Há uma foto perturbadora na nova exposição do Centro Português de Fotografia, inaugurada no passado dia 2 de Abril, no Porto. Chama-se "Desvanescendo" ("Fading Away", 1858, talvez a sua mais famosa imagem) e é de autoria do fotógrafo Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901). Considerado um dos pioneiros da fotografia pictória e grande admirador das telas de Turner, Robinson consegue reunir numa única cena os delicados sentimentos provocados pela doença numa família. Uma rapariga padece de tuberculose e, à sua volta, os pais e a irmã desesperam. O pai volta costas, como se não quisesse aceitar a finitude humana. O céu está prestes a rebentar, um prenúncio de tempestade que não retira serenidade (nem pesar) ao rosto da mãe e da irmã da menina.
A imagem provocou grande polémica na altura. Muitos críticos alegaram que a cena era demasiado dolorosa para ser registada. Poderia, é claro, ser pintada. Mas nunca registada. Contudo, a fotografia acabou por seduzir o Prince Albert, que não só comprou uma´reprodução, como também manifestou o desejo de adquirir uma cópia de todas as composições que Robinson fizesse posteriormente.
"Fading Away" resulta da junção de cinco negativos, algo que também incomodava profundamente os defensores da ciência fotográfica. Robert Legat escreve o seguinte sobre esse episódio:
"Already at this period there were shades of the conflict between the art and science of photography. The Secretary of the Society and Editor of the Journal, Sir William Crookes, is quoted in Robinson's autobiography: "The secretary at that time was an unsympathetic chemist and all he could see in the picture in what he thought was a ''join,' an imaginary enormity which afforded a text on which he waxed eloquent." It is clear that many who admired "Fading Away" had no idea that it was a combination print and when, in 1860, Robinson outlined his methods at a meeting of the Photographic Society of Scotland, he was greeted with howls of protest from people who seemed to feel that they had been deceived. There was much discussion about what one correspondent referred to as "Patchwork", rather than composition, and Robinson began to conclude that perhaps it might be better in future not to divulge the secrets of his craft, but leave people to enjoy the finished product!
However, in "Pictorial Effect in Photography" (1867), a major literary work, Robinson wrote: "Any dodge, trick and conjuration of any kind is open to the photographer's use.... It is his imperative duty to avoid the mean, the base and the ugly, and to aim to elevate his subject.... and to correct the unpicturesque....A great deal can be done and very beautiful pictures made, by a mixture of the real and the artificial in a picture."
At a time when the Photographic Society seemed unduly obsessed with the scientific aspects of photography, Robinson was stressing the need to "see" a picture - advice which still holds good today: "However much a man might love beautiful scenery, his love for it would be greatly enhanced if he looked at it with the eye of an artist, and knew why it was beautiful. A new world is open to him who has learnt to distinguish and feel the effect of the beautiful and subtle harmonies that nature presents in all her varied aspects. Men usually see little of what is before their eyes unless they are trained to use them in a special manner." Some of his observations make sound advice today. Here is a comment on "rules" of composition: "I must warn you against a too close study of art to the exclusion of nature and the suppression of original thought.... Art rules should be a guide only to the study of nature, and not a set of fetters to confine the ideas or to depress the faculty of original interpretation in the artist, whether he be painter or photographer.... The object (of rules) is to train his mind so that he may select with ease, and, when he does select, know why one aspect of a subject is better than another."
"Fading Away", exposta na magnífica cela das mulheres do CPF, já justifica uma visita (grátis!) à mostra "Experimentação na Colecção de Fotografia do IVAM".