The long time of Feco Hamburger, by Tadeu Chiarelli - Janaina Torres

São Paulo Brasil

The long time of Feco Hamburger, by Tadeu Chiarelli

7 de May de 2024 | 12:40
Noites em Claro, exposição de fotografias de Feco Hamburger na Pinacoteca do Estado Noites em Claro, exposição de fotografias de Feco Hamburger na Pinacoteca do Estado

Tadeu Chiarelli

In 2004, at the Pinacoteca do Estado, Feco Hamburger showed a series of photographs in which the central issue was the “long time” of the celestial stars, captured through long exposure shots. Another key issue in the photos on show – and one that so surprised and delighted the artist – was the presence of a mysterious light in the photos, even though they were all taken at night. Here’s Hamburger’s account of the experience:

“Moved by the desire to record the orbit of the stars, I pointed the camera at the valley and waited, next to the open camera, for 35 minutes. When the film was developed, what a surprise: the sky was blue, the valley was green, and the spring flower colored the shot. The exposure time wasn’t long enough to capture the stars in the way I had hoped. But my attention was totally focused on that apparent mystery: how could the darkness of the night be transformed into that photograph? (…) Long exposure photography allows the accumulation of existing light, but not visible to our eyes, in a single frame, imprinting the record of time on the film. Unlike our eyes, which only register snapshots. And the relationship between light in the dark, movement and time became the focus of my approach…”

In those photos exhibited in 2004, it was clear how much the enchantment of this new discovery had not yet reached the status of the north of his search, or of the artist’s encounters with his work. There were photos of valleys, airports, the curve of a road, the urban landscape seen from a window… Of course the celestial lights were there, as well as the mysterious clarity of the photographic night (yes, that mystery that enchanted Hamburger is given by the photographic medium, not by the referent). However, the, so to speak, pedestrian nature of most of the locations chosen to serve as backdrops for the photos, blended with the gravity of the long time of the celestial bodies captured. A mixture with very stimulating aesthetic dividends.

In the set of photos that Hamburger is now offering to the public at the Center for Jewish Culture, the circumstantial nature of the scenes chosen for the photos shown in 2004 gives way to another situation. Instead of the view from the window of an anonymous apartment in the metropolis, or the reflections in the swimming pool of a house, the artist presents images taken in the deserts of Israel and Jordan. However circumstantial a visit to these places may be, they are not transitory in themselves. On the contrary.

Ampulheta II, da Série Sobre a Permanência 2009 Ampulheta II, da Série Sobre a Permanência 2009

The exorbitant size of a desert creates in the observer an overwhelming sensation of such definitive power that, in the field of aesthetics, it could only be translated by the concept of the “sublime”. Beyond the beautiful, far beyond the picturesque, the search for the sublime in art has often been attempted, but rarely achieved. Turner, in painting, is undoubtedly an outstanding example. Although I’ve tried, I can’t find a counterpart in the photographic world, even though several people have tried abroad (Edward Weston) and in Brazil (Marc Ferrez).

In some of Hamburger’s new photographs, to the immutable, timeless immensity of the desert, the artist connects the path of the light of a passing car. The “long time” of the desert (the desert changes, but in a way that is practically imperceptible to us) is confronted with the short time, the rapid flow of a light that passes in the distance. However, this light from the car can only be fixed in the image by the camera’s long exposure time.

Note the poetic shuffling of Hambuger’s photos: in a place where time seems not to exist, she captures speed (in time and space) through a procedure that uses photography’s ever-faster time extension to constitute her visual proposal. In other words: the artist manipulates the medium to construct a fictional discourse about the transience of the immutable or, ultimately, about man and the impossibility of eternalizing himself just as the desert is (or seems to be) eternal. Here we have photography starting from the referent but, through the manipulation of the apparatus, going beyond it to reach an unsuspected allegorical dimension at first glance.

In other photographs in the series, the artist contrasts the apparent immobility of the desert with the fast pace of the celestial stars (photos that establish an almost direct relationship with those shown in 2004). Here, the strategy of manipulating the camera, transforming the tiny opening time of the diaphragm into extended time, capable of capturing the movement of the stars, is used to give rhythm (movement, time) to the composition. This rhythm, this speed that is in fact a lie (a lie because, without the aid of the photographic apparatus, we can’t capture it), opposes the static nature of the Jordanian or Israeli desert (and here what matters less is knowing the identity of the referent) to the fictitious (to our eyes) speed of the stars.


It is not common, especially in contemporary international photography, to use such traditional methods as long exposure to produce images that are intended to be contemplated outside the voracity of the media. In the circuits where photography is used as an artistic medium today, the direct image almost always prevails, purposely devoid of any “authorial” index, even though we all know how much the authorial question still plays a fundamental role in the international art circuit.

Here in Brazil, artists who make use of long exposure are also rare. Still tied to the need for photography not to escape the referent (the question of “national reality” persists as an issue for many photographers), or else linked to experimentation with digital media, the strategy used by Hamburger is also difficult to see in the production of his local colleagues.

This uniqueness of Feco Hamburger’s production, which insists on using a traditional strategy of manipulating the photographic apparatus during the process of capturing the images, does not remove him from the contemporary debate on artistic production that manifests itself through photography. After all, much of the interest of “post-photographic” or digital photography is its ability to bring out the fictional character of the image once and for all, transforming it into a text in which the referent – when it persists – becomes a mere shadow, or a pretext for the constitution of imaginary universes capable of expressing concerns that transcend the limits of “direct” photography and even the expressiveness of the “humanist” current of photography from the last century. Hamburger’s photos prove that it is possible to maintain a contemporary attitude towards the artistic debate without necessarily making use of new image production technologies. This would be a mere curiosity if the artist had nothing to add to this debate. This is not the case with Hamburger, whose photos have a lot to tell us about the possibility of transcendence in today’s art.


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