Inessential views of art and photography.
The interview with Riccardo Nava and text below were written over three years ago.It ended up with a couple of resolutions. Oliver, by Riccardo Nava, is both cute and profundly moving. Enticed by the familiarity of photograph, the viewer delves in only to be forced to fill in the blanks with own experiences. It worked for me. I was able to relate to the loneliness of his pose and it reminded me of the one I routinely take when sending selfies to my family overseas. Back then, I was determined to share more of my context with my remote family, so that they could visualise me in the middle of my life. It is of course challenging, but I do think that visuals and soundscapes, along with the story-telling – our narratives – do contribute towards creating empathy.
Perhaps still driven by Oliver‘s inspiration, at the start of 2017 I joined Instagram.
For your Instagram feed to become about what you like and you are interested about, as I am sure you all know, it takes a few hours of liking, looking, following and commenting. Artists working with found photographs are certainly my cup of tea, and soon enough re-interpretations of old family photographs populated my feed. I noticed a trend emerging: the analogue mode. Among found photographs fans there is a fascination with paper-based photography. Some may talk about nostalgia. Double exposures, chemical inconsistencies, grain, partially fogged exposures, once considered failures have today been incorporated into the creative repertoire of many visual makers. And in the midst of all this analogue fascination, one account stands out: FOUND JPGS. The visual maker behind it is: Riccardo Nava. Have a look and follow his account. It is full of memorable, relatable, funny, corky, hillarious lost jpgs!
Photo-albums. Pets are also part of the family!
Artistic engagement with vernacular photography, found, produced or borrowed, always wakens my attention. When I started working with families for my research project, I devised an initial exercise so that I can visualize their “circles of reference” (this is the people they are most likely to share photos with). One of the categories I use for it is PETS. And I head all sorts of reactions to using this category and different comments on how a pet might be or not part of a family. Do you consider your pets part of the family?
All in all, it is fairly common to have photos of us with our pets. It is a little bit less frequent to have photos of the pets alone and to display them on frames is a bit unusual. However, Oliver by Riccardo Nava falls in the realm of absolute extraordinary. It is a photo-album dedicated exclusively to a pet: Oliver, a somehow lonely looking Spanish Cocker. Oliver lived in an apartment, he had some awesome vacations in sunny places, went for visits to friends’ house and also met them at the part, celebrated Xmas indoors and eastern in Balkonien.
“Oliver. Found in Berlin – 20112 by Riccardo Nava”
After reading an online review of Oliver, I visited Nava’s website and confirmed that this work is not casual, but that it responds to an ongoing interest for the everyday, the commonplace, the ephemeral. Nava has a n eye for deviance, corruption and disasters. And a great sense of humour. I do recommend to have a look at his best culinary disasters. The very reasonable price of Oliver, prompted me to order it immediately.
Riccardo wrote me a thank you email and promised me to post the album first thing in the morning. Oliver arrived while I was travelling. My partner, who didn’t know about my purchase, opened the envelope and encountered this very special personal/animal album, linking it instantly with my work. Admittedly, it has a strong connection with my research project, but it was and it is a personal delight. The quality of the prints could be better, but I believe it matches very well the subject matter: glossy not very thick white paper supporting Oliver‘s story, or better said Oliver‘s owner’s journey of loneliness. The pictures are quite grainy and one wonders how much of it was on the original ones. There are red exposures, scratches and other signs of analogue times, but there is also digital noise. Some of the photographs are small and seem to be lost in the white immensity of the blank pages, so pristine, so lacking of materiality, all of them orphans of a written companion.
Talking to Riccardo Nava
Riccardo Nava seemed to be very approachable and I was eager to know more about Oliver, so I sent him an email with few questions about the motivation behind the project and his personal and artistic encounter with the original photographs. He was very friendly and wrote these lines back to me:
I think the mainly reason for the work Oliver is about the images: it’s really interesting about how people could feel emotion for the animal. During my life i see a lot of people take care about their dogs, cats and so on, but this pics are really amazing and the proof of how the animals could be important for our life and for our feelings in the daily life.The process was really casual. As usual during Sunday in Berlin there’s a lot of flea market in the city. I went in Mauerpark and just taking a look to the stalls i found this box. Anyway was since some months before that i start with “photo founding” but i didn’t found anything interesting until Oliver. The original box is composed also by the pictures of the owner (this old probably german woman) but i excluded them because i want to focus the attention just on the dog. At the first look i find the dog really funny, make me laugh, but after several watches and more deeply, i note that was a really sad story. The others pics are just the owner with the dog, probably this woman lived alone without nobody and this dog was a sort of “son” for her. The book is made just with white background white and with the pics, to focus more deeply the attention on them.I think that before the digital photography era the concept of making pictures to own relatives was a bit different. The approach was different in the way of doing less pictures and keep just the more evocative, beautiful or weathever for us. Maybe the Oliver’s photos were a part of and album, or maybe the dog died before the old woman, anyway they were an important part of a person, as memory.