João Mota da Costa


04.03 - 08.04.2023

Angst, intense psychological feeling characterized by a sense of oppression, insecurity, bad humor, resentment, and pain, that precedes an event, occasion or circumstance and is usually associated to either real or imaginary dangers.

Birth, life, and death are an indivisible whole that marks the tragic and troubled nature of our existence. Our lives are constantly threatened by disease, accidents, and moral quandaries that are a source of constant anxiety.

Given that human beings are the only beings who are conscious of their own mortality, we find ourselves in a very peculiar situation, charged with dreams, questions, deprivation, suffering, interrogations, and hope, the quintessential existential angst.

This project beggin at 'Jusqu'à l'os' workshops in Arles with Paulo Nozolino in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

The Precipice

Emília Tavares


The present work by João Mota da Costa reiterates his existential anxieties, and the constant search for visual clues testifying to the precariousness of life.

This set of images, under the title of Angst, forms a dense visual itinerary that is doubly thickened: technically, by its use of high-contrast print which highlights the significance of the dark areas, and ichnographically, by the particular choice of references, which evokes spectral representations of the body or of fractal elements in nature.

Nowadays, the philosophical nature of Angst is inextricably linked to existentialist currents, which not only predicate an understanding of the “self” through its confrontation between past and future, but also view angst as a fundamental feature of human freedom, the result of our awareness of boundless possibilities, as Kierkegaard frames it.

Aptly, this visual itinerary is anchored in both the confrontation between the different possibilities presented by past and future, and the idea of vertigo, as defined by Sartre: “Vertigo is anguish to the extent that I am afraid not of falling over the precipice, but of throwing myself over”.

There is, therefore, a conflicting urgency about existence which comes through in these photographs, visible in the splintered statues dilapidated by time, in the fragments of human anatomy, the seat of knowledge about immortality, but also the face of vanitas. Or through the unstable equilibria between elements, whether they are cracks in solid materials, antagonistic balances, or the evanescence of the elements – they all submit to this legacy of vertigo, the agony of possibilities.

All this raises the question of whether an image is a palliative for existential angst, as Susan Sontag put it, or the quintessential territory of death, the very place where vertigo ensues, the place at the edge of the precipice.


João Mota da Costa (1954), plastic surgeon, dedicated to the area of hand surgery. Begins to photograph in 1969. With an irregular path, for professional reasons he exhibits regularly since 2011, when he begins to devote more time to photography practicing, developing authorial work and attending the Atelier de Lisboa School and the postgraduate course in “Discourses of Contemporary Photography” at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Lisbon (2015-2016). He has his work published in several authorial publications: A Torre (2014); Álamos (2015); Do Outro Lado do Espelho (2018); Dissecar (2019).