Interview with Lucas Gabellini-Fava
Photographic artist based in London.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work
I was self taught for a while, but then decided to pursue an education in art as I was very much interested in the history of art and art theory. I do really think that now having this knowledge has completely changed the way I create my work. I have always been incredibly interested in the idea of experimentation within photography and I have tried to push myself and my own practice, however I was never really able to without this foundation. My work has evolved in a way I could never have imagined and now I find that there's a real symbiosis between my research and my practice.
More recently, I love to use older more analog ways of working such as screen printing and cyanotypes in my work, usually as a conceptual basis for the piece. It's such a relief to not be behind a computer screen all the time and to instead make something with my hands, especially as most of photography is now so grounded in the digital world. It's definitely becoming more apparent that a lot of artists such as myself are trying to distance themselves from this way of working. I do also think this is why we are seeing such a resurgence with film photography.
What first got you interested in the arts?
I decided that I wanted to be an artist at a very young age. It all started with a camera for Christmas, and by the age of thirteen, I was exhibiting my Photoshop compositions in small art fairs. From then on, I decided I wanted to study photography and to see where it could take me. However very quickly, I realised that photography wasn't enough and I started messing around with different mediums. My mother was also a designer and my father was always interested in collecting art. I was always dragged along to exhibitions on weekends and I think that this constant exposure to art really started to move me and shift my way of thinking after a while. I know for a fact that my parents and my upbringing played a huge part on me becoming an artist and I am incredibly thankful for that.
Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work
This is something that I am asked a lot and I am always unsure how to answer. A lot of my work is what I would describe as long term research projects. It usually starts with something that I have heard at a talk or that I have read. It is as if something starts to brew in my head and I'll be considering it and thinking about it for months on end. Through more research and trial and error I usually come up with a way of responding to this new research or using it as part of another project that I have been working on, as I usually work on five to six different projects at once. Perhaps I would say that my work is usually created as a response to current issues and as a way of integrating new and old technologies into my practice - but that really is still so broad.
At the moment, if I analyse my own work and the path I have been heading down - I seem to be looking at genetic identity in a world where even the fabric of our of DNA is being attacked from all sides. Using my own blood or fingerprints, I have attempted to subvert and challenge the idea of DNA or fingerprints being used for mass control or surveillance - something that we seem to all just be blindly accepting. Through this work I pose the questions 'is it the technology in itself that is oppressive, or is the problem in the application of the technology?' and 'are these methods malignant, an invasion of self or necessary in a globalise world"? Simply put, people can't just be organisms anymore, but are now data.
How would you describe your approach to photography?
My approach is definitely quite unusual. I tend to explain that I start with the idea of photography and go from there. In a sense, I don't really see myself as a photographer because I use photographs, but more because I utilise photography in my art practice. Even when I am photographing a subject and that becomes part of a larger project, those photos never stand alone as 'photographs' but are there to explain or support something bigger and more important. I don't really see photographers having to be behind a camera anymore, but more as people that have a greater understanding of imagery and the visual world of today's society. My approach is just that - I generate work through the medium of photography, be it my photographs, found photographs or the idea of photography as something that has a theoretical or conceptual basis.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about being a photographic artist?
I don't think it really comes with much difficulty anymore. I'd say that if you see yourself as an artist, people will mostly respect that nowadays. I guess I do get asked a lot whether I'm a photographer or an artist and I'm not too sure if that question is of any relevance anymore.
Tell us what gear you use, what is your favourite equipment to use?
I have recently just sold all of my digital gear to throw myself into the analog world. I have always shot film, but I just felt more comfortable shooting digital. However I started to realise that in the last year or so I completely stopped taking photographs. I figured out that it really came down to just being bored of using a digital camera - off pointing a lens at something and getting an image instantly. It was missing what Walter Benjamin explains as the 'aura' of photography in his wonderful text 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction'. I thus sold my digital gear and I now shoot a Mamiya RZ67 for my more heavily photographic projects and I tend to carry around a Contax T2 or G2 on me at most times. It has completely changed the way I work. My work feels more calculated and I'm getting results that I have been dreaming of for years now.
Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?
I am currently in the midst of preparing for my degree show! I am creating an artificial intelligence, which will create an evolving conversation between my father and I throughout the exhibition. I'm hoping it will answer or ask questions we have never been able to answer or ask within our relationship. I'm incredibly interested in using this new technology in the context of my practice and I am excited to see what comes out of it. This has most definitely been the most challenging way I have integrated new technologies into a body of work to date and I am still only at the beginning. It will be on show at London College of Communication (London) in May.