Sintra has long held a fascination for me. Years ago I read a number of books that spoke of this ancient city as a spot of initiation. Initiation into what? The greater esoteric mysteries, including the knowledge held by the Knights Templar and passed along to the Alchemists, Rosicrucians, and Freemasons. This is not a blog about the verity of any of this, but a musing on the feeling of mystery.
Any time we wander the streets of an old village or city we can try to transport ourselves to a time in the past. Some places, like the Marais in Paris or the Old Town of Prague make it easier to imagine what life may have looked like centuries ago. Sintra holds this appeal for me.
I visited the town again just a few days ago. I often take clients and friends here as one of our ‘must see’ places for their visits to Portugal. Generally I photograph lightly while hosting, but as my friends are also photographers, I was at ease with spending the extra time to make meaningful images. My intent was to reflect the mystery that I sense is present in the streets, the architecture, and the landscape. I wanted to add to that mystery a strong dream-like quality. So, lensbaby firmly affixed, off I went.
We visited my favorite spot in Portugal, the Convento dos Capuchos, where I have photographed a number of times. There are few visitors here so lingering to make images is an exercise in tranquility. The perfume of the woods, plants, herbs and stone all combine to make you feel like you are breathing a vibrating life force. Water emerges musically just as it did more than 500 years ago. It cools while it adds the feeling of movement and life to the silent surroundings.
The National Palace was a delightful surprise. In simple unaffected ways, the traditional art forms and high points in the history of the Portuguese people were displayed. Tile work of sophistication was expected because of the cultural treasure of the azulejos. But there were tiles of many different colors, mosaics recalling Moorish influence, and raised botanical tiles that are unique in all of Europe. Gardens glimpsed through mullioned windows and fairytale chimneys give the feeling of being in a time and place apart. Chandeliers in intimate reception rooms await the footfalls of liveried attendants. The intimate scale, so different from the grandeur of the Chateaux in France or Palladian Villas in Italy, invites you to imagine yourself in this court, among the travelers, discoverers, men of learning and science that attended here.
Photographically, I was enjoying a feast of subjects and impressions. I’ve created a gallery with one thought in mind: portray the mystery of this very engaging town. I started with shooting with the Lensbaby to distort and bend the light…like creating a visual tunnel to walk through. Then by further interpreting each image using various layers from Flypaper Textures, I arrived at the feeling I wanted to express in the images. This is how I followed my intent to its full expression. If you are interested in more about Flypaper Textures, scroll down through the blog, or click on the button there to the right….
One last thing about the images: at the end of the gallery you will see an image that was shot ‘straight’, but textured like the others. I’ve placed it here so that you might recognize how even a ‘good’ image can destroy the flow and mood of a set of images. Creating the photographic essay is a process of refinement. It’s about delicious and surprising small plates, not a sumptous feast. I have a ways to go with this one, but I am loving the process!
Perhaps it was the intent of the various Mystery Schools to engender an appreciation for the unexplainable, or perhaps Sintra is just a special spot on the planet, one of those ‘points of acupuncture’ most often marked by silent dolmens or soaring cathedrals. Whatever the reason, Sintra holds a special feeling for me. I’ll continue to visit, to explore with my camera, and work to give full expression to all I experience.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. ~K