Vasco Trancoso – 99

Review by Gerhard Clausing

No doubt street photography can benefit from some creative new approaches. Gone are the days of garnering attention by showing the ubiquitous downtrodden and certain other predictable scenarios that we have seen many times before. Vasco Trancoso, a retired physician, whose career involved keeping things going in his patients’ bodies, has now applied his sense of flow and his artistic acumen to a remarkable project focusing mostly on small-town life in Portugal, presented in this interesting photobook of 99 images (hence the title).

In many of the photographs the folks that drift through are shadow figures, similar to live Asian and Middle Eastern puppetry performances. That means that Trancoso exposes for the background, which allows a tapestry of rich colors and textures as his townscapes present sets that are the context for the protagonists of the dramas. The contrast between the dark silhouettes of people and the kaleidoscope of settings is presented in effective compositions, as you can see in the samples below. This also means that the viewers/readers have a better chance of projecting themselves into the scenes depicted. The scenarios take on a certain universal relevance that we can imagine being part of. These contrasts in form involve colors, shapes, and textures.

Other contrasts presented by Trancoso are equally astonishing and relate to content depicted: juxtapositions within pictures (different ages, genders) and across double-page spreads are effective in showing us small-town life and neighborhoods; one is reminded of vignettes similar to Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. Trancoso does not shirk away from realism; not all the pictures show complimentary poses or expressions (cf. Martin Parr and Bruce Gilden). One can have different opinions on how to portray people in such settings, but this project retains a certain respect for and dignity of the individuals. Furthermore, often the anonymity of people is preserved by showing only partial faces or silhouettes, as mentioned above.

We get the idea that the whole is bigger than its parts. A bemused distance shown in the images further allows us to ponder what is the same about those towns in comparison to ours. A sense of humor also runs through the project, such as in the image where a person’s face is obscured by pink cotton candy. Is this reality or is it a construct? Puzzles to ponder over, an interesting project indeed, presented on generously-sized pages, printed beautifully on heavier stock. This work is full of fascinating discoveries.


Gerhard Clausing is the Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal and a photographer and author.


Vasco Trancoso – 99

Photographer:  Vasco Trancoso (born in Lisbon; lives in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal)

Self-published; © 2019

Essays:  David Gibson, Paulo Abrantes; and a biographical note

Languages:  Portuguese and English

Hardback, cloth cover, sewn binding; 144 pages, unpaginated, with 99 full-color photographs; 24.5 x 30.5 cm / 9.75 x 12 inches; printed and bound in Portugal by Maiadouro. ISBN 978-989-20-9976-7

Photobook Design:  NADA


Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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