Some landscape photographs are so powerful the viewers think they are in the landscape at which they are looking. Such photographs pull the viewers in and take them on a journey for a very short moment in time, until they are brought back to the real world.
Spanish photographer Jose Maria Mellado’s works are this kind of photograph. Working in quite big sizes, Mellado’s works captivate the viewer and offer a journey, one that will have different meanings for every viewer, for every perspective. At the moment, the home of Mellado’s works and the starting point of the journey on which he invites viewers is his latest show, “Esrarengiz Manzaralar” (Silent Landscapes), held at the Elipsis Gallery in İstanbul’s Tophane quarter.
The exhibition, set to continue until March 10, presents a selection of Mellado’s latest works. “But since it was my first exhibition here in İstanbul, I wanted to display some of my other well-known previous studies as well,” Mellado says in an interview with Today’s Zaman.
“I love to include in my works the relationship between humans and the landscape,” Mellado explains. “Normally, there are no human figures in my pieces or very few people in blurred forms, but there’s always a human footprint, a sign of the human existence within those landscapes. So, [mankind] is always present, although in most images there’s no human being.”
The infinite contradiction
Mellado uses this contradiction as a way to express the never-ending dissension between people and nature. “I like to reflect the tension between [people] and the landscape,” Mellado says, “and how a human being can alter a landscape through industry or in other ways, and how, in the end, the landscape comes back to what it was before… It’s like a circle. There’s always that kind of tension between the landscape and human beings.”
To emphasize this tension more precisely, Mellado prefers urban and industrial landscapes where anonymous marks of human life have been left. “I prefer industrial landscapes and urban landscapes as well as some ‘pure’ landscapes, as in my series in Iceland,” Mellado says. “But that kind of work is not usual for me because in my works, there’s some kind of human footprint in the images. So there are always two key lines in my work; one is the relationship with humans, and the other is trying to make places, which normally are not so attractive or even considered ugly or dull, look attractive.”
Through his series, Mellado creates a new contradiction apart from the one between humans and nature. “I’m just trying to track the beauty that is not seen in those places,” says the artist. “It may be a lonely gas station or other places that are normally seen as dull and ugly. I try to show the other beauty that I’ve seen in these places.”
Mellado’s most powerful tool is light. With the power of light, the colors and tones in the photograph gain a new level of expression. “I am most concerned with light,” Mellado says. “I take pictures at certain hours of the day when the light is very low because that enhances the volume. Then what I do in my ‘digital dark room’ is to enhance the darkness or light in certain areas of the image so that I can guide the eye of the viewer. But I never change anything in the picture. If some colors in the pictures attract you, it’s because those colors existed in the image, not because I’ve changed any colors. What I change is the mood of the light, not the color, and I also have never changed the objects in the images. If I have a cloudy day, I take advantage of the cloud. If there are no clouds, there will be no clouds in the picture either. I would never put clouds in the image or put in a house if the house wasn’t there for real. It’s not because I’m against that, because I think you shouldn’t put any obstacles on art. But it’s only my way of understanding photography.”
As a result, “I prefer to take my pictures in the afternoon when the sun is coming down. I can work early in the morning too, but I prefer the evening light to the morning light because in the evening when the sun is going down, you have more particles like dust in the atmosphere, and those particles play with the light and enhance the light. In the morning, the temperature is lower, and the light [diffuses] faster than in the evening.”
The photographs in this exhibition were taken in countries like Iceland, Spain, Colombia and Cuba, but the artist intends to take photographs in Turkey as well. “I’m looking forward to making good work here,” Mellado says. “In fact, we were thinking of making this trip longer and staying one or two weeks more, but we didn’t want to do it now because the daylight is shorter now. So we will come back later, perhaps in spring, because I definitely want to do some work here. I will work in İstanbul first because it’s a very interesting urban landscape. After İstanbul, I also intend to go around [Turkey].”
And good news for art lovers: Mellado is working on a new book of photography at the moment. “I’m putting together my photographs in the form of an art book,” says the artist. The book, which will be published in about two months, will feature both a selection from Mellado’s well-known works and some of his more recent works.