There is no greater challenge for a photographer than to archive the invisible. Born in 1972 in the Netherlands, Paul Cupido does this with tactfulness, tracking the fleeting and eternal beauty of nature, capturing the reflections of the moon on petals.
These sensitive, melancholic, existential images spread their light from New York to Zurich, where he is regularly exhibited - or in his books, such as Searching for Mu (2017) or Éphémère (2019). An intuitive and perfectionist photographer with a passion for Japan, the artist will be in creative residency at Château Palmer this year. The fruit of his immersion will then be exhibited at the Leica Gallery (Paris).
I guess such a “residency” is stimulating for an artist like you working on nature, impermanence of things, beauty of seasons ?
Recently, Chateau Palmer gave me the opportunity to make an introductory visit, to meet the people and see its geographical location along the rich banks of the Garonne, and get a taste, literally and figuratively, of the chateau's philosophy and heritage, the circular way the beautiful wines are made. I was very impressed by the Chateau, the animals, the soil, the growing, the devotion. My goal and wish is to make a poetic interpretation of these elements, like a composer conveying feelings into notes or a winemaker interpreting what nature gives us.
I will go and listen closely to the place with all senses fully open. I strongly live with the philosophy that the work should write and dictate itself. By listing to the ‘Sense of place’, learning what the place wants the work to be.
Could you define the concept of Mu, so important in your work?
As part of my graduating from the Fotoacademie, in Amsterdam, I made a pilgrimage from Tokyo to Abashiri (Hokkaido), to think about life, the big questions. I was experiencing a difficult period, some beloved friends had fallen away and I could not handle the fact our lives are ending. By walking and taking pictures I came to a point for acceptance that life comes to an end, yet at the same time knowing that life is circular, starting over time and again. Mu represents this zero state, a point of nothingness, beyond desire. Art, both contemplating and creating it, is a way to be in the present moment. Art lifts you up to a higher frequency.
"Recently, Chateau Palmer gave me the opportunity to make an introductory visit, to meet the people and see its geographical location along the rich banks of the Garonne, and get a taste, literally and figuratively, of the chateau's philosophy and heritage, the circular way the beautiful wines are made. My goal and wish is to make a poetic interpretation of these elements, like a composer conveying feelings into notes or a winemaker interpreting what nature gives us."
Paul Cupido, Photographer, The Netherlands
You are interested by Japanese art, you use Japanese paper for your prints, you travelled there. Why this culture is so inspiring ?
The first time in Japan (Tokyo) was a shock. It mades me fall in love. In love with the dedication, the aesthetics, the sophistication. Much of what is so beautifully described in the essay In Praise of the Shadows (Junichiro Tanizaki).
I like haikus : Roland Barthes makes several references to haikus as the best form of interpreting the present. Haiku is "the art of reducing the infinite pleasure of emotion to its essence" (Yamata). I believe that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
I’m also interested in wabi-sabi : being present in the melancholic feeling in which the beauty and transience of life come together. We perceive things that change, that are dynamic, more intensely.
When culture is more and more dematerialized, you insist on the need to create beautiful artwork, chose a special blinding, paper and design for your books... Is it a response to forgettable things? A way to fight with disappearance?
There are parallels to winemaking like Palmer does. The processes with full devotion, working towards the highest achievable, but leaving something open to the mystery, something you can’t control or finish yourself. My working method consists of two parts. The first is collecting, a fully intuitively process, in which the emotional experience is key and technique is of minor or very little importance. When photographing, for example, I don’t pay that many attention to sharpness. However, in the second stage, after the material has been collected, I’ll put all the dedication into the work, the editing, the printing. This process can take a long time, just like aging wine. It is impossible to predict what will come out, but I treat this second part with the most care and attention. Knowing, that the real beauty lies in the imperfection. The little mistakes, edges or elements that you didn't foresee add the real beauty.
© Contributing photographers: Paul Cupido / Merel Waagmeester