In his solo exhibition, Temporality, Enrico Scotece explores our relationship with time and how it can be captured using analogue photographic processes. The exhibition is the culmination of the 2016 PhotoAccess Dark Matter residency, an eight-month darkroom-based residency. We caught up with Enrico to find out more about his process, and the techniques he explored for Temporality.
(Image: Enrico Scotece, 9240 (little earth) (detail), 2016, fibre-base silver gelatin photograph, 33.3 x 26.4 cm)
Enrico, you’ve just participated an eight-month darkroom residency at PhotoAccess. How did you use your time in the dark?
At first it was a matter of getting a feel for the space and I wanted the PhotoAccess darkroom to feel like home – as should any darkroom! I would spend a few days at a time immersing myself into my practice and having the freedom to ‘take over’ the space was the best possible thing. Whether I was processing film or making photographs, it’s such a comfortable space to work in that time seemed a non-issue. I primarily made black and white fibre base photographs, 9×12 and up to 16×20 inch all from 4×5 inch sheet film. I also listened to a lot of music.
(Image: Enrico developing work in the PhotoAccess darkroom. Photo courtesy Enrico Scotece)
You experimented with pinhole cameras and long exposures as part of the residency, can you tell us a little more about what drew you to create images in this way?
The thing that interested me in photography from day one is the fact that experimental practice isn’t actually that at all… it’s more a case of it being exploration. I’m still fascinated by the fact that you can get a ‘box’, put a hole in it, and end up with a projected image on the opposite side. No matter how you look at it, pinhole (or the camera obscura) is one of the simplest yet fascinating ways to see.
How far can we push this process? Well, the long exposures were a case of wanting to know how the medium works with extended time, and film being somewhat organic, works with nature and light in a very simple way. This led me to make these cameras and see what would happen if I just let them ‘do their thing’ with time. The results are bizarre as a resulting photograph, yet at the same time, when you put your mind to it, it’s very ordinary as a concept. Put simply, I just wanted to know what would happen?
(Image: Enrico placing one of his pinhole cameras in a tree outside of PhotoAccess, November 2016)
Were you surprised with the results during the printing process?
Yes, absolutely. Using film conjures a sense of the unknown. You don’t really know what you will get until you make that first proof. You can imagine what I was thinking when I had viewed my first results. That sense of wonderment that was present when I first picked up a 35mm SLR many years ago all came back to me – but at a completely different level. I couldn’t wait to see what had been happening to my film during these lengthy exposures. Not one of them is the same. And I couldn’t guess what I’d get as a result until I processed that sheet of film.
(Image: A developed negative, from one of Enrico’s pinhole cameras. PhotoAccess darkroom. Photo courtesy Enrico Scotece)
You also shoot on a 4×5 large format camera, can you tell us a little about why you shoot with large format analogue over digital?
The use of a large format camera, I feel, allows me to distance myself from my apparatus in a literal sense so that it doesn’t become a distraction. I can have full control of the visual ‘in camera’ without any interference at all. Nature will play its game with you but that’s it! There is no electronic beeping, sounding, processing, ugliness going on. You don’t rely on anyone or anything but yourself. The large format camera will project an image directly onto your ground glass (focusing screen) at the size of 4×5 inches (or larger). I can stand back from the camera up to a metre and still see my image in front of me. The camera is on a tripod and I can walk away and return to my image at any time. It’s all about process for me and this starts with your camera. My everyday camera is a Graflex Graphic View II, built in 1947. I don’t think I will ever have to replace it. I have never purchased a digital camera since I have access to these, and not surprisingly they age – quickly. I can make a negative from my camera, walk into the darkroom, process the film, and make a fibre base photograph from it. It’s where Science meets Art. It’s discovery and enlightenment. Digital media is where Mathematics meets Death. (was that harsh?)
(Images (left to right): Enrico Scotece, Today (Mt Stromlo Canberra), 2016, silver gelatin fibre base photograph, 262 x 332mm; The day after Today (Mt Stromlo Canberra), 2016, silver gelatin fibre base photograph, 262 x 332mm.)
The title of the show is Temporality; can you tell us the reasons behind the title?
Everything we do is temporal. It doesn’t really have a beginning and the ending will never surface since that ending, in a photograph, will never be known. It’s just a story that has many facades. The idea of wanting to photograph time – that other never ending thing we all share – has been a process that I have been working on for many years. One thing that has never changed throughout my time in photography is realising that making a fixed image is almost ridiculous. Images move with us, and without us. We spend time with photographs and our ideas about what we see and how we experience it will always be temporal.
What would you say to people who feel that darkroom printing is a waste of time, when digital technologies are so readily available?
I think about this a lot. Almost everyone I know who uses digital cameras rarely, almost never, make a photograph. They create an image, a file; of which will never be unique as a ‘file’ because the original doesn’t exist. Hardly anyone makes a print, and when they do, they press a button and sit back and wait. I would rather be sitting in the local Laundromat watching clothes spin in a dryer. With most things readily available, how much of it do we actually care about?
In darkrooms we start (and always continue) with conversation and continually think about what we think we photographed. Nothing reassured us of our result until we actually make that photograph. We create an actual thing. A photograph we can hold, share, exhibit, or hide. Our raw file is the negative and the print is the reason we got up that morning. It’s a sense of ownership and solitude that makes us understand what photography is.
What’s next for you?
More photography, more darkroom, more writing. Work on the PhD, and get settled in my new abode.
(Image: Enrico showing some of his work in progress to PhotoAccess staff)
Enrico Scotece is a photographer and a Lecturer in Design (Photomedia) at Western Sydney University, and founder of Think Negative, a unique Sydney based analogue photographic studio and darkroom. Also a PhD candidate, Enrico’s research utilises photography as a reflexive practice.
Temporality runs from 11 – 27 November 2016 in the PhotoAccess Huw Davies Gallery. Temporality showcases experimental landscape photographic works printed in the PhotoAccess darkroom by mid-career Sydney-based photographer Enrico Scotece. Presented through the PhotoAccess Dark Matter residency program.
Enrico will be giving an artist talk at PhotoAccess at 2pm on Sunday 27 November 2016. Free event, all welcome.