Sampedro’s “New Photography” incorporates latent lights and life forms, hallucinations and virtual beings, to question the nature of photography today in its relation to new forms of creating images in the digital era. Inspired by Valle-Inclán, whose portrayal of figures from Spain’s political history often appealed to obscenities, ruthlessness and vulgar imagery as a means to mock the theatrical insipidity, Sampedro’s images of desire and sexuality are politically subversive and challenge the nature of photography. It would be hard to give a definition to what “New Photography” means since this is mostly a personal relationship with the photograph itself. Whether new photography, fantastic photography or magical realism, Sampedro’s work is based on a complex imagery and drastic perspectives on life that encourages an intuitive approach. “As much as words can dress up an idea,” says the artist, “photography helps me undress the reality.”
The idea of latency is thus a means to address and access the memorial qualities of an image rather than an elaborate structure of concepts that would have to do with an explicit thinking about images. “Memories, concepts and feelings have the appearance of a photography, even without the intervention of a camera or without pressing the camera shutter to catch the instant. What we think we do consciously, is made by our mind unconsciously, naturally, without any camera, developing or retouches. The subjective camera is always turned on, working in raw to show us something that is not merely retinal,” says the artist.
Sampedro’s manifest desire to push subjectivity to the limit allows him to create intuitive scenarios around the desire behind the image. These are not ‘negatives’ of the real; they reflect a different light altogether. In this sense, they are not portraits but rather the Alter-portraits of an alternate reality we are invited to discover beyond the naked visuality. While photography is a process of finding new means to reflect light across the opacity of matter, Sampedro’s images are meant to go through matter and desire, beyond what the camera records. Seeing through and into ourselves, the artist’s work is not radiographic either; it is a mental state that creates tension between our perception of the image and the reality we imagine around the given image. Sampedro’s latent photographs address the obscure nature of the psyche and disclose an illuminating process that is both technical and mental. It should come as no surprise then, that the artist’s insists on sexual imagery to seduce the viewer into his work. This has more to do with the energies and forms one cannot reach but longs for; the flickering and pulsating images in his video are a vibrating reel of imagination rather than reality. These “flashes of holographic images pop up” and weave memories and wishes together. They are visual vertigines rather than images as such.
Is photography anything but hallucination?
In envisioning the virtual being, the artist breaks away from the constraints of figuration, allowing the virtual camera to travel inside the body and across the fleshy planes as a means to explore the different dimensions of existence. The idea of latency is as much about the vital energy of matter, as it is about the germinal nature of the image itself. This, as Sampedro explains, might have to do with a distinction between phos/photos, the sunlight which gave photography its name, and phaos/phaeo, the sweet light in Homer’s envisioning of Telemachus. “That was the light that lit the latent,” says the artist, “and that’s why at some point I called my photographs: phao-graphs.” It is not a visual field that Sampedro seeks to reveal, but rather the consistency of matter as a matter of unconscious illumination. In a world that inspires us to deconstruct and manufacture, arising demiurgical pretensions over nature and the real, the artist’s gesture is meant to reclaim a certain spirituality. In this digital age, says Sampedro, “art is visited, revisited, copied, duplicated, imitated, fondled, improved, valued, devalued, sent, stolen and given away, with the urge to postpone rather than to propose. Perhaps by triggering the shutter of a photographic camera we consciously decide to catch something memorable and preserve it as something true. However, the truth is latent and the creation is an invention. I’d like this latest experiment, Latente, to say something in favour of the New Photography and its spiritual light. At last we can photograph the nonexistent, we can raise the eyes beyond the obvious and build a reality without fear of collapse.”
As we are ever closer to a moment when sensory technologies will allow us to capture, represent and share what we see when we close our eyes, Latency can be seen as a double artistic gesture: on the one hand, the artist invites to a dialogue between the possibilities offered by post-photographic media and the negative, the positive, the microscopic, the endoscopic, the scanner, the 3D and the MRI. These, as we know, have been instrumental in grounding modern art and inspiring the development of medicine and science. On the other hand, Sampedro’s Alter-Portraits confront the viewer not with an image of the other, but with an image of ourselves: our Alter-egos, our hidden desires, our intimacies, our thoughts and cravings, our very own eagerness. The latency of the image is, in fact, an appetency for our own selves. One can fall into the abysmal psyche of self-imagining and self-representations, a looping echology where one only apprehends himself and therefore nothing – or find new ways of looking at reality and the other, ways that are illuminated from the inside.
– Sabin Bors, October 12, 2015