Tuesday, 17 January 2012

ALESSANDRA CHILA INTERVIEW


Carpenters Road, London 2007



Channelsea River, London 2007


When did you start working on the Olympian Visions and what did trigger that particular project?

I started working on the Olympian Visions at the beginning of 2007. At the time I was living in Leyton, nearby the Orient Football, the allotments, Clays Lane Housing Cooperative and the travelers site. Since London had won the bid, a lot of people became suddenly at threat of loosing their homes and the routine of their lives. Everything happened so quickly: eviction letters, compulsory purchase orders, enclosure of the area with the now well known 11 miles blue fence. At the time I was part of the group called Gamesmonitor, so I was constantly up to date on how the process of the regeneration was rapidly changing people’s lives and the territory. The Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Development Agency treated the area as if it were a blank canvas with no respect of the history or the already existing communities. I therefore felt the urgency to document the micro-cosmos of the area, the coexistence of the different communities and the variety of activities, the natural landscape and the industrial one.

How can you explain the versatility of your visions as they depict multiple styles of photography from portraiture to details all encapsulated within a landscape feel.

Since the beginning of the project my intention was to look at the regeneration process ongoing in the territory as one that was both spatial as well as social. It was important for me to never loose the connection between the people living in the area and the area itself. What was happening in the Lower Lea Valley was quite unique. You could pass from the industrial landscape quite dusty and dirty, characterized by strong smell of varnish and machinery, to non-manicured natural landscapes with all the networks of canals and free playgrounds. This kind of landscape had made it possible for different typologies of people to coexist: from travelers to church communities, walkers, bird watchers, bikers, factory workers, allotments keepers and so on. My purpose with the Olympian Visions was to recreate and to narrate visually this interaction between the land and the community whilst questioning the logic of regeneration.
Most of the topographical views have been constructed in the post-production process in order to raise awareness or give meaning to the space and the figures present in it. I wanted to create a self-conscious composition in which all the details acquired meaning when seen altogether.
Meanwhile, the portraits, the still life images and the street views functioned like small capsules extracted from the wider composition of the landscape images. On one hand they gave a different and more personal introspection to the visual narrative of the project, on the other hand I used them to break from what could have been a distant and dissociated approach to the place.


Hackney Marshes, London 2007

 
Clays Lane, London 2007

How do you interpret the recent inclusion of text and how does it work?

It was really important to combine text and image together in this project.  It allowed me to uncover the logic of regeneration and conveys specific meanings, which would have been difficult to transmit just through the image. The text forces the reader/viewer to peer into the photographs and question not only what they are looking at, but also the content of the text itself. In a certain way, in this project it is not the image that comes to clarify the text, but the text, which comes to rationalize the image.
A photograph has a visual narrative made of symbols, of signs. Each viewer can interpret this narrative in relation to his/her own background. So, for example, the image of the car mechanics can be interpreted by some as an example of small local business, a reminder to the industrial landscape of the Lower Lea Valley. But by others it can clearly represent a chaotic and unsafe workplace, which needs to be dismantled and regenerated. The meaning of an image can also be distorted by the way it is presented and, especially, by its platform of distribution. When I first started to exhibit some of the photographs from the Olympian Visions in the art gallery contexts it was clear at that stage that the photographs could have easily become another product to consume, possibly part of the same discourse of urban regeneration I was questioning.
The production of the photographs for a gallery space also assumed a buyer and therefore an art market with all its limitations, but above all a limited public.The decision to produce some postcards (with image on the front and text on the back) has therefore been the conclusion to a long process of thoughts, which focused on the crafty nature of the photograph and on the paradoxes of the art market. The postcard finally represents a way to open up the discussion on the process of urban regeneration to a wider public and, therefore, serves better the purposes of this project.
 

Where does documentary photography stand today according to you?

This is quite a wide topic to be discussed within this interview. What I can briefly say is that we are in a very interesting moment for photography in general. The digitalisation of the image, the where and how we experience the photograph have opened the way to a whole new way of looking and thinking photography. The credibility of the photograph as a mere reproduction of reality is constantly questioned and rather than being a reproduction, it becomes a creation of reality. I do not see this as a problem, but it certainly uncovers and threatens one of the most fundamental assimilation that defines a photograph as a reliable recording tool. If we would start looking at Photography as a creative discipline such as painting or sculpture, then we would have to re-formulate the question: what is documentary photography?


Cadogan Terrace, London 2007





Greenway, London 2007

No comments:

Post a comment