FABRIZIO ALBERTINI. WANDERING OF THE GAZE
by Steve Bisson



© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' 

Can you tell us how you got into photography? Who and what influenced you or attracted you in your early days?

Fabrizio Albertini (FA): I started to dedicate myself to photography at the end of my studies in Film Direction. At that moment I felt the need to develop a different relationship with "the scene” that was not mediated by the same production process that is used in the audiovisual field. I searched in photography a shorter, more simplified and self-sufficient distance. Initially, my influences were still to be found in cinema. De Seta and Herzog were the principal figures that inspired me.


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' 

You studied at the International Conservatory of Audiovisual Sciences in Lugano and your first work comprises video and film productions. What did you learn? Did you have any teachers whose memories recall certain lessons?

FA: I attended the Academy during the period in which the training course was very technical and practical. In those years of study I had the opportunity to experience the various moments of an audiovisual production in a specialized manner. I became familiar with the different stages of writing, directing, photography, shooting, editing and sound. This "specialized training" has been very important, as it has given me more confidence with the technique. It made me feel freer. I especially remember the former Head of educational and tutor planning. It is thanks to him that I acquired a curiosity and passion for both technical and linguistic research.


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' 


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' 

Let's talk about books. With Skinnerboox you first published 'The Mecca of Coney Island', and then 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker'. Can you tell us about these experiences? What were their motivations and how do they differ?

FA: 'The Mecca of Coney Island' (2014) was my first photographic series and one of the first books published by the publishing house Skinnerboox. It was because Milo Montelli contacted me and offered me the publication that it all happened very quickly. 'The Mecca' is a book that is faithful to the subject that I wrote about. It is a playful journey within the well-defined boundaries of body and space. The photographs that are originally taken with a Polaroid are reproduced and then alternated with enlargements. I would call it a "dynamic" book. For 'Diary' we repeated the experience with the support of the City of Cannobio and crowdfunding promoted through KissKissBankBank. The book, designed by Teresa Piardi, is divided into two parts and explores the definition of “the border”. It presents itself as a "book object" in which each photograph at the same time communicates and is interrupted by the next.


© Still of the book 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' by Fabrizio Albertini, published by Skinnerboox, 2016


© Still of the book 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' by Fabrizio Albertini, published by Skinnerboox, 2016


© Still of the book 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' by Fabrizio Albertini, published by Skinnerboox, 2016


© Still of the book 'The Mecca of Coney Island' by Fabrizio Albertini, published by Skinnerboox, 2014


© Still of the book 'The Mecca of Coney Island' by Fabrizio Albertini, published by Skinnerboox, 2014


© Still of the book 'The Mecca of Coney Island' by Fabrizio Albertini, published by Skinnerboox, 2014

Your narrative is made up of fragments, which makes it challenging to imagine a linear story. This approach seems to deliberately give the viewer the opportunity to interpret the work and to slow down for a while. Your project 'Radici (Roots)' in which different possibilities of interpretation overlap on the same level, accentuates this method. This makes the reading of the images less immediate as a whole and yet opens up other possibilities... Can you tell us a little bit about the editing method?

FA: 'Radici' is a project linked to a memory and a place called Val Cannobina. I have a special connection with this valley. It embodies a memory that goes back to childhood experiences and conflicts. “Radici” is the most “intimate" photographic series that I have ever been confronted with. It is the attempt to develop and to exhume buried traces of a survival that depended on the ability to resist, to keep or dispose of a form and to be deformed. 'Radici' is not so much the response to the specific gravity of a memory, but rather to its path. Just like a root, a "physical memory”. In 'Radici' I compare myself to different themes that are collected in a phrase and are repeated from shot to shot. It is a phrase that evokes arguments of intimacy and secret nature, strengths and weaknesses, masking, closing and illusion. Every time I recognized this sentence in my surroundings, I took a photograph. Sometimes even subconsciously.


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Radici' 

Again with regard to books, can you recommend our readers some titles that you have recently enjoyed?

FA: I’ve just finished reading Andre Agassi’s biography 'Open', which surprised me. It is a Bildungsroman and a book that is visually very rich. Among the most recent photographic books, I can definitely recommend 'The College' by Florian Van Roekel. It is fascinating work, mysterious and a bit "out of tune".

“Introspection” is one of the dimensions that recur in your projects. Especially 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' can be related to your personal life as a frontier worker. The border between Italy and Switzerland is crossed daily by an important flow of workers, so-called "borderworkers". It is a reality that you have lived and witnessed. What does this microcosm mean to you? And why did you choose to focus on it?

FA: I live on the border of two countries and I am the son of a frontier worker. I have belonged to the frontier since childhood. I just go to Switzerland for the chocolate or to fill up the tank. "Borderworker" is a term that stretches beyond the economical significance. It means coming to terms with the idea of a foreign place where you are identified as a foreigner, because there is no custom to reveal the "other side" as more familiar. In 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker', I have tried to portray this atmosphere. I didn’t describe a territory, but rather the constant wandering of the gaze between recognizing and not recognizing.


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Diary of an Italian Borderworker' 

Is photography more a representation of us across the world or vice versa?

FA: Judging from my experience, I will say it is more a representation of us across the world. I think it is a key to my cinematic path.

Let's talk about photography in general. You’ve reached this means of expression after experiencing cinema. What do you think about authorial photography? It certainly causes great turmoil and great productions, but also sparks a bigger interest and curiosity in the audience these days. Just think of the publishing industry...

FA: I do not have a clear opinion on contemporary authorial photography yet. Of course there is great excitement. I think this is an interesting time in which we are able to discuss and contribute ideas. But I struggle to identify who the beneficiaries are, who the real audience is and what public criticism produces. I believe that these can and must be the main urgencies for contemporary photography.


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Radici' 

You are originally from Northern Italy. Can you describe something about the place where you grew up? What are the landscapes that fill your memories? Is there a place that you are particularly fond of?

FA: I live in a Piedmont country, north of Lake Maggiore. I am very attached to this land. My projects, as well as myself have become deeply rooted in its landscape. It is a rich area, sometimes I like to think of it as accessible, but it is also wild and hostile. The country in which I live is located on the border between Italy and Switzerland, between the Valley and the Lake. In the past year I have traveled a lot in Val Cannobina. My grandparents lived in that valley, my mother grew up there and I also spent my childhood summers there. The country is called Gurrone. It is a small group of houses resting on a rock, well exposed to the sun. Almost no one lives in Gurrone now and neither do they in Cannobina. During each trip through the Valley, I stop at the same bar that happens to be the only one left. It is located in Ponte Falmenta. I order a coffee even though I didn’t want anything and I thumbed through the journal sitting at the table. Through the window you look out on one of the roads, as if you’re meant to control the traffic of people going up and down the street. I don't know why, but I felt the need to come back to dust those "rooms" and to relive those places that I might have actually figured out already.


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Radici' 


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Radici' 


© Fabrizio Albertini from the series 'Radici' 

 

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LINKS
Fabrizio Albertini (personal website)
Artist page on urbanautica 
Book 'Diary of a Border Worker' published by Skinnerboox, 2016
Book 'The Mecca of Coney Island', 2014 
urbanautica Italy