An Oniric Madrid
The Magical Madrid of Fernando Manso
An Oniric Madrid
Fernando Manso paints a 105-photo portrait of the community in his new book
El País: Un Madrid onírico
Manuel Morales reporting from Madrid June 14, 2011
oniric – having visual hallucinations while awake; pertaining to or resembling a dream
The Crystal Palace covered in snow, panoramas of Madrid from its most representative buildings, waterfalls in the mountains, the flavors of stores for all walks of life. These places have been patiently photographed by Fernando Manso (Madrid, 1961-), who covered more than 15,000 kilometers of ground in the Community of Madrid over the last 16 months for his book Madrid (Lunwerg), the view “of a confirmed romantic,” as he describes himself.
Manso’s 105 photos of Madrid seem to be enveloped in oniric halos. “We wanted to get a magic light and give another vision of the city and countryside of this community. Ah! And none of the photos were retouched. People have asked me about that,” the author emphasized. For this work, which he presented at the Madrid Book Fair, Manso used an old German Linhof camera, a device that “is over 40 years old but is based on models from a century ago.” “It’s very simple device from the beginning of photography, that is to say, a camera obscura with a bellows.” Using this machine and playing with the depth of the scene and long exposure times, “some five seconds long,” he has found “a way of painting the photograph with light.”
For each photo Manso, honored with the National Award for Gastronomic Arts in 2009, made “at most two or three negatives” in a 10×12 cm format. This Madrileño began work on the album at the beginning of 2008, after extensively gathering information to find adequate locations, and took the last photos February 2011.
Manso, who began his career as a publicist, explained in prolix fashion the process of creating this book. “Each morning, I called a meteorologist who find out what the weather would be like. If the forecast was propitious, I’d go out in search of “a different Madrid, with soft, suave, enveloping, sifting light.” The author was surprised at the beauty of the landscapes he’d never seen before, “like many Madrileños. It’s a shame they don’t know that there are lakes and waterfalls here, right next to them.”
Madrid is not Photogenic
The writer Ángeles Caso says in the prologue that Madrid “is not a photogenic city” like Paris, “which is the easiest to photograph because there is beauty on every street” in Manso’s words. Caso, a writer from Gijon who won the Planet Award for Against the Wind, writes Manso has captured in his images “a sky that moves, trembles, and shudders.” Manso corroborates that he avoided “harsh light” skies like the celebrated skies of Velázquez paintings. “Heat depresses me,” and so his photos are dominated by gray skies threatening furious rain.
Especially beautiful are the panoramas from the roof of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, of Gran Vía (which seem to be homages to Antonio López’s paintings), of the frozen lake of the Retiro park, and of the rivers and reservoirs of the sierra. There are also interiors, like the Escuelas Pías, the parish of San Manuel and San Benito, and especially a swimmer about to jump into the pool at the High Performance Center. For some takes, he used a model to help viewers understand scale. “I feel badly for the poor girl who had to come to the Finnish Park in Rascafría,” Manso confessed while showing an image of the completely snow-covered scene.
Ángeles Caso refers to the photos as “mysterious encounters between plants, minerals, and liquid” and cites “trees climbing high though frozen by the air.” On the roofs, “the gods seem disposed to ride the bricks at any moment.
The book, which Manso speaks about as if it were a newborn child, also includes those works. Manso concludes that he has “found something more than a frame and a beautiful light.” “With the world in which we live is as chaotic as it is, I’m trying to transmit a little peace, so that these photos relax you with their beauty.” Caso writes in the prologue that the photographer has portrayed a Madrid that seems to form “part of an ancient enchanted world.”