The ethics of photographing empty squares – and photographing the invisible

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The Piazza Duomo in Milan. Photo by Domenico Zunino, Celotto/Getty Images

Nobody thought this would become an ethical issue, right?

The image you see on the left is next to impossible to achieve in normal circumstances. The square in front of the Duomo in Milan is always crowded, bustling with people. But this emptiness is real right now. After the official lockdown of Italy started, in spurts, on February 21 – first schools and cultural institutions, then stores and churches, and finally most workplaces closed – we are currently at a point that everyone needs a self-produced affidavit stating the urgent reason forcing them to be in the street. Continue reading

The Museum of Innocence at FotoFest 2020

If you follow this blog, you know how important FotoFest Biennial has been for me, for its role in the world of contemporary photography. Its international, groundbreaking exhibition give deep thought to topics, angles and geographic areas that are not well know outside of their boundaries; a rich community and meeting place for photography curators, museum professionals and gallerists with photographers and connoisseurs. For me personally FotoFest has been crucial in my work as a photographer with its inspiration to a larger international community. Continue reading

That photoless Vogue issue

One of seven Vogue Italia cover options, a painting by Vanessa Beecroft, January 2020. Vanessa Beecroft uses painting as well as performance as her chosen medium to change our perception of the body in public spaces. This is her first artistico format into fashion, in her words.

When the news of the latest Vogue Italia issue came out, everybody shared it on social media or, at the minimum, read about it. It made that momentous splash due to the promise that no photography was employed in its making – and that was an added feature to make its production environmentally sustainable.

It is frankly the first time anyone has made the case of photography being an environmentally unfriendly medium. After all, it doesn’t employ harmful chemicals anymore, nor does it necessarily waste paper. If it does, that applies to art photography, not the commercial means of diffusion of information and persuasion. However, as director Emanuele Farneti explains in his editorial statement, a Vogue photoshoot implies hundreds of people traveling thousands of miles to make it happen. Painting, drawing and other tabletop artmaking only requires staying put. Continue reading

The Haunted Archive

 

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An exhibition that has been in the works for several months is opening on March 1 at the Fort Worth Community Art Center in Fort Worth, TX. The Haunted Archive is an exhibition of post-photography, curated by me and featuring photographs, paintings, collages and installations by eight artists, based throughout the United States.

It includes works by Rachel Black, Kimberly Chiaris, Angela Johnson, Priya Suresh Kambli, Devon Nowlin, elin o’Hara slavick, JP Terlizzi and Melanie Walker.

This exhibition explores the vernacular family photograph as a visual, emotional and social topos. Continue reading

Possible Convergences

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The 091 Projects/Rizzuto Gallery in Palermo, showed my work along with artist Stefania Fabrizzi. Titled Possible Convergences (June 31-July 14), the two-person exhibition was curated by Cristina Costanzo, an art scholar, critic and writer.

My work included in this show was from the portfolio Hidden Metrics ID. However, it ultimately made for a different exhibition because of the different format it has evolved in. Continue reading

Hidden ID at Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

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My first solo exhibition in Italy will open next week at Savignano sul Rubicone. It will be in conjunction with SI Fest Off, a festival of photography in its 26th edition, and is related to this year’s theme of the festival: Dialectic Strategies.

Hidden ID is a series of pinhole images that juxtapose public identity to interior privacy through using the metaphor of the archive as a substitution for the construction of the self. The images are based on a hybrid pinhole capture with in-camera photogram elements.  Continue reading

Do you collect photos of people you don’t know?

Looking at found photos

Vernacular photography – often defined as “authorless”, but in reality, made by the same people who use it, for themselves or family/friends, or, alternatively,  commercial but made directly for consumers (e.g. the Sears portrait service) – has been gaining a lot of attention in the past few years or decades. If you are a photographer yourself, you know the writings of Geoffrey Batchen, who was the engine of the research of that type of photography with his books, especially Each Wild Idea. Continue reading

Disappeared and back again

Toy camera fans, did you hear the news? The Holga is back.

One of the first posts on this blog, seven years ago, was about a roll of Kodachrome. As Kodak was discontinuing the production of its legendary film, the last lab capable of developing its unique process was ending its work, too. So I caught the chance and shot one roll of Kodachrome myself.

That last roll was actually also my first. While for most everyone else the pull of the film was nostalgia, for me it was something I could only define as second-hand nostalgia. I didn’t have access to Kodachrome while growing up, of course, but experienced its allure as part of the allure of the American dream – yet when I was able to access it, the dream had changed. Continue reading

Fashion photography in a new light (Bruce Weber at the Dallas Contemporary)

 

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Lonneke Engel for Versus, 1996, gracefully shot by Bruce Weber

Bruce Weber, a noted fashion photographer with a long and distinguished career, is having a retrospective exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary. It is fascinating for many reasons, but first of all because an exhibition venue known mainly for installations and projections has dedicated almost its entire gigantic space to a solo show of this kind of “traditional” photography. But also – and especially – because it offers an unusual view of fashion photography as it is.
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Tablecloths, a solo exhibition at Langdon Center, Tarleton University

 

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If you are in Texas, you are invited to my solo exhibition Tablecloths at Langdon Center (Tarleton University), in Granbury, TX.

Reception: October 29, 5-8pm
Visit: Oct 31 ottobre – Dec 14, 2016
Langdon Center, 308 E Pearl St. Granbury, TX
Hours: 10am-4pm, Mon-Sat

The exhibition includes a series of large format cyanotype photograms on silk and cotton that simultaneously presents and questions the idea of home, using the centerpiece of the tablecloth as a conceptual device. Using 3-dimensional surfaces in tables, corners, steps and thresholds, the photo-sensitive fabric captures shadows and direct contact and then fixes the ephemeral sensation of feeling at home through the photographic process. Still, thanks to the optical distortions (and the added stains)  home looks like a perceptual illusion.  Continue reading

Italy in photographs

Now that the semester is over, I  have to say it was really fun to teach both photography and Italian this year. Although formally the classes didn’t have anything in common, it was striking how much they were connected intellectually and as an experience.

For their final project, my students of Italian received the option to discuss a few classic photographs of Italy. As I was working on the assignment to decide what to include in it, so that they would learn both about Italian culture and art, I realized what a huge part of Italian photography is actually photos of Italy, in Italy, by non-Italians.

See this, for example:

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Ruth Orkin. An American Girl in Italy, 1951

 

 

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The Afghan Girl and what does photoshop – and the Impressionists – have to do with it?

national-geographic-100-best-pictures-coverYou already know this photo – it is the legendary portrait titled “Afghan Girl” that appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985 and then went on to become one of the most iconic pictures of all times. No wonder: the resolute gaze of the girl, in such dire circumstances, the unusual color of her eyes are indeed striking. What is also impactful but less  consciously recognizable is the color contrast of the saturated green and red that appeal subconsciously. And if you are a photography enthusiast, you also know the name of the photographer, Steve McCurry, popularly famous for shooting the last roll of Kodachrome ever produced, too. He was given that honor by Kodak because that film, noted for its exceptional saturated colors, was his signature film.  And you perhaps know that his signature style was striking human figures (most often shot in third-world countries) in traditional environments in saturated colors. Continue reading

Humble and archival in photography

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Beach cyanotype. Hung home style

Rascuache (or, in its Americanized version, rasquachismo) is a Mexican term for reuse and repurpose of things. It is a strategy for everyday life typical for the poor masses as well as a mark of resourcefulness for people in general everywhere. But in the last decades rascuache is also an artistic term meaning the use of humble materials and unexpected sources of supplies – like plastic for drawing, discarded metal parts for sculpture and others. That may sound like the usual found-object crafts that we often see in gift shops and  at artfests today but actually originate from the revolutionary practices of Chicano movement artists in the 60s. They used it not because it was cool but to make a political point and insert themselves in a process that was seen as the privilege of higher classes. Continue reading

Michel Tournier and photography

Michel Tournier with his camera, 1977. Getty Images.

Michel Tournier with his camera, 1977. Getty Images.

In the recent series of deaths of legendary figures, yesterday was the turn of Michel Tournier, one of the most interesting French writers and also a very influential, passionate lover of photography. To get an idea of how influential: he is the co-founder of Les Rencontres d’Arles, the famed photo festival in France.

Although he has published books with photographers’ bios and discussions of selected photographs, his most interesting writings are actually the novels and short stories in which photography is a subtle theme, a subject, plot driver and protagonist. I am fascinated with the ways the two arts intertwine.

Take his short story “Veronica’s Shrouds” Continue reading