por Héctor Martínez Sanz
The Project “Homo Urbanus Europeanus” (HUE) is the fruit of 3 years of work and has already been exhibited in 31 European capitals. His author, the photographic artistJean Marc Caracci, has covered the urban places of the European man in the same way that an archeologist searches for, digs up and tries to reconstruct the primitive spaces of the first humanoids. Nevertheless, neither vessels, spear heads nor rupestrian paintings are brought to light – maybe some graffiti and street painting – but spaces which are still present in front of the lens and of the human eye. This regards the “homo sapiens” who lives in geometrical spaces formed by rectilinear lines, parallels and angles which transform themselves into lights and shadows that may afterwards recreate them. This regards us, the Europeans.
The photographiesare in black and white, shades that are adequate to the urbanscape which we are accustomed with (steel constructions, sidewalks, façades)and do not allow us to get distracted by colors. Thus, we contemplate the man who walks within his natural habitat steadily and self-confidently, surrounded by the verticality of the arquitectonic structures, may be a metaphor of the biped pedestal of the man. There is also a clear poetic emphasis when choosing the black and white. We are not in front of the great natural landscapes which the man has already distanciated himself from, but in front of landscapes which suit a new man on the evolution scale, a new human being who has had the intelligence to create his own universe, for his personal and collective use. Jean Marc Carraci shows us the personal and individual view of a child who is playing in a Commercial Centre of Berlin, of a man who is waiting for somebody at a street corner in Helsinki, or another one standing on the Vasco de Gama Bridge in Lisbon…
Loneliness? Jean-Marc Caracci denies it, there is nothing here to suggest the urban solitude that has been so many times expressed. On the contrary, the man who appears alone in every shot does not feel lonely, is not out of place, he travels from here to there, moves naturally, feeling the city as the refuge once offered to man by the ancient cavern. The city surrounds him like a cloak, works as a frame for him – as in Athens II, Stockholm I or Sofia II -, reflects him – as in Luxemburg II, or Ljubljana-, or even threatens him – like in London I.Man and city melt together. According to Jean Marc Caracci, there is no contradiction between them, and the artist does not seek the ordinary “against nature” message. It also differentiates itself from another line of urban photography, centered upon the human mass as principal element, like the epicenter of a city. In HUE we have the basic defining elements of an urban photography: it is sufficient for this to have a person, a building, and crossroads. Jean Marc Caracci plays with these elements until he succeeds in making the light of Madrid I or Vienna II for instance to act as a focus on the human protagonist and the building behind him while shadows sustain and protect them.
Nevertheless, there are several works that go further and deeper into a more symbolic field, or, at least, into a more hermeneutical space. I am talking for instance about Athens I where the human character proceeds on the marked path and does not shorten his way using the middle short cut. It is normal. All of us would chose the stoned road, especially in a well cared for garden. However the perspective of this photographycould suggest this new attitude of the urban man, who chooses to walk down the firm road of civilization and does not take risks and launch himself headlong. It isthe educated attitude of not walking on the grass, or, to put it simply, of the man who does not want to stain his shoes. It is not criticism. I say it once more. This is about us, the Europeans. The façades may smile to us – Vilnius II – creating beautiful effects of symmetry; we can find enormous barcodes – Luxemburg –which contrast the horizontal lines of the pedestrian’s shirt, or the optical effects of the passers-by who seem to be walking on the border of a litter bin – Stockholm- .
We quicklydiscover a great deal of effort put increating symmetrical balance – Reykjavik II- in places where the cuboid and trapezoidal forms are predominant – Madrid IIor Oslo I, thus counterbalancing the elements and creating harmony. Each image is carefully thought of and prepared in a way similar to dramaturgic scenography or the cinematographic take in which the movement is implied by the presence of persons whose walking we can prolong in a natural manner. The general quick shot is dominant in the series, suitable for emphasizing the human figure without losing its background, that is to emphasize the human being within the city. This technique, together with the usage of neutral angulations and low angle shots as alternatives, signifies more rhetoric and puts an emphasis on the importance of the chosen theme.
To sum up, whatJean Marc Caracci brings us is documental photography in which he pursues and makes the most of subtle aesthetic touches that the photographic medium offers in terms of light, shadows and geometry. Thus he is very similar to a pioneer of this anti-pictorial tendency of the photography, Paul Strand, who advised: “First of all you have to take a good look at the things around you, your immediate surroundings. If you are alive then this may mean something to you, and if you have sufficient interest in photography and know how to use it, you will want to photograph this very meaning.” (Paul Strand, Letter to Students of Photography, 1923)