It Was About Time

Basque photographer José Afterol, has a special talent for finding beauty in the mundane. He produces natural shots which embody what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the decisive moment, a concept which refers to an ephemeral and spontaneous event captured in a photograph. This requires a natural instinct and ability to synchronise the time between observing, composing, and shooting, or as Cartier-Bresson said, “Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.”

The exhibition at Gallery/Cafe 33|45 brings together around 50 works by the artist in a poetic display and record of his observations. Afterol uses an analogue camera to capture these moments and give them a magical and mysterious quality which cannot be achieved with digital cameras. There are even some cases of serious light leaks which have created a thick reddish line vertically across the image, but it only adds to the effect of spontaneity.

Poetic and sexy, his photographs are charged with energy and capture the freedom and nonchalance of youth. They bring to mind lazy summer holidays and casual adventures. The subject of his photos ranges from urban scenes of graffiti (spelling out “Forever Young”) to embracing couples and people diving into pools. There are also some humorous shots, two naked figures running in a field, and a gruesome Halloween mask lying on the street, for example, but always with a touch of beauty. There is a tattooed young lady too, presumably his muse, who features strongly in his work. We see her immersed in a bath sprinkled with rose petals, standing on top of a mountain of wheels and gazing into the distance, in a car packed for a weekend trip, and, in the fabulous poster image, bikini-clad and walking through a forest path, camera hanging across her shoulder.

It was a pity, however, that the space and layout of the exhibition couldn’t do justice to thephotographs. The 50 pieces were all packed on to one wall and the room was a mess of old sofas cluttering the space and distracting from the work. The lighting was also an issue as it created a reflective glare on the framed pictures, making it difficult to appreciate them. In addition, it would have been nice to have some information to give context to the exhibition, perhaps a supportive statement from the artist himself. On the other hand, there is a cool bar in the same venue and many comfortable couches to sit, have a drink, and enjoy the art in a good atmosphere.

Mr. Cartier-Bresson described photography as “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression.” Afterol’s photos are stories of everyday life, frozen and bathed in mystery and lyricism. He is a promising young photographer whose work has the power to inspire us to seek and appreciate these events in our own life.

José Afterol: It Was About Time can be seen at Galería 33/45 until March 15th 2015.