Maurizio Galimberti, celebrated master of the Polaroid camera, lands in Venice until May 12th 2013 with retrospective "Paesaggio Italia" (Landscape of Italy). 150 images, accompanied by a book, that retrace his personal Grand Tour of the peninsula. From the early 90s to today, this project joins for the first time all the creative forms he experimented with the instant camera: from the intimacy of single snapshots, to the mosaic compositions that made him famous, or the ready-made photographic objects, up to a manipulation that plays with the chemical and material nature of the Polaroid picture. The exhibition in Venice also re-presents samples of the first black and white Impossible film. We took advantage of the occasion to speak with him about his creative path, the secrets of his original techniques and to find out what fuels his research.
Alberobello, Futur Trulli Dancing, 2012
How did your love for instant camera begin?I started exploring photography at 14 and up until I was 25 I worked with a reflex. At 26 I decided to abandon the dark room, because I could no longer stand the thought of being in the dark and dealing with acids that irritated my hands. But I couldn’t abandon photography. My only alternative was the Polaroid. Ever since then it has become like an extension of my body and mind. The more I grew culturally, the more my photographic tool matured with me, expanding my horizons.
What are the moments that most marked your expressive research?They are mostly stories of encounters. The first occurred with the elaboration of the mosaic technique. Not long before I conceived it, artistic photography historian and critic Giuliana Scimè told me that if I could manage to combine my images with a form and an aesthetic, then I would be successful in my project.
The second stems from a portrait I did in 1992 of artist Luigi Veronesi. He found my photos enveloping and contemporary: in them he saw elements of Futurism and flashes of Marcel Duchamp’s "Nude descending a staircase". He encouraged me to continue my research.
The third happened when I met Dennis Curti in the early 90s, who is now one of the most important figures of Italian photography. Thanks to him I understood the importance of a rigorous gaze in each single shot. He opened up a world of stimuli that I funneled into my first book "Viaggio in Italia", written between 1993 and 2001 and edited by Logos in 2003.
But the moment of highest professional visibility took place in 2003, with my portrait of Johnny Depp for the Venice Film Festival, which became the cover of Time magazine.
What does this kinetic energy, that on an expressive level has its roots in art history, tell us about you on a personal level?It speaks about my unease and my passion for music, which I cannot pursue due to being unable to remain still. With my mosaics I try to make music with photography, dividing the space into particles and arranging it like sheet music. The more I penetrate it the more I enrich it with my vision. Like Glenn Gould with the Goldberg Variations. The first time he played them it took him 35 minutes. After 26 years, the same sheet had become 51: in those 16 minutes is his music.
Other works of his evoke painting or sculpture…In trades such as painting, sculpting, photography or cinema, the intention and conception of projects is the same, only the expressive medium changes. Contaminations of various artistic fields take place. For example, I’ve done homage pieces to Brancusi and Mondrian. They are homages to show how I was inspired by their poetic and how I re-elaborated it. I do not consider myself a photographer but a painter who uses photography.
You use various methods of analog manipulation of images. Can you tell us, in practice, the magic of this process?Some years ago, somebody placed a Polaroid integral film onto a vase full of lead, noticing that it left a mark. For the first time it was understand that you can manipulate a Polaroid shot. In fact, its 23 chemical and material layers develop in sequence, forming the image, and we can modify it. Technically it isn’t difficult: you place a Polaroid on a hard surface and you alter it with the cap of a pen or a small spatula. You have 2 minutes to do this, from the moment the image starts forming. It’s in this phase that you can see ones aesthetic sensibility.
With the new Impossible film this manipulation mechanism becomes more complex, but it allows me to explore new languages.
Milano, Galleria Cupolosa Futurdinamica, 2009
What new frontiers would you like to explore with this tool now?I am working with model Arianna Grimoldi on a project that revisits avant-garde nudes. The project is called "Aridadakalimba" and is composed of old b&w 50x60 cm Polaroids. I’ll try to transfer the cosmic spaceyness I look for in the image of architecture onto the portrait.
What human relation do you install with the people you portray and how to you try to approach them in doing so?When I do a portrait, I almost place my camera on the subject’s face. If I had any referential awe, I wouldn’t be able to do this. The relationship is immediate because there is little time. It’s like throwing a penalty kick: you're either able and you make it or you don’t. It resembles Lucio Fontana’s Spatialism, where with a slash he would try to make the empty space on the canvas concrete. Or the concept that Henri Cartier-Bresson called "the bite of a mosquito": that instant that captures a person and conveys them to posterity through other emotions. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, it depends on how full of themselves the subjects are.
One of the fundamental turning points in your career was meeting Italian designer Cesare Cassina. What were the biggest lessons he imparted?When I was very small my father worked with Cesare Cassina. He was a big photography and design collector. A man of great culture in a small town like Meda was an exception. He founded and launched design brand Cassina, one of the most important in the world. It was a great privilege to spend time with him and discover his enthusiasm for his design projects and art in general. He opened up an otherwise unknown world to me. He was the one who made me understand that the histories of design, photography, painting and art are all connected by a common thread.
Roma, Colosseo Movimentoso, 2011
What values do you attempt to transmit during your workshops?First of all I try to explain my point of view. Without creating clones, I try to teach them that before designing a personal work, one has to study. Because if they believe they are better than the masters that came before us, they might as well abandon the craft. We live in an age of rewriting: Bruno Monari would say that if we think we’ve invented something new, it’s better to drop it, because someone has already thought of it, and discarded the idea. But a language can be enriched with new nuances and structures. As Calvino would say: "imagination is like jam, you have to spread it on a solid piece of bread".
Is the explosion of apps that simulate lomographic photography digitally bringing something new in expressive terms?They bring something expressive if those using them have a project. Otherwise they are just a game, an end to themselves. On Instagram even the photos of a child become visually interesting, but it’s a trick…
What is elegance to you?If we’re talking about my photographs, elegance is an aesthetic element that gives added value to a work and goes beyond it. It’s what makes the spectator dream.
Photos © Maurizio Galimberti
Intervista di Fabio Falzone
Benicio Del Toro
Lady Gaga, Las Vegas, 2010
Robert De Niro
Javier Ángel Encínas Bardem
Moran Atias, 2006
Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti
Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti
Campo Santo Stefano, 2842
Exhibition curated by Benedetta Donato
From February 16th to May 12th 2013
Tuesday - Sunday 10,00am – 7,00pm
Exceptionally open on Monday April 1st
Information and reservations:
Tel. +39 041 8620761