The comparison between photography and the mirror is long-standing, ever since its very beginnings. The work of João Mota da Costa that is presented here demarcates itself from that realist automatism that yearns for liberality, that leads the photographer to directly respond with his camera lens to the stimuli of the world, to its objects, going along with an image-hunting drive that characterized the photography of the masses throughout the 20th century. To demarcate itself from that register of fabricating evidences means, in this case, to invoke an object of research that is not visually representable in a direct way, such as mental illness or the history of its treatment, and to assume that refusal of photographing from appearances.
To show, yet with no pretension of “portraying”, seems to be João Mota da Costa’s fundamental motto. This play between showing and concealing seems to me to be essential in the final result of the set, the reason why the entire project bears an oblique dimension, one of reflexivity, that counters the urgency of the realist image that dominates the media and that is limited to the illusionistic production of a “real” which is continuously produced to be received as such. That, I believe, is the idea behind the title: instead of mirror, “behind”.
Six images of objects produced in the occupational therapy sessions for mental illness patients (schizophrenia and others) of the Júlio de Matos Hospital compose the first part of this photo-book associated to an exhibition, followed by other six, of “portraits” of their authors. Yet, the way they are presented to us, the subjects and their objects, denies us a direct and clear perception of the same. A checkered grid woven on a worn-out, as if rusted, surface stands between the observer and the represented object.