Carlos Relvas is one of the most central characters of the history of Portuguese photography and his work has been ackowledged worldwide. He proudly considered himself an amateur, and yet he was an enlightened one. We stand before an experimentalist with great knowledge of the process and materials used, obsessed  with technical perfection and a sharp aesthetic sense.

 

To classify him as a photographer by saying he belongs to a certain artistic school is a difficult task. The variety of themes, frequently using close range formatting, the execution and printing  processes, choosing subjects and applying the right light ? this is what confirms him as an excellent creator, an adventurer who took his chances in many undertakings.


There's no doubt he was a great portraitist, as he photographed all Portuguese society in his studio, from farmers and beggars to aristocracy, thus giving us a social picture of his time.

 

But he also photographed monuments and landscapes, where his contribution is admirable. On the other hand, we shouldn't forget his special appreciation for animal photos, and his work was fundamental for the study of bullfighting.


In the beginning of the 60's (19th century), Relvas takes an interest in photography. Fascinated by this new art form, he gets books and magazines on the subject, thus keeping himself updated. He also buys his first cameras and has a small studio built in the garden of his Quinta do Outeiro property.

 

Meanwhile, he travels through the country's middle region and photographs several of the most important Portuguese monuments. He sends his photographs to the biggest French specialists on the matter and, in 1869, he´s  admitted to the French Photography Society. Such success leads him to the project of a new ambitious undertaking ? a house-studio specifically conceived to support the development of photography as an art, which was finished in 1876.

 

He lived a busy life and dedicated himself to several activities, but photography remained as his great passion. He invented an apparatus to make focusing easier, used stereoscopic photography and introduced and spread the photo-typography method in Portugal.


Having been awarded several medals, one of which in Vienna's Universal Exhibition (Medal for Progress), he also collaborated with the organization of exhibitions and clubs dedicated to photography  and released specialized publishing material, the most important being  the ?A Arte Fotográfica? magazine, published in Oporto.

 

Further on his career, his usual enthusiasm took him to pursue new approaches in photography by using rapid lenses in his cameras. He took photos where activity took place, as a reporter, which made of him a modern photographer, at the end of his life.