Camilla Cattabriga – Untitled (2015)
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: if you are a young photographer who wants to work in B&W, invest the time and energy necessary in learning to use analog.
Digital is garbage when it comes to B&W–especially at higher ISOs. (If you only have a digital rig, then you should unequivocally set it to some sort of monochrome setting before firing the shutter. Desaturating in post is always going to produce a tonally muddled image; monochrome settings aren’t much better but every little bit helps.
Also, an image maker it smacks of lazy, knee-jerk, half-assery when you stamp your work with a text-only watermark. I mean, an image maker is ostensibly a visual artist, so it’s just a wasted opportunity. (And that’s completely glossing over my rabidly anti-watermark idealism.)
Still, overlooking those concerns, there’s something fascinating about Cattabriga’s work.
She uses what I’d term wide or establishing shots and extreme close ups. With both, she pursues relatively flat compositions–alternating classical one-point symmetry and more minimalist, De Stiji at a cant asymmetry.
I could point to dozens of young, internet famous image makers she riffs off. But I think what’s most interesting about her work is the aforementioned alternating between wide vs tight shots.
I like her wide shots well enough. They demonstrate a rare contemplative patience. These type of shots tend to outweigh the closeups by a rate of about 4 to 1. This allows the close-ups to convey an unusual immediacy.
As much as I think that like the term post-rock is generally (and rightly) derided by the bands whose music is so labeled, it does at least point to some incredible music.
I feel similarly about the oft touted term ‘female gaze’. Generally, the people who embrace the term are full of shit. (Looking at you, Masha Demianova.) But I can’t look at Cattabriga’s close-up work and not be 120% convinced it applies.
And I’m not sure she sees it in her own work. The above image does not feature in the Nicole E Flavia series of which it is a part. I think generally a tighter edit would’ve added punch to the images but there is something to this image that pairs a little too well with some of the other close-ups, primarily I’m thinking of this one (which is effing incredible).
Also, I love how the image above depicts a state of eroticism that is independent of the audiences experience of titillation. The image doesn’t exist as any sort of invitation, it’s merely a record of white skin, touch and the proximity of bodies in a confined space.
I don’t think there’s ever a justified reason to decapitate people when making an image, but here’s a case where it almost works as long as these images are considered within the context of the entire series.