Tito Mouraz‘s photographs from ‘House of The Seven Ladies’ sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale….’once upon a time…’ and perhaps that’s what it is. A commingling of the magical and the prosaic, a reality that is being slowly subsumed into myth, a past that cannot be reclaimed, a present that is fading into history.
Thee pictures are a lament to time passing, are a record of the way things were in this region of Portugal before the industrialisation of agriculture, mass emigration and the young leaving to the cities. For a better life. Like his Iberian cousins, the Spanish photographers Salvi Danes and Dario Boso, Mouraz is recording a way of life that is rooted in the land, its story a whisper unheard in the scream of manic globalisation and the rush for material success. His retort is to insist on remembering the mythology that is passed down, generation after generation, a narrative that is woven into the fabric of a people and their particular culture, stories that cannot be made but rather evolve over time and space; around the harvest, the dinner table, work and play.
It’s a poignant study, an important series of pictures that remind us that people are different, culture is disparate and traditions are the lifeblood of a community despite the European Parliament insisting otherwise as they attempt to turn a continent into a generic pool of sameness. A cultural hegemony in which everyone has the same needs, wants and desires. This is a place that is of its own, has its own story, its own characters and its own particular narrative as Mouraz says himself:
It is still said around here that the house is haunted. At the house there lived seven ladies, all maiden sisters. One of them was a witch. On full moon nights, the ladies in their white garments would fly from the balcony to the leafy branches of the chestnut across the street. From there they would seduce men who passed-by. In the House of the Seven Ladies, chatting, getting to know what it was like before me, listening and imagining, was as important as the act of photographing.
This was his home. His birthplace and during the course of the project he talked to many people, spoke to them about time, their memories and their losses. And as he puts it:
This series gives an account of a persistent return to the same place, so as to scrutinize its differences (the slow deactivation of agricultural practices, the gradual transformation of the territory, ageing), in spite of listening to the same owl, to the same fox, to the same stories. Same as in legend, perhaps the magic and appalling features, this cyclical experience, were my greatest wound: night, fumes, corpses, moon, ruin, sounds.