Complex political, human and social issues are rarely conceptualized outside the canonical photo-documentary. So I set out to produce a project that reflected on the gaps in understanding, information and representation and the deep rooted anxieties around ethics and aesthetics that inevitably arise when documentary photography and questions of visibility intersect.
Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes was produced following research carried out at the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (INMLCF), in Portugal, over 3 years. A large number of images of images focus on forensic evidence such as suicide letters, crime and suicide tools as well as objects inherent in the work of the pathologist.
The work explores the tension between revelation and concealment, questioning amongst other things, the ethical implications of representing and divulging sensitive material of this nature.
It explores, therefore, a language of subtraction, rather than documentation, obfuscation rather than revelation.
This project proposes therefore to scrutinise the tensions and contradictions inherent in the representation and imagination of death, in particular suicide, and the decisive but deeply paradoxical role that photography – with its epistemological, aesthetic and ethical implications – has played in its intelligibility and perception.
I was interested in seeking answers for questions such as: what distinguishes a documental image of a corpse or a crime scene from an image that reproduces the staged creation of a mental image of a corpse or a crime scene? What effect do these differences have in the viewer’s imagination? What effect do these differences have in the viewer’s imagination and what ethical issues do they raise or resolve?
Edgar Martins was born in Évora (1977) (Portugal) but grew up in Macau (China), where he studied Philosophy and where he published his first novel entitled “Mãe deixa-me fazer o pino”. He studied for a BA (Hons) at the University of the Arts (London) and an MA in Photography and Fine Art at the Royal College of Art (London). His work is represented internationally in several high-profile collections, such as those of the V&A (London), the National Media Museum (Bradford, UK), RIBA (London), the Dallas Museum of Art (USA); The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Modern Art Centre (Lisbon), MAAT/EDP Foundation (Lisbon), Fondation Carmignac (Paris), MAST (Italy), amongst others. His first book—Black Holes & Other Inconsistencies—was awarded the Thames & Hudson & RCA Society Book Art Prize. A selection of images from this book was also awarded The Jerwood Photography Award in 2003. Between 2002 and 2018 Martins published 15 separate monographs, which were also received with critical acclaim. These works were exhibited internationally at institutions such as PS1 MoMA (New York), MOPA (San Diego, USA), MACRO (Rome), Laumeier Sculpture Park (St. Louis, USA), Centro Cultural de Belém (Lisbon), Centro de Arte Moderna de Bragança (Portugal), Centro International de Arte José de Guimarães (Portugal), Museu do Oriente (Lisbon), Centro de Arte Moderna (Lisbon), MAAT (Lisbon), Centro Cultural Hélio Oiticica (Rio de Janeiro), The New Art Gallery Walsall (Walsall, UK), PM Gallery & House (London), The Gallery of Photography (Dublin), Ffotogallery (Penarth, Wales),The Wolverhampton Art Gallery & Museum (UK), Open Eye Gallery (Liverpool), amongst many others. In 2010 the Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian (Paris) hosted Edgar Martins’ first retrospective exhibition. Edgar Martins was the recipient of the inaugural New York Photography Award (Fine Art category, May 2008), the BES Photo Prize (Portugal, 2009), the SONY World Photography Award (Landscape cat. 2009; Still-Life cat 2018; Architecture cat., 2018), the Int. Photography Awards 2010 (Abstract category), etc. He was nominated for the Prix Pictet 2009. He was selected to represent Macau (China) at the 54th Venice Biennale.