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Moral Morphology

July 2013 // Categorised in: ,

I’ve spent almost a year without uploading new material or updating the blog. It has been a year of growth and hard work with almost no ​​time for my personal projects, but it has been a wonderful year with assignments that took me to different cities in Spain, to the Sahara desert and to Mexico. I have met there awesome people and I have lived wonderful experiences…it has been a really nice year.

Today I finally took some time to write about a project that was completed almost a year ago. I have been a long time working on this project and it is probably not finished yet, I think I’ll keep on working on it in order to create a larger series. Without a doubt this is the most complicated personal project I’ve been involved in, but it’s a project that I really like and since the beggining I wanted to do it with no haste.

This project is a reflection on the moral decay and a social criticism focused on the most powerful classes of society. There are certain negative behaviors, especially associated with the most powerful social classes, that they are deeply rooted in society and we have been dragging them for centuries with no variations. Have we learnt nothing? How is it possible that we keep on having some of the feudal values five centuries later in a parliamentary democracy?

Morfología de la moral | Gonzaga Manso

Morfologia de la moral | Gonzaga Manso

Morfología de la moral | Gonzaga Manso

Morfología de la moral | Gonzaga Manso

To convey permanence in time, I decided to create period pieces, so I started looking for visual references in paintings. I found myself very attracted to Flemish painting, and it worked as inspiration and guidance for the project aesthetics. Painters like Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden or El Bosco helped me visualize the photos I wanted to take. The light, the positions of the actors, the clothes and fabrics, the backgrounds, all is inspired by these paintings. I wasn’t trying to reproduce a painting, but to analyze the elements of these paintings in order to give my photos that style.


The Descent from the Cross, Rogier van der Weyden.

One of the most representative Flemish paintings of the S. XV and the most important light reference of my project. The light is really soft but it creates volume on faces and fabrics. Skin and clothes are somehow unrealistic and perfect.


1. Magdalena, Rogier van der Weyden.
2. The Virgin and Child, by Hans Memling
3. Jacobaa von Bayern, by Jan van Eyck

These portraits were a very good reference for the project, especially Magdalena.
Again, we can see the softness of the light and the perfection of the skin, and also another important feature: everything is in focus, even the background.


1. Detail of Defense of Cadiz against the English by Francisco de Zurbaran (Spanish school, not Flemish)
2. Detail of Virgin and Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck
3. Detail of The Cardinal Infante Ferdinando of Austria, by Gaspar de Crayer

These details are just examples that shows the work of search and documentation behind Moral Morphology. The soldier attire (study # 3) is really similar to the one in the painting Defense of Cadiz against the English.
The landscape and the columns of the lady (study # 1) could be those in the Jan van Eyck’s Madonna and Chancellor Rolin.
And the cardinal (study n ª 2) follow the dressing guidelines of The Cardinal Infante Fernando of Austria. In addition, the background of this painting is similar to the one in the soldier photograph (study # 3).

The make up played a very important role in the project because all the criticism message is given through the morphological changes of the models. From the beginning I wanted to create real facial features, completely free of post-production, so we designed and work very intensely on the characterization makeup to achieve it. Avoiding postproduction on actors faces somehow gave me a more romantic and consistent approach to the traditional and pictorial aspect of the project. José Antonio Sánchez, one of the best characterization make up artists in Europe, was in charge of makeup. It was an amazing experience to work with him.

Ana Martinez Fesser handled the wardrobe and got incredible results despite the budget limitations we had. Once again, a great pleasure to work with her. Luis Valencia Bisutería is a family business in which they create completely handmade jewelry pieces, and they borrowed us all the jewelry we needed. They create wonderful pieces of art, and the visit to the family shop was incredibly warm and welcoming. It was one of those moments when you feel that photography is the best job in the world, not only because you are creating and expressing your vision, but each day you are meeting different people and amazing places that otherwise you would never had found.

In terms of lighting, each photo has a different light scheme but always looking for the Flemish aesthetic that I liked. Now I cannot exactly remember how I lighted each one… There were always 6 lights and the set was very precise… The cardinal lighting scheme is the only one I still remember:

1 Snoot in the face of the Cardinal, main light.
2 Octabox as a subtle and soft fill light
3 Strip on a side and back, giving some volume.
4 Softbox over the model. low intensity
5 Umbrella reflector to have a uniform background make easier the postproduction.
6 Beauty dish, giving volume to the left side.
7 Large silver reflector as fill light.
8 Small silver reflector as fill light for the book and hands.


I hope to continue with this project to make a larger series, actually I think it’s my first personal work that I feel as a series and it might be interesting to exhibit it, we will see!

I was so fortunate to work with an incredible team. I am extremely grateful to all of them.


Photo: Gonzaga Manso

Cardinal: Toni Rodriguez
Lady: Natalia Varela
Soldier: Luis Fernández
Girl: Gabi Camina

Hair and makeup: José Antonio Sánchez
Hair and makeup assistants: Leticia Rojas and Karolina Szumilas

Costume design: Ana Martinez Fesser
Styling in set: Ana Reyes
Jewelry courtesy of Luis Valencia

Camera assistant: Paco Ponce de Leon
Assistant director: Mariangel Domian