by david campany
from the catalogue of the exhibition “Anonymes” curated by David Campany and Diane Dufour, Le Bal space, Paris, 2010.
In 2009 and 2010 Arianna Arcara and Luca Santese made trips to Detroit not to photograph but to gather discarded images found outside the countless deserted buildings. The project is an informal archive of hundreds images from the 1970s and 1990s, when the decline of the city was beginning. They appear to have been taken by the Police or other state authorities as evidente of various crimes, accidents, suspect and victims, mostly in poor neighbourhoods. Abandoned to the heat, cold and damp the photos have begun to discolour and decay. In this condition they too become traces of two historical moments, the first recorded by the photos as images, the second recorded by the photos as fragile material object. In addition Found Photos in Detroit may also turn out to be testament to a last moment when such photographic images were actually produced as physical objects. In the future the discovery of found photographs may well be a matter of recovering them from discarded digital hard-drives, CD’s and old computers.
Given the veneration of the amateur image in contemporary culture it is not surprising that photographers and artists have become acutely aware that vernacular snapshot may have a plainspoken immediacy that can be more forceful than their own images (almost any found photo has a degree of enigma and pathos about it, particularly a damaged one). But there are risks in simply re-presenting found images, abstracting their apparent naivetè into an emotional clichè. Arcara and Santese’s methodical yet speculative assembly of these found photos into subcategories balances the easy sentimentality of each images against the intellectual process of editing and ordering, asking the viewer to consider the greater whole from which each is derived. Photographic images are a part of the daily experience of the visual landscape and avoiding them is almost impossibile. To photograph a street, public building or a private residence will almost always involve photographing photographs.
Again this was confronted by Walker Evans who reflected upon the ubiquity of photographs by strategically including them in own images on billboards, in window displays and in homes. Near the end of his working life he was asked about the relation between his habits as a collector tand his photography. “It’s almost the same thing” he replied. Occasionally, he took a photograph of an object and then literally took the object with him from where he found it. Old roadside signs were particular favorites, perhaps because they blur the boundary between object and image (he even exhibited his found signs alongside his own photographs). But Evans had a deeper parallel in mind. At their most similar collecting and photographing entail accumulation, a faith in the object, but also an understanding that the act of re-presenting is fundamentally transformative. As early as 1993 Evans was using anonymous press photos alongside of his own images.
This is most palpable in Evans’s approach to family snapshots in the sequence he made for the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), his collaboration with James Agee, in the house of the Tingle Family in Hale County, Alabama, Evans took a photograph of two snapshots nailed to a weatherboard wall. In one, a barefoot woman in a plain dress is stending in a field; in the other, four children play in the dirt (they may be family memebers but we cannot be sure). The snapshot are tattered, faded and fragile whereas Evans’s image that reproduces them is bold. Graphic and uncompromising. The curator Jeff Rosenheim suggests it “derives its potency from Evans’s bold act of resurrection.” The found image can be given a newly allegorical significance either by being rephotographed, or simply re-presented.
Arianna Arcara was born in Monza, Italy, in 1984. She studied photography at the European Institute of Design (IED) in Milan. Here she was awarded a scholarship by the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. After graduating from university, she started to assist Magnum photographer Alex Majoli. In 2006 she co-founded WITH Cesura, an independent photography group. In 2009 she was selected for “Young Blood 09 Annual selection of Italian talents in the world”. In 2010 she won “Canon young photographer award” with her project “Woodward silence” and she was selected for Riccardo Pezza Award with her project “Po / The River”. In the same year she exhibits her “Found Photos in Detroit” project at Le Bal Space in Paris and in 2011 at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. In 2012, following the exhibition, “Found Photos in Detroit” was published. According to several ranks, it was considered among one of the best books of that year. In 2013 she was selected to take part at “plat(T)form 2013”, an annual selection of rising european photographers at the Winterthur Fotomuseum. In 2014 her project “Found Photos in Detroit” was selected by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger to be part of “The photo book: a History, Volume III”. Her work has been shown at: Spazio Forma / Milan, Triennale / Milan, Le Bal Space / Paris, MoCP/Chicago, Kulturhuset / Stockholm and others. In september 2014 her “Carte de visite” project, curated by Roberta Pagani and proposed by Turin based NOPX | limitededitionpics won Compagnia di San Paolo’s artistic residences announcement CAP 10152.
Luca Santese (1985) was born and grew up in Milan area. He studied at Monza’s Art institute and at the Fine Arts Academy of Brera in Milan. While attending academy he worked like assistant in Alex Majoli’s studio. In 2008 he launches and became a member of Cesura group. Cesura are a photographers group representing projects. The concept of the project is to create a strong and independent group capable to work on quality and artistic research. In 2009 he won Photolucida Critical Mass International new talent photographers Award. In 2010 he won World Press Photo price with his project “Detroit 2009-2010”. In the same year he exhibits his “Found Photos in Detroit” project at Le Bal Space in Paris and in 2011 at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. In 2012, following the exhibition, “Found Photos in Detroit” was published. In 2014 his project “Found Photos in Detroit” was selected by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger to be part of “The photo book: a History, Volume III”. His work has been published and exhibited in Europe, Russia and United States.