Remains of an Empire – the photography of Luís de Almeida

“Remains of an Empire” was an exhibition dedicated to the photographic work of Luís de Almeida held at Espaço Campanhã, Oporto, in April of 2018. Borrowing the name from one of Almeidas’s photographic projects, the exhibition attempted to confront his personal experience with his visual production, showing a selection of photographs, images and various documents that the author collected or produced over time. Our main purpose was to unveil the biographical dimension of the photographer’s encounter with Africa, highlighting the absolute singularity of his path in Mozambique: from soldier to collaborator of an NGO.

Luís de Almeida was born in 1952 in Viseu. He was drafted by the Portuguese military in 1973 and shipped to Mozambique, where he fought as a soldier in the widespread colonial war that would lead to the independence of several former Portuguese in Africa. Almeida established a close relationship with the country and its people, which he maintained over the years, continuing to visit Mozambique, either with several NGO´s in humanitarian missions or simply on his own. During his visits Almeida gathered documents about the country’s colonial and post-colonial history and developed photographic projects that mirror his affinities with Mozambique.

The idea of ​​carrying out an exhibition of the life and work of Luís de Almeida related to two main issues: first, with the aesthetic quality of his photographs, and the basic desire to spread his work. The second relates to the uniqueness of his life path. We believe that the specificities inherent in his biography can contribute to thinking the complexity of the debate surrounding the colonial experience. In fact, we believe that this debate is often held largely on a theoretical level, excluding the concrete experiences of those who have been directly involved in the conflict.

Aiming to emphasize the author’s biography, we decided to place his photos on the table and his archival documents on the wall, swapping the traditional arrangement that these objects usually have in a gallery space: the work of art on the wall and the archival work on the table. On a small table at the end of the room, we screened a short video in which Almeida spoke about the documents he gathered, explaining their connection to lived experiences. In this way, visitors could access Almeida’s life story through his own interpretation of his work.

The exhibition was developed and curated by Maria Manuela Restivo and Vera Carmo, and was open to the public at Espaço Campanhã, Oporto, between April and May of 2018.