Wild Landscapes

Flaminio Gualdoni

Luca Campigotto in Egypt

ITALIAN

Billions of photographs – quite literally – have been taken, are still be taken in Cairo, as part of the building up and reinforcing of a myth so tenacious as to have solidified into a commonplace. There are certain places which can no longer be represented except by clambering up a mountain of stereotypes Venice, Paris, the Cote d'Azur – and certain others which, according to general opinion, are unworthy of representation, since they are inherently unlovely, devoid of the interest which, according to certain rules and regulations, is the sine qua non for an "aesthetic" outcome.
Luca Campigotto has spent long periods photographing Venice, and other hallowed places: now it is Egypt's turn. it was still possible. The secret lay, and lies, in the way we looks – with Dickinsonian "unvarnished eyes" – at things on which all eyes are fixed, and see something else, because there is a lot "else" to see. This involved and involves, a thorough critical rethinking of the founding tenets underlying the cult of the image...

Travel concerns time, not place. Life, not looking. Sparing with words in general and averse to intellectualising theories concerning motivation in particular, Campigotto sums it up as follow: "I have enjoyed imagining myself in a period which was not my own".
This in its turn might be an intellectual and aestheticising plat with categories... Photographers often fall for it... Luca's aim is the exact opposite, however: unvarnishing one's eyes, putting oneself in the situation of, say, Felice Beato or Leone Nani, is an intense and lengthy mental process involving the total stripping away of hackneyed accretions; it requires long period of highly pondered concentration. It means filtering out all the "Google images" by which we have been possessed, and blinded. It means not respecting Felice Beato, but understanding him: a more arduous undertaking, but vital, in the context. That is true travel, and true looking... This means choosing the key time, but not the instant. The time, and the light: the savour, the climate, the peak moment when the place reveals itself at last.
This means taking photographs and using the dark-room as a moment for a visual "solidifying", within a story without any prearranged plot-line. Partly because what is involved is not a "telling to": rather, this is a story which is made up and makes itself known as it goes along, creating its meaning from within, a meaning which is full of powerful ambiguities, and resonances, with implications which can deciphered only a posteriori, when the work is actually done, in the different but no less intense time of the studio.

What Luca takes back to the studio are not images of travel, but a sense of that flow, the beat of that experience. It is only here that the images are truly brought into being. Their author looks afresh, and screens things out. This is no longer a process of immersion, of marvelling, but burnishing that sense of wonder, that experience. This is done with a loving, ferocious, critical sifting, with the harshness of one seeking a sense of poetry, not straightforward narrative.
The material is refined, and settles, purged of all hint of declamation, of all traces of triteness, becoming critical of the implications of photographic culture itself, of the professional rules of the game – to which Campigotto does not intend to bow except through free, self-made and highly individualized choice. He is a photographer: there is a contemporary pleasure in photography which does not need to be exorcised, but by which we must not allow ourselves to be taken over. He is an artist, but he does not want to swell the ranks of those engaging in discussions of aesthetics – there are too many of them already.
His being elsewhere, being otherwise, is a decision and a vital strategy, from which his images must spring. Images, not photographs. In black and white, in the good authoritative way, because that is how it is. Through computer screening too, why not? Technology is technology, no more no less. Creating deeply meaningful images is a far more satisfying undertaking than being an acclaimed photographer...
Eugenio Montale – great man of the Mediterranean – brought forth the Motets from the most ordinary words. Like him, Campigotto, absorbed in the "dust of the evening" seems to say: "I seek the lost sign".
 

in FMR, nr. 17, 2007

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