by Steve Bisson

Passi carrai the eye scans symbolically charged environments, cracks and pieces of urban spaces that, through your lens, gain a well-defined poetic language. It is like being in a place belonging to everyone and no one at the same time…

Fulvio Bortolozzo (FB): Yes, the idea of the driveways appeared to me as a possible series when thinking about the typical shots of Luigi Ghirri. These are in fact urban structures that create real scenes in central perspective, most of the time empty, except for the short passages of cars and their drivers before and after they parked. In this sense they are also symbolic of a contemporary universal condition: spaces increasingly dedicated to specific functions, and consequently more and more “uninhabitable”. Looking at the city through these structures is  meant to look “straight in the eye” at those real existential suspensions in which I feel continuously immersed. A sort of film constantly interrupted by voids which overlook the giddiness of a certain absurdity of life. It’s like walking on the edge of the ravine, with a mixture of attraction and repulsion.

© Fulvio Bortolozzo from the series 'Passi Carrai', 2011

What choices did you make to express conditions that characterize the acts of land developement in your country?

FB: Habitat italiano is a series that has its roots in the ongoing work Scene di Passaggio (Soap Opera). This is a chronological sequence of places visited by a Soap Opera in which I play the role of protagonist. Among the rules that I have given for this performance, there is an intention of creating a large format image (4x5 “) when I meet by chance a point of tension. An unavoidable contact between the place and its resonation in my mind. The idea that sustains me is that this is a practical way to dispence the need of saying something consciously precise, and to finally give an inner space to a new and unexpected form of knowledge. When I restrict this method to a specific territory, as in the case of Olimpia series, I can build a map of intersections between the perceptible characters of the place and the point where I position myself within them. A crossing, a "transition” during which I can extract, from time and space, optical and plausible traces that simultaneously represent a form of self-portrait. Thus places live as reflections in my eyes, with all the bias and also the authenticity of the facts. In these scenes, often empty, the provisional order is imposed by my transit, acknowledging their eventual constitutive disorder which often abounds within contemporary Italian urban landscape.

© Fulvio Bortolozzo from the series 'Un Habitat Italiano', 2008

To continue the argument, I must clarify that photography is to me a form of experience that allows questioning of one’s own way of dealing with things. In this sense, the classical perspective helps me as an anchor to a cultural system, western humanism, which gives me the measure or balancing  point between my more subjective instincts and a bare optical appearance that is culturally acceptable and realistic. This is an arbitrary choice, not better or worse than others. However, I feel it as essential to take photographs that appear as inevitable photographs, or traces and as much as possible, be “transparent” to what I perceive directly with the eyes. For these reasons, any visual novelty that can meet my photography must emerge directly in the field, without any manipulation while shooting or in post-production. At least not beyond the threshold of plausibility, which for me is the border line between a photograph and a traditional graphic image. Needless to say, that I am not so interested in what I would call “Return to Pictorialism”, that is the search of a style that attempts to surprise through the adoption, as in the past, of solutions that mimic painting, but rather in the  styles and "fingerprint” of historical photography. Finally a word about the vernacular. I fear that often behind the choice of subjects there is unfortunately a lot of academy. As in the past you could photograph the ruins and romantic moonlight under the illusion that they contained poetry, today the same happens with the petrol stations, abandoned factories and urban residual corners. I think of the photograph as a product of its time and that subjects and styles have a given time within which they are best experienced and appreciated.. I think an interesting solution is to bring photography into daily life, without forcing. With the series  Appunti per gli occhi I’m experimenting with this.

When working on commission, is still possible to establish a dialectic with the place and its true nature. Bring us some examples (as with Orbassano or Grugliasco series)

FB: The experience of photographing for commission may lead to very interesting results only if the customer agrees to consider the work of the photographer as an act of knowledge that comes from observation, pushed up to contemplation, not conditioned by other utilitarian needs. Whenever you can move without obligation of result, a possibility opens to create images really new in the sense of unexpected, that indicate aspects not yet considered about the nature of places. To allow the photographer to easily get to this professional “state of grace” the client must immediately give up his expectations. He must have the courage to accept what is presented without indulging in the immediate promotional and celebratory impacts; worth the risk of being left with minor variations of stereotypes where nothing can added to an already worn iconography.

Several of your works focus on the city as a process of transformation, visions of landscapes in transition, the interference of society in the territories. How does a scenically staged or contemplative vision create the necessary detachment for the concentration of the sight?

FB: I believe that the shift of time, a slowdown, in most cases will lead the photographer to pose in the best position to capture within the stream of perception the solid anchor points upon which to fix a higher intensity of  vision. In this sense, the urban night has many advantages. The most intensely animated places lose all dynamism and can be approached with the necessary calm. Artificial light invents presences and forms undetectable during the day, revealing extraordinary evocative potential. For many hours nothing changes and this allows you to “live” spaces and to make them part of your intimate feeling. Last but not least, the emptiness and silence of the night favors the emergence of the “scene”, ie a stage, a theatrical vision of space. It implements what Brecht called “alienation”, not to be confused with other possible uses of the urban night for only spectacular and emotional purposes. This same slow, contemplative approach  can be implemented even during the day, when searching for moments that encourage them. The holidays, for example, are particularly suitable for workplaces, such as construction sites just as weekday mornings are for parks and residential areas. In any case, it is all about  leaving the rhythm imposed by the things and listening to one’s own, creating a vacuum as a pathway  to a new perception.

© Fulvio Bortolozzo from the series 'Transit Scene (Soap Opera)', 2003-2013


Fulvio Bortolozzo