In Print
Released: October 15, 2015

Photography, whether professional, artistic, documentary, or amateur, reveals the world to us. Never before has the subject been perceived as it is after being photographed, captured for posterity at a precise moment in history, under a certain light and with a specific framing.

There are certain photographers who, in their gaze and personal way of understanding photography, strive to create other worlds where object and author are imbricated in a way that allows both to be fruitful and multiply, giving rise to a creative act. Others, under the pretext of that same quest for authorship, use the object of their work merely to deploy a preconceived vision of that which has caught their eye. They take what exists and twist it to suit their own interests, with the aim—often vain and trivial—of transforming it, laying claim to it, divesting it of all or part of its essence in a kind of vampirical act where the object is pushed into the background while the sole author hogs the limelight. This act of creative hubris is rarely found in combination with virtue, but when it is, we find ourselves before a masterpiece, a creation inextricably bound to its creator, and in it we recognize the genius of one who has managed to enter into a kind of positive communion with the objects, landscapes, or people he or she finds interesting. In short, we find ourselves facing the work of an artist.

Yet there are other roads by which a few privileged artists manage to show us other worlds—realms of greater intimacy, precision, and truth. Those who travel such paths have a very different point of departure, which consists in shedding all prejudices and all preconceived intentions other than the determination to discover the essence of the object before their eyes. It is an exercise in letting go, like those masters of Zen philosophy who discover the true nature of the very act of thinking by emptying their minds of thought. In this way, each image they manage to produce becomes in itself an act of thinking, where nothing is wanting and nothing is superfluous. They attain that quasi-mystical state where objects and beings reveal their true essence, that which contains them entirely and makes them unique: not because they are intrinsically unique, nor because their initial appearance powerfully captures our attention at first glance, on first impression, but because someone—the photographer's eye—has been able to reveal to us, the surprised spectators, what makes them unique and universal in our eyes, to our understanding.

It is in this less obvious, more complex territory that Paul Solberg works, searching for something the rest of us are incapable of seeing or finding even when we seek it with dogged determination. To paraphrase Picasso, we might say that Solberg belongs to a class of artists who "do not seek, but find." It is no easy task, and most are not up to the challenge; only those who have flushed all accoutrements and superfluous temptations from their eyes can offer us an essential vision of the world, one in which we viewers recognize ourselves in a different way, transformed by the powerful, subtle gaze of the other, the author, who has worked the miracle of unveiling our own mystery, the mystery that alien enigmas hold for our eyes only.

When I observe Paul Solberg's images carefully, what I find surprising is not his often poignantly familiar motifs but that essential way he has of approaching them: he seems bound and determined to show them with absolute frankness, as if each image he presents to us were the only one possible. Once we have seen them, we cannot imagine them any other way. The artist's frankness leads to another reflection on the contemporary quality of photography and its possible fate, as an image that may or may not stand the test of time. Photographic images often betray, intentionally or unintentionally, the historical period in which they were taken, and in many cases—the majority, in fact—this betrayal makes them victims of the passing years. They will undoubtedly be useful for telling us what the world was like at a given historical moment; however, in such cases they will have survived by virtue of their documentary value, not the timelessness that every work of art aspires to achieve in order to make the passage of time its best ally rather than its worst enemy. In most of Solberg's images, we can detect that aura of timelessness which ensures that in the future they will retain all their freshness and suggestive power, and his work's promising future is precisely what also makes it more present.

José Guirao

Madrid, January 2015

Updated: Jan-14-2016
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