VOGUE ITALIA INTERVIEW

In conversation with Rica Cerbarano, December 2019.
Read the full article here

Your work as an artist deals a lot with the idea of dystopian/utopian societies and the post-apocalypse. Why this interest?
I think it’s an interesting way to think about the current turbulent times we find ourselves in. Science fiction in its purest form is in itself social commentary which is something I have been exploring recently. I have always used photography to make sense of the world and this was something that I couldn’t make sense of.

In some ways all your work it’s very focused on the idea of “Future”. How do you think the future will be? How do you imagine the Earth in 50 years?
I am an unflinchingly optimistic about the future, I think that despite everything we will always find a way to overcome the troubles we face ahead whether that be resource depletion, over population or climate change. 

In 50 years time? I don’t think there will be any dramatic shift on a local level. No hoverboards or personal space travel I’m afraid. Industrial meat farms will be more or less extinct, there will be an increase in automation, an increased reliance on technology, but hopefully by then they will actually come up with a worthwhile way to recycle tech and consumables. Brands will boast about the longevity of their products and people will fix rather than replace due to necessity. But much will remain the same. 

Are you dealing also with themes such as the climate change and environment issue? If yes, how?
Definitely. In some ways it’s a radical response to the climate crisis. I think it’s easy to feel numbed by the majority of environmentally concerned photographs. There is so much work about the environment being made at the moment, and for good reason as it’s one of the most important issues of our time, but with so many familiar image tropes being repeated the issue just washes over us. It’s a well trodden path. It’s up to image makers to come up with new ways of framing an understanding of the issue. 

The climate crisis is changing the way we think about the planet and our future on it. People are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact contemporary society has on the environment, this idea is not new but it’s dominance in mainstream public consciousness is.

Eco-anxiety was not something that was talked about even 5 years ago but now it’s a genuine psychological condition. 

How did you find about the Wasteland Weekend festival? What do you want to question with this project? Why the title?
I had seen a clip about it online. A week in the desert where people pay to pretend civilization has collapsed, playing with the fantasy of returning to a simplified existence only to go home to their lives of comfort shortly after. The question I kept coming back to was why it’s a thing and what it says about contemporary western society.

The title comes from my understanding of the paradoxical nature of the event; the suggestion of total anarchy but in a controlled and safe environment, medical tents and clean (by festival standards) portaloos included. 

How did you approach with people? Were there many photographers besides you?
Although I was dressed to blend in, I was still carrying around a massive black metal camera and flash unit so I did stand out as a photographer. I definitely played up to this lone wanderer photographer character the whole time. As soon as I would approach someone they definitely knew what I was about to ask. Unlike in the real world, I didn’t have anyone who didn’t want to have their picture taken. A couple of times people would see the camera and ask me to shoot their portrait which was an interesting role reversal. 

Why do you think the people join the festival, create and live this an alternative reality? What’s the need behind this form of entertainment?
I think people just need an outlet for certain societal pressures. It’s escapism on steroids. Not just trying to get away from it all but flirting with the idea that the thing you and everyone else there are collectively escaping from no longer exists. 

What’s the ideal form, in your opinion, for Anarchy Tamed? A book, an exhibition, an editorial?
Some work makes more sense in book form, some projects are better as installations but Anarchy Tamed was always going to be a pilot project; an online thing before Preparations for the Worst Case Scenario comes out, which will be a book.

How do you conceive your work as a photographer? Why you do that and what do you expect from it?
I think the core of my practice is a search, or at least an attempt, for an understanding. There’s something about the critical nature of photography that appeals to me. Ultimately I think photography gives my ideas an outlet that I wouldn’t be able to communicate otherwise. I have been thinking recently how other mediums like sculpture or paint/photo hybrids make more sense for some ideas I’ve been playing with but for now photography is what keeps me awake at night. 

Are you working on something else now? What are your plans for the next few months?
I’m still working towards finishing Preparations for the Worst-Case Scenario, a larger, more ambitious project. It’s a slow process, each picture takes weeks and months to negotiate access to photograph each of the sites but it feels like the shooting is nearly finished.

As well as that I’m researching for the series that I’m hoping to start shooting in 2020. It’s looking like it will be more collaborative than what I’ve worked on in the past. 

What kind of camera do you use?
It depends on the subject matter but I tend to alternate between medium and large format film. They both have similar ratios (6x7 & 5x4) so I like to mix the two together. There’s pictures that medium format just can’t make and occasions where large format lends itself to a certain kind of image. So mixing the two is liberating. Both have their limitations but that’s what I love about the way I make pictures.  

What are your sources of inspiration and the masters you look at?
Early on I was obsessed with people like Edward Burtynsky, Alec Soth, Simon Roberts, Broomberg and Chanarin but now my pictures are looking less and less like theirs, which I think is a positive. But I am looking more towards documentary film in the newer work, I get a lot from filmmakers like Adam Curtis and Patrick Keiller. 

©Rica Cerbarano & Vogue Italia Magazine 2019 - This text is for research purposes, no copyright infringement is intended.

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