February 15, 2021
Photography by Enzo Crispino
Interview by Melanie Meggs
Enzo Crispino does not consider himself a photographer, but an interpreter of photography. He was born in Frattamaggiore (Naples), Italy and lives in the province of Reggio Emilia. He has been admitted for artistic merits to the International Academy of Modern Art in Rome, and has received the Diploma al Merito in Art from the Accademia di Significazione Poesia e Arte Contemporanea of Rome. His work has been published in well known magazines and he had two photo books published by a commercial publisher. Enzo shared with us a series of photos from his project EIGHT HOURS.
"[...] to bring the eye back to see the things that are there, where they are, to cleanse the gaze of too much metaphorical and symbolic lacquer. Go back to looking.”
This quote is from the photographer that I consider my master. One of his most important books entitled Lezioni di Fotografia (Lessons in Photography) invites you to look before you take a picture, with a different spirit, that is, to look, question and interpret. Before I read this book, photography for me was just a hobby and not a real passion, you feel this change when you perceive the need for a growth, an evolution that helps you not to get stuck in a specific photographic field and encourages you to try to break out of the usual guidelines to produce a technically good photo.
IN CONVERSATION WITH ENZO CRISPINO
TPL: Enzo you have shared with us your special documentary project EIGHT HOURS. What is this about?
EC: These fifteen photos are part of a project with the same name composed of eighty five images, which I realized in the small metalworking company where I have been working for 22 years as a turner on machine tools. The “Eight Hours” project that I present is inspired by an idea based on two considerations: the massive transfer of production and the increasing automation of all processes in the sector that have had a strong impact on the workforce employed, both eliminating it and reducing its role. In this project I wanted to give a nostalgic imprint, using tones that would help me to imagine this metalworking company no longer operational, but only as an exhibition space; its ultimate utility function. Ample spaces are offered to visitors, where its previous appearance is shown, leaving these spaces now destined to cultivate 'memory'.
It was important for me to emphasise the enormous loss of skills created in these small engineering companies, which were very widespread in northern Italy where these manual skills were fundamental, while today with the digitization and robotization of the industrial process they are no longer needed. In this way we will lose forever the great training school of the mechanical engineering world.
My intention is to induce all of us to question ourselves about the negative effects that globalisation inevitably brings with its relentless pursuit of profit as an absolute goal. Cultural roots and memory make us emerge for our place, our history and cultural diversification, are a heritage and a wealth that people of every place cannot afford to lose, beyond which there is only homologation.
TPL: The negative impact of globalisation has thrown uncertainty over our smaller industries worldwide. You personally are being impacted. What would you like the viewer to experience when they see these images? What would you like for them to take away from this? What did this project reveal about yourself?
EC: When I decided to create the photographic project “Otto Ore” (Eight Hours) I posed many questions, the prevailing one was whether it would be useful to produce it. In those photos I brought a small reality out of the context of the world of metalworking, unknown to most people, made of old machinery and tools whose use is not familiar to everybody. Certainly I would not have produced anything original, since photographs and books on the world of work and industrial architecture have existed for a long time, a masterful example is the reportage on Pittsburg that the American photographer W. Eugene Smith did for Magnum in 1955, or the important research of the German couple Bernd and Hilla Becher.
Nevertheless I wanted to talk about 'my' world of work, a daily school that teaches us to know and love what work is and to discover that there is also the culture of work. That culture made of territorial identity of the world of work that unfortunately we are losing with the advent of the new dogma of 'globalisation' in the 2000s. In these photos, where I have taken pictures of details of machine tools that I use every day, I wanted to connote it with a choice of a particular chromatism that would induce a nostalgic sense, even to those who observe them and are not familiar with this small but important world of work. I think that a small result has been to draw attention to such a particular subject.
An Italian publisher decided to make it into an editorial project by publishing a book with the same title. The project has also received the attention of several photo magazines in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, England, and Australia, plus a personal exhibition of three months in my home town during the 13th edition of the Festival of Photography and Fotografia Europea 2019 Reggio Emilia, sponsored by the same municipal body.
TPL: You do not consider yourself a photographer but an interpreter of photography? Can you explain what you mean?
EC: In the beginning, photography was just a simple hobby for me, I didn't pose any questions, I just took pictures because I liked what I saw and it attracted my attention. As time went by, this hobby turned into something more important that stimulated me to go deeper. I felt the need to fill my gaps in photographic technique, but even after this study I was still dissatisfied. I didn't feel the photos I took were mine, I perceived them as anonymous, cold images, far from me without a personal identification. By reading books on photography I decided to study chromaticism and how to interpret it differently in photography. In one of them, a book by one of the great masters of Italian photography, Luigi Ghirri, the author described what photography was for him. He said, "Photography is not pure duplication or a chronometer of the eye that stops the physical world, but it is also a language in which the difference between reproduction and interpretation, no matter how subtle, exists and gives rise to an infinity of imaginary worlds."
It was revelatory for me, it was the answer to my continuous dissatisfaction, his thought gave me the way to understand that photography has different languages. Taking a picture is not only to freeze forever a moment, but in it we have the possibility to transfer any emotion, feeling, or mood, artistically reinterpreting that moment with our own sensitivity and making it unique, so it will never be just a photograph as an end in itself.
TPL: When did you first discover your love for photography?
EC: My encounter with photography was completely accidental, during a driving vacation to England in the summer of 1990. At that time I had bought a compact Ricoh camera without any ambition but only to bring home some memories. During the vacation I remember the moment when we were in Avebury visiting the Stone Circle, I asked a friend if he would let me see through the viewfinder of his Minolta Reflex camera the scenario in which we were immersed and I clearly remember the huge wonder I felt. At the end of the vacation I decided to get started with the hobby of photography by buying my first low-cost reflex camera, a Canon 1000.
TPL: In general, your photography feels incredibly personal, focusing on storytelling and pulling the viewer into your inner thoughts. What do you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
EC: I have been asked this question many times on other occasions and this has always been a reason for me to feel embarrassed; I am afraid of appearing inappropriate, of giving a presumptuous image of myself. I don't intentionally seek to create an intimate photograph: it is a natural inclination deriving from the fascination I have for poetry. When I visit certain places (e.g. the interior of a house or a beach), before taking the photos, my eyes observe and are guided by the verses I have in my mind to build the new project, and the photos come by themselves, without ever looking for the perfect photo.
I have never been interested in producing a perfect shot. I've always been looking for one thing only, namely that photography should give me an emotion even in its imperfection. That same imperfection which has always been present in my photographs. For some time I had been trying to find my own way in color, something in which I could recognize myself, and I found it in the dominant yellow that I wanted to always be perceptible in my photos.
TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?
EC: In 2015 I had to take a pause for reflection, unable to take pictures anymore, and feeling the need for a change, something giving me new life in taking up the camera again. While preparing my first photographic project, I realized that I needed something giving it some 'consistency' to avoid building up a simple sequence of images as an end in itself, even if well structured. I then recalled a poem by the Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti entitled 'Wake' that I had studied at school. I associated my photos with the verses and realized that they fit together perfectly. Since then, in each of my new projects I try (but do not always succeed) to blend poetry and photography together. I think that conceptual photography inspired by a poem, or a free excerpt of some verses, gives more depth to the work itself. This analysis process fascinates me, and I need it to find the answers I am looking for. Photography can also be not merely a matter of photos, but an association of two fields combined to create something new. Poetry has since then become my first inspiration in thinking and preparing photographic projects. Like many others, I have my favourite poets from whom I take inspiration: Alda Merini, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pablo Neruda, Gabriele D' Annunzio.
TPL: Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
EC: I have never thought that a camera could give a particular contribution to the vision in photography and I have never chosen an SLR camera just for its brand. On the contrary, I've always had a strong curiosity in photography. It has made me realise that if you don't have photography in your mind first, you will never have it in your eyes. I've never been attracted by special techniques in taking pictures or preference of focal lengths. Depending on the situation I've always set the one I thought was most suitable. I have been photographing for seven years with a mirrorless Olympus E-M1 and always with a single lens mounted, the Olympus Pro 12-40mm f2.8.
TPL: When you go out to photograph, do you have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just 'come to you', or is it both?
EC: The concept that I want to transpose into images since I began to produce photographic projects is already present in my mind when I take a picture. Later on when I am on a site, I let myself be moved by my state of mind in that moment and I interpret the original concept that I had in mind. Only this way I can create a photograph that is as personal and true as I seek it to be.
TPL: Have you ever been involved in the creative world before photography?
EC: I've always been fascinated by art, visiting exhibitions and museums. Thanks to my passion for photography, this has given me a further opportunity to learn it more thoroughly, relating with many artists during the participation in collective national and international exhibitions representing a fruitful and important cultural exchange.