My current photographic practice grew out of my personal experience as a photographer working in the rural environment while raising more general questions about the state of photography and contemporary artistic production.
Considering rurality today means to reconsider the relationship between man and nature. Philosophical classical tradition defines nature as essence: the fundamental inner character of all things that is common to anything and everything. Later, nature came to be defined as that which is opposed to man and culture, as a wilderness that lives at the edges of civilization, untouched by human hands. Today our heavily cultivated land is not nature in this idealized sense: it’s not the pristine wilderness of the American myth and it’s not even the infinite pictorial landscape, the horizon between earth and sky, of our European romantic tradition. Our contemporary landscape speaks of the long process of anthropization and objectification through which man has, over time, not only given meaning and form to, but also excavated, drawn and altered the surface of the earth, leaving indelible marks of his presence on the fabric of the land. If today landscape is always and inevitably nature mediated by human action and culture, then rurality can come to signify for us a reminder of a total nature that is no longer, the memory of a lost nature that has moved into the places of man, into the spaces not yet conquered by urbanization. Although incorporated into culture, rurality today seems to be the only possible way for us to be into and think about nature and rethink our relationship with it.
After having relocated to Brighton, and moved by my personal feelings of displacement, I set out on daily walks in the Sussex countryside, following old ways and ancient paths, with the intent to photograph and make sense of my own place in this new landscape. These journeys on foot forced me to consider how our collective geographic imaginary bears less and less resemblance to the reality of our environment and to search for alternative forms of mapping and picturing rurality. The aim of my ongoing landscape series is to investigate how we understand and are shaped by the places we inhabit and how creative enquiry and photographic practice can, through new aesthetic and philosophical methodologies, prompt new ways of thinking, imagining and representing rurality as shared valuable space and to reconsider our relation to nature.
Not only are vast parts of our lives still economically connected to and ecologically dependent on resources located within rural geographies, but at a time of social, economic and ecological turmoil—that witnesses the rise of an ever more displaced and globalised reality—the rural seems to present itself as a critical counter-space; a site of resistance that offers artists the unique opportunity not only to challenge an urban-centric, capitalist and homogenised art-world and to propose new bottom-up readings of rurality, but also to rediscover questions about place and to rethink our relationship to nature.
The appropriation of the geographical idea of the trace as marking that makes up the imaginative and physical fabric of the landscape is used as a device to investigate the dynamics through which we are affected by and give meaning to place. In the series, place is understood not merely as a fixed entity, but as a multi-layered construction. Space is thus defined as a spatially lived place that can be objectively practiced, created and imagined daily through subjective understandings and personal experience. Place becomes a map through which to explore the intersections of nature and culture, human and other-than-human, and the image becomes a symbolic mark projecting subjective value onto rural landscape, adding a meaningful layer to the cultural and historical tissue of the place.
In this body of work, I make use of an embodied methodology that, striving to find the cognitive dimension of time and space through emotional individual responses and aesthetic perception, can help overcome more static concepts of landscape. Through walking, my objective is to recognize the interconnected nature of human-landscape interaction. In this way, the union of gaze, body and place come together to form a new understanding of place as a continuously regenerated space made of perception and materiality and of landscape as something to be experienced rather than to be looked at from a distance.
The practice of photographing taxidermy of endangered animals within the museum context is similarly used as a way to invite the viewer to reflect on the historical frameworks that previously employed taxidermy, much like landscape, as tools to produce knowledge about nature, objectifying it into an otherness that exists separate from us, to be conquered, owned and eventually capitalized. In my work, taxidermy stands in, like an icon, for nature itself and is adopted as destabiliser of anthropocentrism to reveal the economies of domestication incorporated in the landscape and hidden behind constructed ideas of nature. My aim is to establish a new iconography of the animal that could open up a space for the viewer to question how we use and conceive of nature today and for the work to summon back into the landscape what man has helped erase from it.
In my current practice, I deploy monochromatic and analogue processes as strategies of resistance towards the ubiquity of digital landscape images that have permeated our contemporary culture. With their highly aestheticised and commercialised representations, these images have substituted the direct experience of nature and threatened to level out differences in ways of representing and understanding rurality. Drawing attention to the surface of the image, the use of traditional processes allows me to recognise the photograph’s ontology as indexical trace: a tangible object that still pertains a direct connection to reality and the viewer.
The series consists of square black and white analogue photographs with the intent to reproduce the feeling of being within nature and to present a bottom-up (rather than from above) view of the landscape, creating a strain between textured surface and depth. The use of black and white is deployed as a tool of abstraction that, pointing out the difference between the photographic representation and the represented, invites the viewer’s imagination to fill in the gaps. It also allows a fluid exchange between past and present while invoking photography’s documentary tradition.
Running on Cargo