimate. The restructuring of an identity assailed by a digital and accelerated society is attempted through withdrawal and self-analysis.The body does not find its place, the digital does not fit in with its material nature, and its direct relationship with sensations is fading away.

There is the possibility of moving through virtual spaces with an adopted and idealized body.

The reflexive verbs which describe actions made on the body itself lose their quality.

It is no longer I the one who moves my body, the one who moves."

Review: The photographs of Fran Herbello constitute a reply to what he considers the relentless harassment of digital society, and despite the fact that his images are usually taken to be digital, they are a product of direct intervention over the bodies. Clearly a sculptural work of nature which precisely demonstrates an interest in working in contact with real objects, creating ephemeral contributions void of meaning in themselves only dreamed up and executed so as to give center-stage to photographs. Obviously it is pointless trying to label them within a specific art form; they are sculptures and photographs at the same time, as is the case with a great part of modern day sculpture. Photography doesn’t only replace intervention, but it also increases the credibility of the result that it stimulates due to the role of notarial testimony usually attributed to the photographic medium. Fran takes good advantage of this; make it more acute by his use of black and white and his choice of precise photographic variables. As a result, fragmented bodies are as real as the unusual.

This work can be framed in the context of questioning its photographic voracity, which postmodern formulations convert into a recurring objective. These days the eruption of the digital image is creating a simulation whereby the presumed truthfulness of the medium is beginning to be doubted in a social context. Hence these images also lead to a questioning of the interest in the difference between analogue and numeric images, and this is what appears to me to be really interesting. Little does it matter if the scar in the image of the backs was created by Photoshop, by loctite glue or as a result of the search for a person who possessed such a scar in real life. What matters, is not the process followed but the result obtained and the underlying concept.

The unreal situation suggested by many of his images remind us of the classic surrealist photographs. The resulting comparison between “dorse/corso” (“Back/Corset”) and the well known “violon d’Ingres by Man Ray in 1924 is inevitable. In the same way, “Pie/Zapato” (Foot/Shoe) reminds us of lonely Metropolitan created by Herbert Bayer in 1932, in which instead of laces coming out of the skin eyes appear in the palm of the hand, a product of photo montage which in those days was frequently used by artist linked to the historic vanguard who used photography and which in present day circumstances has obviously fallen into disuse. But the relation between these two paradigmatic photographers but can be extended to the surreal movement in general noting that the world of Margritte is also present in these photographs. The universe of Joan Brossa and that of the contemporary Chema Madoz also bear a resemblance in many ways to the work of Fran Herbello. However the body-centered theme, one of the obsessions of contemporary artists, and the strength of the treatment give it a specific personality quite different from the poetic images of Madoz.

The simulated aggression in the images contrast with the harmony of the formal composition to which he pays careful attention. In this way the tangible part of the intervention over the body is increased along with its strength. The photographic options that characterize them such as the simplicity of the shots, their central and frontal character, their symmetry, the diffused lighting and the black backgrounds allow them to suggest a realism not unlike scientific documentary photography. However in spite of the simulated aggression with which the body has been treated this work is totally different from that of artists who on occasions have mutilated or transformed their bodies by way of surgical interventions as is the case with Orlan. These works of art are not only based on conception of a different nature, but also the role of the photograph is different; the simple documentation of intervention. In spite of the young age of the author and the fact that it is his first piece of work ‘ A Imagen y semejanza” (In Image and Resemblance) is composed of thirty or so images of extraordinary coherence in themselves and a visual resolution which leaves no one unaffected. This is an artist well worth keeping an eye on.

Manuel Sendon

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