Marisa Culatto | London

Hello Marisa, thanks a lot for submitting your work. How did you get into photography?
I think I was interested in “producing images” from an early age.  I started taking pictures with a small compact camera I was given at the age of 11. Then, when I was 17, in my last year at school in Gran Canaria, I got my first reflex camera and attended a year long photography workshop organised by my senior school with an amazing local photographer – we even had a darkroom!  I did modern languages at college, but spent most of my spare time reading about art and experimenting with mixed media and alternative photographic/printing processes, sometimes even “borrowing” other people’s images from newspapers and magazines to work on them. Then I got a job as assistant to a fashion photographer who was very experimental.  I learnt a lot about technical matters in those years with him, but the most important lessons he taught me were that there are no fixed rules, and that hard work is the base of everything.

But it was really the encounter with the digital realm what consolidated my artistic practice, as it helped me think of the camera as just one more of the elements of my process.

You said, that you have an ambivalent relationship with the photographic medium. Can you explain why?
I’m always surprised – almost uncomfortable – when described as a photographer, which could seem strange as I work exclusively with a camera.  I think this is because my language – my imagery - and my work processes don’t fit comfortably within the classic territory of photography. Since the advent of the digital, there’s a lot of talk of what is or isn’t photography (let alone what is or isn’t art!).  I have heard opposite approaches: that only photojournalism is photography, or that anything lens based is photography.  I think both approaches talk about the same fact: that there has been an explosion within the medium. I’m not sure where I stand on the theory… I just want to do what I want to do.

Let's talk about your submitted project Flora. First of all congratulations for these unique compositions! How did you get the idea for Flora?
Then, first of all, thank you: I’m delighted that you like them.  I had been thinking about tackling the genre of the still life for quite some time.  I wanted to do my own take on it and eventually concluded that the way to do it was to photograph frozen compositions. I tested different approaches until deciding that these would have to be based on vegetation.  This decision came about after doing another project called Ophelia, in which I photographed clusters of seaweed floating in small puddles in the sand… So, in this case, refining the process took a while.

The photographs look very well composed. Every single flower seems perfectly arranged.     How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I think the sense of composition is something that one just has, like being able to sing in tune, or being good with words. The rest is just working at it, and looking a lot of other people’s work - I’m sure it helps train the eye too. 

What is your intention behind this presentation?
The conceptual intention has to do with beauty, and the loss of it, and the futile attempt to hold on to it.  It’s my way of trying to come to terms and accept the inevitable process of getting old…  In the end, it also speaks about the act of photography itself: the freezing of the moment.

What do you find is the hardest challenge when taking pictures?  

My biggest challenge is producing what I want to produce with limited resources.  I am not very interested in technique or technology, and I don’t like having too much equipment, as I find all that too encumbering and distracting. So I have to find a way to do what I want to do with the resources available.  This is generally possible and, also, for me, limitations are helpful, in that they provide me with a framework and help me focus.

Is there a photographer which has influenced your thinking and photography? 
I’m never quite sure of who or what has influenced me the most.  I think I’m not always aware of what has an impact, as I feel that this sometimes happens at a subconscious level and in a cumulative manner.  I tend to resonate with very different visual artists, regardless of the medium they work on, so not just photographers.  Having said that, I remember a Keith Arnatt exhibition I saw in the early 90s, which included works from his Canned Sunsets and The Tears of Things series.  It had a massive impact on me.  It would take too long to explain how or why, but the fact is that I left the gallery finally certain that, if I ever allowed myself to be a practising artist, my medium would be photography based. 

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?
At the moment I’m working simultaneously on two very different projects. One is a long-term, ongoing nature.  It’s called In Order to See, and deals with a more “photographic” behaviour in which I carry a camera with me to take pictures of the world, but obviously with a twist…  The other one is another “staged” body of work, like Flora, in that I put them together in the studio, but the idea behind it is completely different, and, formally, it happens in a dark background, rather than the very bright white of Flora…  It’s in its early stages, so I cannot say more about it yet.

Thanks a lot Marisa for the Interview!