From the cassette to the “joystick”: a journey into the past with “vintage” technology from the 80s and 90s | photography

Anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s, like the photographer Anabela Pinto, has it surrounded by VHS, tapes, floppy disks, photo reels, video cameras, corded telephones, joysticks, analog televisions with rudimentary antennas – objects that have overtaken technology advances decades that are largely unknown to those born in the 21st century. There is a close relationship between the author of the Precious Things photo series and these vintage objects, one that relates to her childhood and, in a sense, confronts her with “her own mortality”. After all, time goes by and we keep things at home that lose their usefulness and thus a livelihood. Is that so?

How many documents and images can there be on a floppy disk that we can hardly “reopen”? How many home videos with personal memories are there on a VHS or Hi8 cassette? How many green and black Amstrad computer games can we play again? “Objects from the past contain a mythological dimension,” explains Anabela P3 through video conferencing. “They are linked to our origins and part of the elements from which we build our identity.” The presence of these pieces in the home environment “creates new visual landscapes and (…) shapes our daily rituals,” he mentions in the summary of the project he developed between 2018 and 2020 as part of the Master’s degree in Artists Photography of the Royal College of Art in London, which has already been exhibited in the English capital in Paris, in the village of La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland and in Los Angeles in the USA.

And it is these landscapes of the domestic interior that Anabela Pinto imitates under blue light, clearly on TV and artificial, to propose a visit to a not too distant past, full of kitsch and nostalgia. To carry them out, he had to spend hours searching for websites to sell used items as not all of them were part of his personal estate. And invest a few pounds. “I thought I could sell the objects later, but I was attached and didn’t sell anything – which says a lot about the relationship with the objects.”

The human-machine symbiosis is at the heart of this photo series. In the digital age, technology acts as an extension of the human mind and body. In a decidedly consumerist society in which the “cult of technology” prevails, “the materialistic desire is closely linked to the search for happiness,” says the nature photographer from Figueira da Foz. “The objects we consume, channel, reflect, and feed the emotions of those who use.” Do we consume to be happy? Do we keep the items that make us happy or make us happy? Do we keep memories in objects? Anabela Pinto does not intend to answer these questions with the photographs of Precious Things. Let’s just take pictures that are starting points for reflection.