When you nose around the world of photography you realise that lots of photographers ended up in their chosen profession after they had already worked in other areas. Which is exactly what happened to Belgian-Portuguese photographer Xavier Portela. He left his job as media developer to follow up his real passion - photography. And since 2012 he has worked on projects involving commercial photography, architecture and urban photography.
The city is where Xavier Portéla - self-taught photographer - first put himself to the test, looking for the start of his visual story in the metropolitan context, bringing his “Organised Chaos” project into urban photography.
This story is dominated by man's unconfutable presence and the fact that humans are manifested through the architecture even though they are not expressly represented in this series of photos. The New York City landmarks, the road network, the sea of lights at night are all testimony to the desire of human beings to dominate the world around us, harnessing civilisation to turn it into “organised chaos”.
In line with the paramount importance of images in our world, Xavier Portela's camera becomes the go-to medium to communicate the artist's sensations of the metropolitan jungle, like Susan Sontag's words in her essay “On Photography” (1973): “The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world 'picturesque`.”
But Xavier Portela goes beyond the portrait of the picturesque, because by immortalising a specific moment in time, he actually stops that frenetic urban life. By doing this, he responds to that sensation you get in really high-density environments like New York, Tokyo or Hong Kong, where at a certain moment and through careful observation you actually feel the evident intrinsic harmony and functionality of what at first glance appears to be chaos. Or as Xavier Portela says: “You know that feeling when you stop in a street full of people going in all directions and you look around you like if everything was in slow motion, that’s what I tried to capture”. These photos immediately grab your attention, they invite you to think about what we might call our own organised chaos.
Christiane Bürklein (@chrisbuerklein)