Reportage, Lisbon, 07.2018
Photo: Pedro Guimaraes
Text: Federico Clavarino

You're an artist. Was working for a company a new experience for you? Working for a company was a new experience for me, even though it didn't differ very much from how I approach my own research projects. There were two main differences: firstly, someone else suggested where to begin and, secondly, the timescale was far tighter, forcing me to improvise more. Other than that I was free to do what I liked. No-one told me just to take photographs of the furniture, or gave me examples of what the company had in mind. On the contrary, I was able to cooperate with (the studio) Juma, creative director of the project, working together on the concept of the photoshoot before applying a method of artistic research on the objects themselves and on Luigi Caccia Dominioni's rich heritage of designs. For me, photography is a means of holding things captive so they can be observed and understood, but also a way of completely rethinking them. To that end I was given the opportunity of working with very splendid objects and the commission gave me the perfect excuse to take a step back and adopt the stance of a listener.

“The intention was to let the pieces blend into the city as far as possible so that the end result was a constant crossover between the two, resulting in an oscillation between furniture and the city, design and architecture, abstract shapes and people in motion.”

Luigi Caccia Dominioni’s fame, the history of the city of Milan and its inextricable ties to design, are these all new areas of research for you? They are all completely new but I adopted a tried-and-tested approach in my work. Neither Luigi Caccia Dominioni nor Milan were well-known to me and nor are design and architecture areas of my research. However, I find myself continually confronted by these fields from multiple angles, given their close association with photography. Indeed, that was my starting point: a study of the shapes of the Azucena furniture collection and a perambulation of Caccia's buildings in Milan over the course of several days that enabled me to understand how his architectural work has been assimilated into the city. That experience allowed me to take photographs in which I tried to integrate the urban aspects and the physical gestures of the city's citizens with the shapes and energy I perceived in the furniture. On top of this I tried to understand the emotional power of Milan and capture its atmosphere in my images. I used these long walks - one of them over 30 km in distance - to note down places I felt would work as settings for the furniture in the days immediately ahead. The intention was to let the pieces blend into the city as far as possible so that the end result was a constant crossover between the two, resulting in an oscillation between furniture and the city, design and architecture, abstract shapes and people in motion.

“Every meaningful encounter is something that produces resonance in me, it is an echo of something that is waiting to be solved. I could easily speak in these terms of my meeting with the work of Caccia Dominioni.”

From a professional perspective, what has this experience given you? When I consider my career, it's hard to link it to one single profession. I can't talk about myself as simply being a photographer, artist or teacher, even though these are all areas I work in. I like to think of it all as an adventure or the ebb and flow of the sea lapping on many shores with, at its heart, something invisible and profound. This thought gives me the freedom to shift my attention with ease between different things and yet remain focused. Working on something very meaningful resonates deep inside me, creating a reverberation that calls to be answered. I could easily talk about the impact Caccia's work has had on me in such ways - it has created a relationship which I would like to explore and expand to include architecture. I recognise the harmony between his buildings and the urban context in which they are located which I find extremely interesting: the way the buildings provide continuity with the city's pre-existing structures, the way a site's specific features are respected, the echoes and reinterpretations, the historical reworking of modernity, the interchange between industry and craftsmanship, the concept of a house "built from the inside out" and the importance given to both project and planning.

Federico Clavarino

After attending a Master Course in literature and creative writing at Alessandro Baricco’s Scuola Holden, in 2007 he moved to Madrid where he started studying photography at Blank Paper Escuela with Fosi Vegue. Two years later he was already working on his photography projects, and in 2010 he published his first short essay, La Vertigine. His first book, Ukraina Pasport, came out the following year, receiving the PhotoEspaña Honourable Mention as best book of 2011. At the same time he began working as a teacher at Blank Paper Escuela, where he taught until 2017. In 2012 he was selected for Pla(t)form, at Winterthur Fotomuseum. In September 2014 the London-based publisher Akina Books brought out his second book, Italia o Italia. The work received good reviews from a number of critics and the photographs were exhibited in 2015 at the International Photography Festival of Rome. In April 2016 Dalpine published his third book, The Castle, which was exhibited within the ofcial programme of various festivals (PhotoEspaña in 2016, Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2017) and in galleries (Viasaterna in Milan, Temple in Paris, Espace JB in Geneva) around Europe.
Another of his current projects, Hereafter, received the La Caixa Foundation Fotopres grant in 2014. The work was exhibited at CaixaForum in Barcelona and Madrid in 2017 and will soon be made into a book. Since 2016 he is represented by Viasaterna. He currently teaches and lectures internationally, collaborating with museums (MACRO in Rome, CCCB in Barcelona, Museo San Telmo in San Sebastian), schools (ISSP in Latvia, D.O.O.R. and Officine Fotografiche in Rome) and universities (Leeds University, Universidad de Navarra