summing up the many complex, issues raised during the Basel meeting:
1. What are we doing together
2. Photographer Art Photographer
3. The integration in your works of words and text and/or means others than photography
4. The use of different formats and / or mixed techniques (digital/analogical/multimedia)
5. Knowledge, Sources, References, Techniques and Form
6. The assigned THEMES how/why to approach them
7. …How to keep going ahead
1. Reflexions Masterclass is an observatory – the word itself says it – reflecting on our Time, the world we live in, where do we come from, where are we going, who are we and most of all how do you see and express all the above. To photograph means to confront the world with your eyes and your physical person: the visual expression of such confrontation is your photographic language.
In the actual continuous reproduction of the real, compulsive representation is equal to no representation. Eloquent examples are family photographs, snapshots of friends or even tourist pictures in front of the monuments – tell me who it is that still prints those photographs today… Since every moment is repeated, reproduced on the screens of countless cell phones, e-cameras, i-pods, the momentous, unique or memorable moment no longer exists, and nothing seems worth saving from delete-digit and oblivion. This decay process of the instant-shot, which paradoxically depends on its accumulation, inevitably leads to a progressive loss of our collective daily-life memory and the effacement of the present time’s trace and, quite scarily, those of the future – past ones too. Something similar happens with information – the news: constant access to the news, in-time within their transformation, diminishes the impact, of the news itself so that it is no longer new, no longer important and from the shapeless, enormous mass of the global information network, what is perceived is the thinner surface layer to scroll.
Awareness, perspective and focus become essential in the re-appropriation of the inner conscience of photography and the responsibility inherent to its definitive essence, and in the identification of vision.
This – what we do together, which goes far beyond becoming a better photographer and/or taking good pictures – that is, the minimum necessary, is no longer enough.
2. The debate surrounding classification might be interesting for the analysis of art critics, but it is too sterile a dispersion… Categories, like it or not, it is a fact they are merging (therefore disappearing) into one another. So what are you – Authors expressing from an independent view point, in the language of photography. Authors, because compelled to the evolution of your works essentially by the inner urge of your own impulse. The good news is that today you are entirely free to determine how (in which way/form) that is to happen, as long as form, whatever it might be, translates the content of your compulsion to express.
3. With regards to the integration of words/text there exist three possible uses:
– The Caption: always – whom/what, when, where;
– THE TITLE : examples – Untitled n. 1; Untitled n 2; Nightmare; Memory; Spring (…)
– The Text: 1. Your text / your words, personal impressions. 2. Your subject’s text as, direct source witnessing: his/her/their own hand writing or, your transcription of a voice/script record. 3. A reference text: somebody else’s text (a writer’s, an historian, a journalist etc…): 4. Scientific, technical, encyclopedic sources, such as Herbariums, Zoological, Geological plates or, Geographical sources as maps and guides, or Historical ones, such as books, newspaper and/or other documentation.
– THE SLOGAN (ex. see Barbara Kruger’s work)
Whatever is the direction, you must determine an aware choice.
This same process works precisely in the same manner when applied to the use of elements “others” (than traditional photography + caption or text) which you sense are necessary, integrating your work. Examples: somebody else’s photographs (Sumit’s work); recorded voices, noises (Gianni’s multimedia); images; drawings etc. The introduction of such elements provokes a shift in the final perception and in order to avoid a dispersion rather than a concentration – sense has to make sense.
4. The ultimate goal is the unison between perception, vision, expression and work’s final form, recognizable as “yours” – how you get to it is irrelevant: if you possess the capacity to swing (without losing vision) from one format to the other, and/or between color and BW, if “it works” that’s fine. If it is still unclear how, when, and in which direction to proceed, stick to a few, clear ideas that will probably lead you farther than multiple attempts to feel “contemporary”. Last, it all depends on what is the nature of your work and it is crucial that the chosen format/technique is the most appropriate to accurately resituate your intention.
This liberty goes in one single slingshot from the first to the final act of creation, from the perception to the presentation form. Examples: should you sense a ten-meter wall of a house is what you need to print Martin’s wall-landscapes-with-horizon; should it be the trees’ branches in a forest to hold Minny’s photographs-of-trees hanging like leaves, moving when the wind blows; should it be a hole in the wall where one need to stick the eye to peep into a private 3D close-watch at one of Gihan’s wilder photo-nightmares, should it be Gregoire’s pocket journal with original miniature collection prints or instead encompassing Sumit’s step-grandfather’s military academy mates’ identification portraits; should it be Chiara’s Maldive’s photographs prints sunken-framed into 5 cm boxes full of water… Anything’s fine as long as it makes sense for your work.
5. All has been said, written and repeatedly represented, if you can’t hope to make something altogether new, you can still create something unique. To do that, besides mastering your technical skills, you need the same amount of talent and virginity as you do of knowledge and perspective. You cannot be duped by ignorance of what has been done through history of representation, your eyes must be trained to recognize representation’s past, present and lateral codes and your language must learn to express its independent awareness. Proceed according to intuition, but train for deeper understanding to penetrate the mystery of what you did, how you did it and why, in order to learn the path allowing grace to return to you.
6. Themes are a challenge you should pose yourself. If photography is the language of our Time accessible to anybody, you are here given the opportunity and responsibility to express yourself on our Time’s major concerns: as poets, you are the visual voice of our Time. Play the game, appropriate the theme’s literal meanings, seek for the images they instantly provoke into your brain (don’t think too much) and just make them…
7. Desire is the essential trigger of any creation form: desire – set deep in your eyes – like attraction in love is the key. It works deep in your guts, before and above your consciousness, YOU WANT TO SEE / YOU WANT TO CONFRONT THE SIGHT OF SOMETHING. Once you’ll know how vast your capacity to desire and to express what you desire, there will be no wall you won’t trespass, no door you won’t penetrate, no place too dangerous, no distance too far!
May you be inspired and Grand!
A Saturday morning about eight-nine years ago I was struck by the front page of the FT Week-end, boasting a nine-column title – We’ve got UTOPIA and it sucks! – next to it, standing tall over the full page was an illustration of an obese youth wearing a hooded jumper, loose pants, sneakers with no laces and a back-to-front cap. The boy looked disconcerted at the gigantic sandwich before his eyes, towering stuffed with piled with TV, computers, cell-phones, cars, motorcycles, sunglasses, cowboy-boots, erotic dolls, aqua-scooters, headphones, Hi-Fi sets, etc. The aggressiveness of the image, such boldness of language, was shockingly in the columns of finance paper major in the consumer’s culture (its irresistible magazine – oh so decadently – called How to spend it…).
We live in the age of the double, the reproduction, the clone, framed in a trap, anxious when we can’t compulsively replicate copies of passwords, codes – innumerable – bank-online accesses and electronic ID, social security numbers and insurances, not to mention the entrance door and the garage ramp, computer username, the detestable pins of cell-phone and credit card and all “customer codes” for any purchase contemporary world imposes encircling our lives. As if…, losing a password, one would be erased from a portion of one’s own existence in this world… Weren’t the gate’s keys and the original version of life already frail and complex enough? This low-cost world, free-for-you-to-scroll (provided you have the necessary pins), this cell-like secured aseptic “areas” we live in, x-ray scanned when entering a museum, video-recorded as soon we cross the door of our drugstore, and the most unaware constantly geo-localized strolling over the footpath, where we are told, nobody (is supposed to) be lonely, get sick, to be poor, age or die, is Utopia. Oὺ τόπος – (Greek), in a non place. A word – “imaginary” – referred to a visionary condition of reform and idealized existence in “some place” – topos – inexistent under seemingly perfect conditions. A place therefore to be imagined and to be created. Its inexistence and impossibility to exist tend to turn to failure its idealistic attempts to be – Dystopia. The example I provided is the nearest, the biggest, the subtlest one, but there are several other eloquent examples of utopias all around us: zoos, amusement parks, dams, circuses, natural history museums, correctional institutions, enclaves, refugee camps, cities… Utopias therefore – all referred to visible concepts of space/s. The idea of utopia may also be approached from more abstract, metaphorical points of view. To venture a perilous parallel, I dare say in paradox we could compare the image of Utopia of which the substance in space, to the image of Eternity, of which the substance is Time. The latter one enjoys on the contrary a better general good perception…, perhaps on accounts of its un-verifiability. A Time whereas nothing becomes, transform nor change, where everything stays motionlessly, ever since and for ever same and equal to itself.
UTOPIA – οὺ τόπος – (Greek), in a non place. A word – “imaginary” – referred to a visionary condition of reform and idealized existence in “some place” – topos – inexistent under seemingly perfect conditions. A place therefore to be imagined and to be created. Its inexistence and impossibility to exist may turn to failure the idealistic attempts to be – Dystopia. The example I provided is the nearest, the biggest, the subtlest one, but there are several other eloquent examples of utopias all around us: zoos, amusement parks, dams, circuses, natural history museums, correctional institutions, enclaves, refugee camps, cities… Utopias therefore – all referred to visible concepts of space/s. The idea of utopia may nonetheless also be approached from more abstract, metaphorical points of view. To venture a perilous parallel, I dare say we could, in paradox, compare the image of Eternity – of which the substance is Time – that on the contrary enjoys a more general good perception than utopia…, perhaps on accounts of its un-verifiability. A Time whereas nothing becomes, transform nor change, where everything stays motionlessly, ever since and for ever same…
We leave you a dictionary toolbox of meanings and the precious reference guide for you to discover, invent, or reveal your vision of UTOPIA.
FICTION, LITERARY, SPECULATIVE AND POLITICAL APPROACHES
Italo Calvino, The Invisible Cities
Jorge Louis Borges, The Immortal (collection The Aleph); Babel’s Library and The Lottery of Babylonia (collection Fictions ) ; Utopia of a Tired Man (collection The Book of Sand)
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Gustave Flaubert, Salambò
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
Jack London, The Iron Heel
Edwin Abbott Abbott, Flatland
Marco Polo, Il Milione
Samuel Butler, Erewon
Aleksandr Solzjenitsyn, The Gulag Achipelago
PHILOSOPHICAL, PHILOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL APPROACHES
Sir Thomas More’s De optimo reipublicae statu deque nova insula Utopia (1516)
Tommaso Campanella La Città del Sole (1602)
Francis Bacon New Atlantis (1627)
Lewis Mumford The Story of Utopias
Voyage dans la lune George Méliès (1902
Metropolis Fritz Lang (1927)
Lost Horizon Frank Capra (1937)
Brigadoon Vincente Minelli (1954)
Fahrenheit 451 François Truffaut (1966)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Mel Stuart (1971)
The Blue Lagoon Randal Kleiser (1980)
Brazil Terry Gilliam (1985)
The Mosquito Coast Peter Weir (1986)
Pleasantville, Gary Ross (1998)
The Truman Show Peter Weir (1998)
Matrix Larry & Handy Wachowski (1999)
The Beach Danny Boyle (2000)
The Village M. Night Shyamalan (2004)
1 See Winter Letter 2009: The different zoom / focus / distance over the elements WHOM/WHAT, WHERE, WHEN determines a different perception of the sense of the image. Examples: let’s consider a photograph of Gabriel taken during the meeting at La Fenice in Venice; the caption could be any of the following: 1) GB today 2) Gabriel, fifth floor 15.30 hrs. 3) Gabriel Bauret at Gran Teatro La Fenice, Venice, October 2009. 4) French Art critic Italy 2009. Each different caption is a different face of the same photograph.
2 See Winter Letter 2009: Text should evoke a parallel and autonomous dimension from the images: texts may address conditions which the image cannot address, for instance, sensorial perceptions other than the visual one. Texts may draw the subjective introspection of the image’s characters or of one’s own, or simply address basic technical information. Text shouldn’t “describe” the content of the image.