Francisco Caparrós was born in Baza (Granada) in 1954, and started experimenting with photography at a very early age in his father’s studio, making portraits of his friends and marvelling at the magic process of developing in the dark room. He became particularly interested in this artistic discipline, as well as in painting and drawing under the tutelage of Julio Vázquez, an Argentine fine arts professor who settled in Granada in 1964. He has always combined his artistic work with business ventures in advertising, graphic design, communications and industrial design.
In 1966, he started experimenting with photography in the laboratory, learning about the chemical properties involved in the developing processes and the power of different lenses in the language of the image.
He portrayed the local people and landscapes in his immediate environment, as well as experimenting with still lifes, drawings and etchings on glass, which he developed by mixing with different objects and then printing, as well as solarizations and other experimental work.
In 1969, he travelled to different towns and cities around Spain to get to know them and record them in photographs. On his travels he visited the Prado, the Sorolla house-museum in Madrid, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Bilbao, and was particularly impressed by the works of the great masters such as Velázquez, Goya, Rubens and El Bosco, among others.
In 1970, he moved to Madrid to prepare for his admission to the School of Fine Arts, but he finally enrolled in Valencia in 1973.
In 1972 he travelled to Italy to get to know and portray the country’s towns and cities and to visit its museums. With some his earliest work, El movimiento y la luz / Movement and Light, he established a deconstructive approach that continued until 2009; a form of dragging the photographed object in order to synthesize the landscape, stripping it of its true nature. The unpredictability of the images recreated within a defined shutter time is closer to what one remembers than what one actually sees, a symbol of what has been observed. Fernando Castro refers to Caparrós as “a hunter obsessed with the visual pleasures of metropolitan life; he moves in the deconstruction of the paradigm of the decisive instant, instead of the postmodern appropriation or the given moment in time.”
In his quest for expressive language he has focused on several different subjects both in landscapes and portraiture. Thus with reference to Interiores de paisaje / Landscape Interiors, in the El Palau Gallery, Juan Ángel Blasco wrote the following about Caparrós in issue 25 of the magazine Cimal in 1985:
[…] is not motivated by the ‘immobilization of movement’, so diligently sought by other photographers. His prefers to focus his research on the stationary; on the static forms that geology gives the viewer an opportunity to explore. His preferred subject is mineral matter at rest, generous in its chromatic and formal contrasts, revealing rich nuances of textures and rock fragments. Inanimate ecology exerts a particularly magnetic power over Caparrós, attracting his finely-tuned sensibilies to the tiniest detail or the innermost secret.
About this same body of work, Román de la Calle wrote:
Francisco Caparrós ‘elaborates’ visual reality, not just by metonymic selection through discontinuity or fragmentation, or by resorting to eloquent technical effects in taking and processing photographs, but also thanks to the contribution of interventions classifiable as photogenic, introducing compositional treatments imposed directly on the visual substrate.
Two qualities can be seen in Caparrós’ photographs. On the one hand, the search for places or ‘non-places’ that evince a state of latent solitude, as in the series Estructuras dormidas / Dormant Structures and Casi silencio / Almost Silence, where what is photographed is the latent imprint of that particular moment and none other; a brief breath of an instant reflected and captured forever by the square box of the camera with wealth of detail. The other quality is the ‘felt’ scene, reclassified or recomposed with the intention of seizing the very substance of the subconscious, the sensation of almost forgetting the instant, the memory, the smell, the temperature, the noise. The noise, almost the only thing left in the memory; the colour, the large format, the attempt to return to that place and time. In Jerográficos fotográficos / Photographic Hieroglyphs and Bambú / Bamboo, which he took in New York and Japan, respectively, there is that deconstructed and resolved character in the form of a labyrinthine calligraphy of gestural expression, motivated by the emotion of the lived moment. Fernando Castro, in his article for the catalogue of the exhibition held at the Valencia Museum of Modern Art (IVAM), wrote:
The entropic radiance in Caparrós’ photographs are traces of the city, but they only have a character by virtue of what has taken place in the ‘mechanical gaze’ of the camera, guided by his artistic gestures. The hypnagogic state that arises in ‘numbness’ implies a special orientation and perceptive limitation, in the same way that Caparrós achieves in his Hieroglyphs where the natural light has disappeared into the seductive dominion of the night. It is thought that in order to develop this hypnagogic phenomenon, it is essential that the imagination flows automatically. And yet hypnagogic phenomena are not simply automatic thoughts ‘contemplated by conscience’, but rather conscience itself. We are not contemplating the hypnagogic image, but instead we are fascinated by it. In this kind of dreamlike state that has not yet taken shape in Caparrós’ photographs, there is a hallucinatory aspect; it seems that these images are intensely brighter than reality. Instead of a cognitive absence leading to a bunkered experience, the camera, open to flashes of metropolitan life, captures hypnagogic images that are pure change, choreographies of light, and disconcerting rotations.
And in relation to the exhibition Bambú / Bamboo, held at the Raquel Ponce gallery in Madrid, he wrote in ABCD. Las Artes y las Letras:
From metropolitan saturation, Caparrós travelled to Japan where he created a fascinating series entitled Bambú. With great insight, he has taken an element of great symbolic power prevalent in oriental painting and poetry to allude to the idea of maturity. The wonderful range of Caparrós’ greens transmits a deeply poetic experience. In these photographs we feel immersed in the forest about which Bachelard spoke, in its aquatic dreaminess: an immensity that both disorientates and gives pleasure, along with the fleeting reflections that, for Narcissus, proved to be his downfall.
Caparrós also created two works of video art, 10’27 to Liberty (2006) and El Espíritu del Bambú / The Spirit of Bamboo (2009). The first is an integration of sound and image based on the Photographic Hieroglyphs series he took in New York, in which rhythm, colour and music plunge us into the hypnagogic world of the city. And the second is a reflection on the slow and complex cycle of nature, which leads us to understand the patience and maturity so characteristic of the Orient. This work was produced entirely infographically so he could approach the project in an expressively subtle way. In both cases he benefited from the collaboration of Juan J. Coll, a composer of great sensitivity. Raquel Ponce Gallery in Madrid and OxigenArte Festival of Artistic Interventions in Historical Spaces, Segovia, (2009).
In 2009 he took part in Domingo Sánchez Blanco’s project, Museo Mausoleo / The Mausoleum Museum where a cast aluminium sculpture entitled La esfera del miedo / The Sphere of Fear was buried. The event was attended by the people of the town of Morille (Salamanca), artists Fernando Castro and Domingo Sánchez, and several poets, who bore the sculpture to its grave. Inside the grave, transformed into ashes, lay the fears that the participants had written down and were then burned in quasi-magical act of spiritual liberation.
Dibujando con luz / Drawing with Light is a motion study using an open lens, drawing with photons from different light sources ranging from lasers to fibre optics via night lights. Created between 2007 and 2015.
Rastros and Metáfrasis/ Traces and Metáfrasis is a work that started in 2007, in which he delves into the expression of thought, based on compressed and stretched images made with a ‘photographic palette’ and executed on photographs selected and treated for this purposes. A kind of photographic painting, with traces of colour and modified shapes according to the projection or reflection that takes place.
Metáfrasis is a project that Caparrós began in early 2007, in which graphic concepts are orchestrated from photographic images, synthesizing the structures of the image.
Las formas del agua / The Shapes of Water is a study that explores the language of water and its relationship with the elements related to it. Started in 1985, it is an ongoing exploration of concepts. Islas mágicas / Magical Islands is part of this work, created in 2010.
Arquitectura / Architecture, Paisaje urbano / Urban Landscape, Paisaje en verde / Green Landscape, and Interiores de paisaje / Landscape Interiors are also all ongoing projects, with a continuum over time.
The project entitled El jardín de la naturaleza / The Garden of Nature, from 2019, based on the physical and emotional experience of the forested landscape, is exhibited at the Bancaja Foundation in Valencia, curated by José Luis Cueto Lominchar, the vice-rector for Culture and Sport at the Polytechnic University of Valencia. The catalogue content was written by J. Luis Cueto, Román de la Calle and Fernando Castro Flórez.
2019. Group exhibition: SHIRAS 2019.
2021. Lockdown Collective II, SHIRAS Gallery, Valencia.
2021. Metropolitans, pensar la Ciutat / Metropolitans: think about the city. Group exhibition on the 15th anniversary of EMAT, Torrent (Valencia).
Personas, paisajes / People and Landscapes (1967); Lugares de España / Places in Spain (1969); Imágenes italianas / Italian Images (1972); El movimiento y la luz / Movement and Light (1974); Caparrós. Fotografía, pintura, dibujo / Caparrós. Photography, Painting and Drawing (1974); Mensajes cifrados / Encoded Messages (1975); Desde el cielo / From the Sky (1976); Naturalezas vivas / Living Nature (1980) in Aspectes de la fotografia al País Valencià / Aspects of Photography in the Valencian Community, Sala Parpalló; Los cuentos del agua / Water Stories (1981); Interiores de paisaje / Landscape Interiors (1982), Galería El Palau; Good Morning America (1989); Casi silencio (Paseo en cien metros) / Almost Silence (A 100 Metre Walk) (1990); Estructuras dormidas / Dormant Structures (1992); Invasión clip / Clip Invasion (1995); New York, mirada Perdida / New York, Lost Glance (1999); Ruta 66 / Route 66 (2005); Arquitectura natural / Natural Architecture (2005-2015); Jerográficos fotográficos / Photographic Hieroglyphs (2005-2006); Las luces del Sol Naciente / The Lights of the Rising Sun (2007); Bambú / Bamboo (2007); La esfera del miedo / The Sphere of Fear (2009) [for the Morilles Mausoleum Museum]; Paisajes horizontals / Horizontal Landscapes (2010); El ángel necesario / The Necessary Angel (2010) [for the Museum of Fine Arts of San Pío V]; Floresta (2011); Islas vacías / Empty Islands (2011); Movimiento circular / Circular Movement (2013); Rastros / Traces (2012-2014); Metáfrasis (2017); Arquitectura del Paisaje / Landscape Architecture Miquel Navarro, Francisco Caparrós, Juan Garaizabal (2017), Roberto Polo Gallery (Brussels); El jardín de la naturaleza / The Garden of Nature (2019), Fundación Bancaja; Naturaleza muerta, naturaleza viva / Still Life, Living Nature (2021).
Aspectes de la fotografía al País Valencià / Aspects of Photography in the Valencian Community, Parpalló (1980) // Naturalezas Vivas / Living Nature, Pablo Ramírez, Ediciones Nueva Lente, no. 99 (1980) // Interiores de paisaje. De la cámara obscura a la cámara lúcida / Landscape Interiors. From Camera Obscura to Light Chamber, Román de la Calle; Notas sobre la fotografía, la pintura y la última serie de Caparrós / Notes on Photography, Painting and the Final Series by Caparrós, Pablo Ramírez; La expresión, el arte fotográfico y Paco Caparrós / Expression, Photographic Art, and Paco Caparrós, Francisco Baños Martos, Galería Palau, Valencia (1982) // Caparrós y la fotografía / Caparrós and Photography, Cimal. Cuadernos de Cultura Artística, no. 25, Juan Ángel Blasco Carrascosa (1985) // La fotografía como erótica del objeto / Photography as an Erotic Object, Román de la Calle (1982) // Jerográficos fotográficos / Photographic Hieroglyphs, IVAM, Consuelo Císcar, José García Casimiro, Raquel Gutiérrez, Román de la Calle, Fernando Castro Flórez (2006) // Photographic Hierographs. The Gabarron Foundation (2008) // Miradas arquitectónicas en la colección del IVAM / Architectural Perspectives in the IVAM Collection, Provincial Council of Alicante, Museum of Fine Arts (2008) // El Paisaje, La fotografía en la colección del IVAM / The Landscape; Photography in the IVAM Collection (2008) // Plusmarca. Arte y deporte / Records in Art and Sport, Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2008) // Futura Contemporary Art Project, Periferias Festival, Huesca (2008) // Nostalgia de futuro: homenaje a Renau / Nostalgia for the Future: a Homage to Renau (2009) // Otro modo de enfocar / Another Way of Focusing, Fernando Castro Flórez, ABCD, 30 May 2009 // Fotomontaje y Experimentación. La fotografía en la colección del IVAM / Photomontage and Experimentation. Photography in the IVAM Collection (2009) // Piezas maestras, La fotografía en la colección del IVAM / Masterpieces. Photography in the IVAM Collection (2009) // La línea roja. Arte abstracto español en la colección del IVAM / The Red Line. Spanish Abstract Art in the IVAM Collection (2009) // El Japón de Caparrós, pincel de luz, Cuadernos del IVAM / Caparrós’ Japan, Paintbrush and Light, no. 15, Consuelo Císcar // En el estudio de Paco Caparrós: Las luces de la ciudad / In Paco Caparrós’ Studio: The Lights of the City, by Fernando Castro Florez, in Descubrir el Arte no. 123 (2009) // Arte español en la Colección del IVAM / Spanish Art in the IVAM Collection (2010) // IVAM Donaciones / IVAM Donations (2010) // Obras maestras del siglo XX en la colección del IVAM / Twentieth Century Masterpieces in the IVAM Collection, Moscow Museum of Modern Art (2010) // Art Belongs to The World, La fotografía o la reconstrucción del paisaje / Photography or the Reconstruction of the Landscape, Raquel Gutiérrez, Minhang Cultural Centre, Shanghai. Francisco Caparrós, Cristino de Vera, Ramón de Soto // Expo 2010 Shanghai, Shanghai Urban Centre (SUPEC) Arte español en la colección del IVAM / Spanish Art in the IVAM Collection, curated by Francisco Calvo Serreller, (2010) // El ángel necesario / The Necessary Angel, San Pío V, Fernando Castro Flórez (2011) // 3rd End of the World-Anthropocene Biennale, Ushuaia (2011) // Spring 2×2 Espacio de las Artes, dialogue with Caparrós – Antonio Maya Madrid (2012) // Artbygenève 2012, International Art Show. // Jerográficos New York, Tokio, Kyoto / Hieroglyphs, New York, Tokyo, Kyoto, El Castell, E CA, Riba-roja (Valencia), Rosalind Williams – Fernando Castro Flórez (2014) // El Mundo, 25 años en movimiento / The World, 25 Years in Motion, Conde Duque Centre, Madrid (2014) // Espacialismo cromático / Chromatic Spatialism, Centro del Carmen-V Centenario del Nacimiento de Sta. Teresa de Jesús (2015) // 13 artistas valencianos contemporáneos y un homenaje desde la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos / Thirteen Contemporary Valencian Artists and a Homage from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Carlos, Román de la Calle (2015) // Nature as Architecture, Miquel Navarro, Juan Garaizabal, Francisco Caparrós, Omnis enim color omnino mutatur in ominis (about Caparrós’ hypnogogic photographs), Roberto Polo Gallery (2017) // El jardí de la natura / The Garden of Nature, José Luis Cueto Lominchar; Francisco Caparrós: en favor de una secreta carta visual de la naturaleza. Entre urdimbres y dinamismos / Francisco Caparrós: In Favour of a Secret Visual Letter from Nature. Among warps and dynamisms, Román de la Calle; Qöl Demamá Daqqah (about the imaginary photography of Caparrós) Fundación Bancaja, Valencia (2019) // Colección Roberto Polo / Roberto Polo Collection, Centre of Contemporary Art of Castilla-La Mancha (2021) // Metropolitans, pensar la Ciutat / Metropolitans, Think About the City, group exhibition on the fifteenth anniversary of EMAT, Torrent (Valencia) (2021).