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The exhibition by Jacopo Benassi will open on April 20, 2017 at Micamera, in Milan. The title is:
THE EYES CAN SEE WHAT THE MOUTH CAN NOT SAY
Which is also the title of Benassi’s recent book, released by Berlin-based imprint Peperoni Books.
Jacopo Benassi is an Italian author. Info on the author, the exhibition and the book here
Micamera asked Raffaele Vertaldi and Francesco M. Cataluccio to choose three images and make a little interview to Benassi.
Raffaele Vertaldi works with photography since the year 2000, teaches at C.F.P Bauer in Milan and is IL’s photo editor since the very first issue. He curates the Portfolio section for the website.
Francesco M. Cataluccio is an essayist and writer who lives and works in Milan, Venice and Warsaw.
THREE QUESTIONS TO JACOPO BENASSI
BY FRANCESCO M. CATALUCCIO
FMC: What strucks is the strength of the light of your flash, underlined by the black and white of the images. What does this ‘dazzling light’ mean to you?
JB: My master, Sergio Fregoso, used to say: “You do not add a light to the one that already exists – instead, you create a new light, erasing completely the one that existed before”
I think there is no other photographer who could understand me better. I am aware this is also a limit, as it implies giving up other possibilities of looking at what surrounds me, but I cannot do differently: I am addicted to my flash!
FMC: Your portraits often show a particular section of eyes and mouth. You declared your affinity for Ando Gilardi’s texts on photography. In which way did they inspire your work?
JB: Ando Gilardi, like Sergio who introduced him to me, has been very important to me. His texts on criminal portraits, Wanted! (Bruno Mondadori 2003, only in Italian) and on photography in general, like Meglio ladro che fotografo (Better thief than photographer, only in Italian, released by Bruno Mondadori, 2007) were particularly relevant in my education.
Nevertheless, I do not think they influenced my portraits.
They have been extremely important readings and encounters. I remember when my friend (and photographer) Sara Fregoso took me to Ando’s village, Ponzone nelle Langhe, and introduced me to him. Gilardi showed us an old book on art imitating art (K. E. Maison, Themes and variations, Five centuries of master copies and interpretations, Thames and Hudson, 1960) that really freaked me out.
Reading Gilardi’s books had been interesting, but meeting him in person was like an acid trip! Fantastic!
To answer your question, I would say that when shooting I prefer people to be serious and ask them not to laugh, as my inspiration is the thousands of sculptures you see in Museums: to me, it is as if I was carving some general back from the front lines! To me, portraits are not some kind of joke!
In this exhibition at Micamera (and in the book) I present a series of portraits of people looking. A different way of looking.
I am more like a reporter being caught while taking a snapshot.
FMC: Amidst the crowded club, some of your older works can be seen hanging on the walls. There is one in which you carry slippers in your hands; more slippers are in other pictures: melancholic and clumsy, a little sloppy. What do these peculiar portraits represent and why are they important in your depiction of reality?
JB: As a boy, I did not wear slippers, as I was ashamed of my feet and used to hide them. Later, when I realized why I was doing this, slippers became important to me: they are linked to my way of looking at the world – which I had denied for a long time. This emerged exactly when I understood where to find my light. I made a limited edition book on slippers (Slippers, Talkinass 2013): I bought slippers and mule slippers of any kind. When I thought I had collected enough, I photographed them all. Afterwards, I sold the collection to some German fetishist to pay my rent in Milan.
Anyway, back to the slippers pictures, I must say I like looking at myself in slippers and when I take pictures of someone I might ask them to wear slippers!
THREE QUESTIONS TO JACOPO BENASSI
BY RAFFAELE VERTALDI
RV: Looking at the images in the book, I couldn’t help thinking of Hedi Slimane’s Rock Diary – a quite emblematic case of how glamour imaginary can flirt with daily life…and given the most obvious differences, your photographs seem to be a much less licked clean, more sentimental work. Beyond comparisons – that might also not mean much – my question is: today, do you think that photography can still be the instrument for a pure gaze, not influenced by trends, independent, with no hidden aim? And, if so, does it still make sense?
JB: It does if you learn to turn down things: you can thus obtain a good job. We all take pictures and we can all make a good picture, but this is not enough. I sometimes see incredible works that make me queasy! Let me tell you what happened to me last year: I was in a club in Turin and was looking at the boy shooting the pictures for the social. I could tell he was shooting interesting photos so I started taking very simple images of people not looking at the camera. I started without really realizing what I was doing, I cannot call it an idea – I did not have the idea of shooting bad pictures – it was more like a physical need, and the awareness of making simple photographs made the work PURE. To answer your question, yes, among the orgy of photographs and photographers you still find the pure ones.
RV: This image reminds me of the final scene of The Graduate (1967). I don’t think I am a reactionary – I still believe (as hard as it might sometimes be) democracy is the best possible government, and I also believe everybody has the right to express his/her opinion. Nevertheless, at times I wonder: what do we do with all this freedom?
JB: That movie is a must-see, even if only for the soundtrack – that includes Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence!
I love music, I wish I was a musician but I never learned to play any instrument and never will. This said, I always loved freedom. I have been free – did not go through middle school (quite evidently) because I wanted to be independent. I have been an auto mechanic from 15 to 23; I really liked it at the beginning, then it started to be dreary, I felt caged eight hours a day. Freedom was only when I took up the camera and photographed. Today it is still – and even more – so.
I try to use this freedom wisely, as it can also be dangerous!
RV: Today, most photographs are shot quite superficially – which is a self-explanatory issue – but I still believe that every photograph is a self-portrait and, at the same time, that we take pictures to possess something. I might be mistaking, but beyond the possibility of telling us your story, in this work I feel your need to preserve the memory more than simply documenting something. Through these pictures, you still possess Btomic and its regulars with their coats, the piled up chairs and tables, the decorated and even the battered corners. Or is the Btomic still possessing you?
JB: Every photograph is a self portrait. Btomic was also the result of my need to build a container, a place where things would happen, a theatre where things happening were real, not planned beforehand. We built the historic memory of a place where unique things would take place, and I have simply been documenting. Let’s call it a family album. Things have an end and I never look back! It’s wonderful to know that when I take a picture, there’s still a little bit of Btomic in it and that’s why I am not wistful.
Maybe we belong to each other!