As was noted in this thread in the Forum, we lost one of our own in September. Bernardo was one of the first new members of Acutance following the transition from F32 dot Net and he epitomized our new direction of putting the image above the equipment. While I have no doubt Bernardo appreciated good camera gear – he joined us from the Leica group after all – his minimalist vision was a breath of fresh air for all of us. I know I myself learned much from the images he ever so humbly presented for critique, and while I will never have his eye for the simple beauty all around us, I know my own compositional abilities and appreciation of simplicity are vastly better as a direct result of my interaction with Bernardo.
This post is my way of paying homage to this truly great photographer, and I hope it triggers fond recollections for all members that read it.
Bernardo’s first post was made on December 16th 2005 and his own words best introduced us to him:
“Hello! My name is Bernardo, I live in Madrid (Spain).
My liking has been coming for about 40 years when it saw my father to work in its laboratory.
I really began to make photos in 1970. Working the B&W, revealing the negatives and taking it to paper in a laboratory improvised in a bathroom. There are been a great period (about 10 years) in that I have carried out few photos and it has been the appearance of the digitalis which it has animated to me again.
I have taken much in entering the digital land (Dic 2004) knowing that it has some advantages on the film. I have not left it photographs analogical because I know that it also has advantages on the digitalis and because I have lived with her long time and is something that marks and that creates wall-plate.
I appear in this forum by invitation of Michel to that I have known in the forum of Leica not long ago and that it has contributed to that reborn in me the desire to return with more force to the photography from before.
From here I thank publicly to him for its interest and also to you that you make possible that this liking is prettiest.”
English wasn’t his first language, but I have to say his way of approaching English often gave me what was perhaps an unintentional insight into his real meaning and vision. Although I often had to read his posts more than once to fully grasp all of his comments, I believe that made them more relevant and descriptive. He posted two images that day, which I’ve inserted following. Note that clicking on the photos will pop up a new window containing the discussion thread associated with each image. The caption used on each of his images is some or all of the text he included with the original critique forum post.
I thought then, and think now, that both of these images were really quite special. And I can recall thinking ‘Wow, it will be great if this Bernardo guy will keep posting – he’s got a great eye!’. The rest of us thought so too and to the benefit of all of us, he continued to post really solid images. Once in a while he would post something that didn’t quite measure up to his usual high standard and we’d call him on it. I now wonder if he was testing us, to see if were giving him honest feedback or simply blowing sunshine up his skirt!!! 😉
While composing this post, I went back and looked over the images Bernardo shared over what was almost 7 full years. In total, he offered 165 images (yes, I counted!) of his own. I didn’t try to determine in how may threads he offered comments to others, but there would have been MANY! One hundred and sixty-five…. that’s about one every two weeks. I don’t know if he was posting old images, but for the most part I believe his uploads were current. Given the consistent high quality of his offerings, I’m very impressed with how much time he must have devoted to photography. Because as we all know, snapping the shutter is only the beginning – the post-processing necessary to create an image worthy of sharing also demands time. The commitment to produce quality images as frequently and regularly as he did demands as much respect as his body of work.
It’s a reality of this digital age that we can interact with more people, from more distant places, than ever before. I think that’s a wonderful thing, because without it I would never have ‘met’ Bernardo. And I would likely never have seen and appreciated his work. Or heard his constructive criticisms of my photos and the photos of others in this forum. Unfortunately, this technology also means any of us on Acutance could have sat next to him on the bus and never known it, because on the web we only know each other via our comments and images. I would like to have had the opportunity to one day vacation in Spain and Madrid and perhaps spend an evening with Bernardo walking the streets he seemed to frequent, with my camera. I would have enjoyed seeing his creative process in action and I know I would have become a better photographer from the experience.
I want to say that many of his best images were taken in the streets. He had an eye for line, texture and shadow like nobody else I’ve known. If I had to describe his talent in one short line, it would probably be something like ‘masterful use of shadows and darkness’. While we all recognize that light, and special lighting conditions often makes a good photo great, I believe that Bernardo had an instinctive understanding that went beyond that. Not only did his images capture wonderful light, they also captured wonderful shadows. So many of his compositions were successful because of the LACK of light that I have to wonder if he saw shadows INSTEAD of light. While we wander about looking for great lighting conditions, I believe his greatest strength was being able to look and find great shadows instead. My favourite examples of his work all seem to come back to this! The thumbnails below when clicked will bring up a viewer with larger versions:
What strikes me about these images is the perfect control of latitude and exposure. I don’t think the ‘Auto’ setting on any camera could capture the balance Bernardo always did. No doubt, his experience with black and white in the darkroom gave him the experience and attention to detail that was eventually extended into the digital age. I have never seen an image created by Bernardo that appeared to have had any HDR manipulation and I don’t believe for a second he would have contemplated using the software! He was an old school perfectionist, something I truly respect. An example of this can be seen in this thread in which I *dared* to suggest mirroring the image in PhotoShop… not a big thing in my mind if it improved the composition, but Bernardo would not have it! Reading this one again makes me smile…
You would think from the images I’ve included so far that Bernardo was most comfortable working in a structured, thoughtful and unhurried way. Perhaps he was. But he was quite capable of capturing ‘the moment’. Several of his images appeared to me to be spontaneous captures, with the instant appreciation of the moment that we would normally associate with photojournalists. A few of the ones I associate with ‘the moment’ are below:
On behalf of all of us on Acutance, I offer my sincere condolences to Bernardo’s family and friends. He will be greatly missed.
Clicking this link back to the original Acutance forum will invoke a search resulting in all forum threads initiated by Bernardo. I include it because his images and comments can all be found easily from the page and browsing over the comments give us a better understanding of who Bernardo was. However, he also had constructive opinions on the work of others so one should not limit themselves only to these posts.