Fabio Sgroi: Prolaz (Passage)

This project is about the continuous change experienced in the Balkans over the last few years. It’s about the complexity of the human condition during the region’s transition toward democracy. And it’s a personal view of the tension and the contradictions occurring there.

Fabio Sgroi, Thessaloniki, 2012

I began my journey from Istanbul in 2004. I decided to start from Turkey, to convey the influence of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. I continued in subsequent years in different cities and regions, from Albania to Bosnia, Bucharest, Croatia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Sofia, Serbia, Skopje, and Thessaloniki.

Fabio Sgroi, Belgrade, 2004

call the project Prolaz” (Passage) for several reasons: for my own, personal journey to know these places, for the history of these lands which lived under Turkish dominion, for the various conflicts of races and lands, for the entry or the hope of entry of these peoples into the European Community.

Fabio Sgroi, Thessaloniki, 2012

For many centuries, the Balkans have been a melting pot of different cultures, and often a focal point of poisonous hatred and devastating wars. Even today, their identity is rooted in a reminiscence of their difficult past.

Fabio Sgroi, Istanbul, 2003

This a land of unsure boundaries, where opposites both attract and repel each other. The last decade has violently changed the physical and psychological dimensions of these cities, against the background of a nationalist drama and an irreversible sense of having finally expressed their own essence. Nevertheless, there are vibrant feelings of hope and fear, stemming from the people’s conflicting sense of their cultural heritage.

Fabio Sgroi, Tirana, 2011

Born in Palermo in 1965, Fabio Sgroi began his photographic career in 1986 and since that time has exhibited his work in Europe, America, and international festivals. He has participated in various projects and artistic residencies and today works for Riso, the Museum of Contemporary Art at Palermo.



Erin McGuire: Touching Memory

It’s often said that a photograph is a memory; one that we can go back to time and again as our memories fade. Photographs are our way of keeping a memory fresh in our minds, kind of like recharging a battery.

My memories are imperfect. I forget things, distort them in my mind and probably even add things that were never there to begin with. The imperfection created by Impossible Project film makes each photograph more real for me. These images touch my soul and move my spirit because when I look at them, my mind sees a memory.

I grew up in southern California and have spent much of my life visiting the beaches, deserts and mountains that make up a large part of the state. I have many fond memories of camping with friends and family in all of these places, though we spent the majority our time in the desert. It was those memories that inspired me to move to the desert and that continue to inspire my work to this day. I feel a deep, spiritual connection with this land and never seem to run out of subjects to photograph, from giant Joshua trees to long-dead cholla cactus branches.

Finding the right medium for my imagery has been a long process that’s included many types of cameras, both digital and film, as well as different alternative photographic processes. The journey to create the perfect image continues. I doubt it will ever end because my idea of the perfect image changes day by day, week by week, and subject by subject. But what will always remain constant in my imagery is the need for imperfection—soft, dreamy, distorted, speckled, light-leaked imperfection.

I like to isolate each subject in the camera if I can, and if I can’t, I do post-production work to further isolate the subject. Another aspect of Impossible Project film and, I’ve found, most instant film in general, is the softness of the images, which helps blur and hide extraneous details around the subject. This is also why I love alternative process prints, especially gum bichromate and oilprint processes. I can easily manipulate each print to obscure any detail I feel detracts from the main subject.

I am a prolific image maker. Rarely a week passes without my going on at least one photographic adventure. I have many irons in the fire where my photography projects are concerned, but the desert is my real love. I plan to continue shooting it until the day comes when I can no longer lift a camera and it is my sincere hope that the Impossible Project will be along for the entire ride.

Currently living in the Los Angeles area, Erin McGuire is a photographer specializing in film. She works extensively with antique cameras and has participated in numerous shows in Southern California.


Mia Pearlman: “Inrush”

I make site-specific cut paper installations, ephemeral drawings in both two and three dimensions that blur the line between actual, illusionistic and imagined space. Sculptural and often glowing with natural or artificial light, these imaginary weather systems appear frozen in an ambiguous moment, bursting through walls and windows, or hovering within a room.

My process is very intuitive, based on spontaneous decisions in the moment. I begin by making loose line drawings in India ink on large rolls of paper. Then I cut out selected areas between the lines to make a new drawing in positive and negative space on the reverse. 30-80 of these cut paper pieces form the final installation, which I create on site by trial and error, a 2-3 day dance with chance and control. Existing only for the length of an exhibition, this weightless world totters on the brink of being and not being, continually in flux. It is my mediation on creation, destruction, and the transient nature of reality.

Since receiving her BFA from Cornell University in 1996, Mia Pearlman has exhibited internationally in numerous galleries, non-profit spaces and museums, including the Museum of Arts and Design (NY), the Montgomery Museum of Art (AL), the Centre for Recent Drawing (London), and Mixed Greens (NY). Upcoming shows include the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian. Her work is featured in several books on the use of paper in contemporary art. 


Peter Callesen: Paper Artist

Peter Callesen, Birds Trying To Escape Their Drawings, 2005, 90 x 128 x 6 cm
Acid free 115 gms paper and glue

Lately I have worked almost exclusively with white paper in different objects, paper cuts, installations and performances. A large part of my work is made from A4 sheets of paper. It is probably the most common and consumed media used for carrying information today. This is why we rarely notice the actual materiality of the A4 paper. By taking away all the information and starting from scratch using the blank white A4 paper sheet for my creations, I feel I have found a material that we are all able to relate to, and at the same time the A4 paper sheet is neutral and open to fill with different meaning. The thin white paper gives the paper sculptures a frailty that underlines the tragic and romantic theme of my works.

Peter Callesen, Snowballs II, 2006, A4 Acid free 115 gms paper and glue
Photo: Anders Sune Berg

The paper cut sculptures explore the probable and magical transformation of the flat sheet of paper into figures that expand into the space surrounding them. The negative and absent two-dimensional space left by the cut points out the contrast to the three-dimensional reality it creates, even though the figures still stick to their origin without the possibility of escaping. In that sense there is also an aspect of something tragic in many of the cuts.

Peter Callesen, Looking Back, 2006, Acid-free A4 115 gms paper and glue

Some of the paper works are coloured and framed. Others are larger installations such as one to one copies of stairs and ladders made out of thin white paper. They deal with dreams and the impossible. But the stairs and ladders represent a more fragile and almost sublime form. The trashy style in earlier works has developed into a more precise aesthetics. These works exist in the gap between the recognizable everyday object and the fragile and spherical condition and material in which they appear. The whiteness, the ideal pure copy of something real as well as the vertical direction coherent in most of my paper works, could also indicate the aspect of something platonic or religious.

Peter Callesen, Fall, 210 x 240 ( h) x 70 cm, Acid free paper 140 gsm
Photo: Adam Reich

Peter Callesen was born in Herning, Denmark in 1967. He studied architecture, but then switched to studying art at the Jutland Art Academy and later at Goldsmiths College in the UK. His work has been widely published around the world and he is currently exhibiting in Paris, London, Copenhagen, and Winston-Salem (North Carolina). Peter lives and works in Copenhagen.


Laurent Lafolie: To be in love with the face

Laurent, who are these people you photograph?

To be in love is to be in love with the face.” They are mainly people who evoke this feeling in me; people in my entourage or people I meet and who touch me by their singularity, for the light that they emanate, for the effort they put into living and behaving as human beings. For others, it can be also the expression of fragility, torment or distress.

You often speak about what will disappear. Is photography like a testimony for you?

Yes, it is at the moment. By their timelessness these photographs try to reveal the precious event which is life. If I relate this to the photographed person, there is somebody there in that face, who in spite of an apparent passivity says they are unique in the world; this face bears witness to such a difference that it cannot have come about by chance. When I make my request, the first thing I say is often “this is a presentation of your face”; without expression, just look into the camera without trying to convince, seduce or express any emotions. I try to photograph that intimate part of ourselves which escapes us and with which we must learn to live. The majority of the people I photograph discover themselves during the shoot but also when I give them their picture, they don’t always recognize themselves.

In your opinion, are these photographs about what differentiates one person from another or about what makes us all alike?

I have already answered this question in part; we all have something in common but we are not all the same. We hear too much about what divides us – I am thinking about current policies, for example the repatriation of foreigners – and little of what unites us. Divisions resulting from differences are obvious and as such rather difficult to accept; we are all strangers even within our own families. It is a fortunate separation for those who are no longer afraid of the unknown. Regarding this, the desire to fuse with or to kill the other can be powerful, but if we manage to recognize our loneliness and at least to try to assume it, then art becomes a vital necessity as well as a never-ending source of curiosity and wonder.

The significance of the sacred is lost in favor of other games; nowadays it is very difficult to escape seductive or tempting images that force or attract our attention in order to impose their message instead of just offering it up to us. The human being is divided due to this particular condition resulting from the cut caused by language; they emanate a dual feeling. I use naked skin, the gaze – photography’s only resort – the silent mouth and I see different features; wild, feminine, Other, animal, body, time, absence of meaning, incomplete… there are many words, all indicating that everything is escaping us and, in the background there are shouts, waves, howls, cries and laughs; the good side is that the beauty is there in this tragedy and is to be taken seriously, just after the caesura. The other side of these open and attentive faces is calm and soothing; by looking at us silently they present the infinite and offer the best themselves.

Full face shot, neutrality of expression, you are exactly within the documentary style. It is a conscious and asserted connection?

Yes, it is now, but the approach was long and unconscious – even if I’ve always taken this aspect into account. I have far too much imagination and to not get lost I must unceasingly bring my work back to what I feel is essential. Two years ago over the summer, I worked for three months on abstraction using the chemistry of alternative processes. I photographed houses, landscapes, then people at a certain distance. Nothing substantial came of all these experiments; gradually I moved closer to the face until I got there, to its outlines. In this sense, they are more “faces” than portraits; if I move away even just a little it changes and interests me less. I realize nevertheless that for certain people three-quarter faces or even profiles are more relevant; these are other doors that I had abandoned after having brushed against them and towards which I will undoubtedly return. This does however leave the problem regarding the gaze; full face it comes smoothly into the hollow of the lens, three-quarter, it becomes a little more willful or directed or loses itself in the void.

Extract from an interview on the French website Galerie-Photo, translated and published with their kind permission.

Born in France in 1963, Laurent Lafolie has been working in photography since 1980. He has exhibited extensively in France and the United States and is represented by School Gallery Paris and Sous les étoiles Gallery in New York City.


Peter Wiklund: Dreamland

These pictures belong to Dreamland I – an ongoing series. One of several Dreamland series, that is. The common feature is that they are landscapes in the grey area between reality and imagination. They are real to some extent, since they are obviously photographed in the real world. But they go beyond the reproduction of nature. The landscapes would appear instead in dreams, or nightmares perhaps.

Peter Wiklund, “Androgynous,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

Many of the images are characterized by a combination of beauty and disaster – in a somewhat romantic tradition. The final holocaust, last man standing.

Peter Wiklund, “Heading North,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

All of the images are self-portraits. Giving myself the double role of photographer and model gets me more deeply involved in the final result. At the same time, it adds an extra element of chance, since I cannot see the final setup during shooting.

Peter Wiklund, “Hiding,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

The first images I took, when starting with the Dreamland series, were uninhabited. I had set out to capture the emotion I got wandering in a forest that had burnt down about ten years earlier. A feeling of having been there before, having seen the same surroundings – though it was the first time there. Like being confronted with reminiscences from dreams.

Peter Wiklund, “Silent Tree,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

These images are taken with a special pinhole camera, an anamorphic camera made by Abelson Scope Works. The camera is loaded with film which runs inside a cylinder. On top of the cylinder there is a tiny hole – the pinhole – which lets the light come in. The anamorphic construction makes the landscape somehow “unfold” in the images, adding a sense of surrealism. As in dreams.

Peter Wiklund, “The Attack,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

I often work with different pinhole cameras, for several reasons. Most important is the element of chance, giving me images that can be much better than ones I might pre-visualize. A pinhole camera can often be used for making images that are something else than mere reproductions of the subject in front of the camera.

Peter Wiklund, “Light Waves,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

Born in 1967, Peter Wiklund lives in Stockholm, where he works as a journalist and photographer. His images are shown in group exhibitions on a regular basis, from the United States to Russia.


Sandra Davis: On Collecting

I am a collector. I collect many different things: objects with texture, objects with history, images, and memories. I photograph what I collect and collect what I photograph.

As photographers, we generally begin with the whole world in front of us and our personal vision emerges as we edit that which lies before us. When the decision is made, the shutter is tripped and a little piece of the world, that moment, is recorded on film or sensor. Once it is collected, it can be visited again and again by its owner.

Ascending Malham, Yorkshire, gum bichomate print, 15 x 13 in., 2003

Usually photographers start with the capture and decide later how to present the image to others. It can be a straight print, manipulated image, black and white, color, or other. Upon viewing the collected images, the artist will let the image speak to how it wants to be seen.

For me, this body of work happened in quite the opposite manner. I find it fascinating that the process can inspire the image prior to its capture. I can “see” in gum bichromate. When I look through the lens, I imagine how that little piece of the world will appear as a gum bichromate print.

The images presented here are gum bichromate prints from my Mythical Garden Series. This series began in Italy when I decided to take a toy camera to Parco dei Mostri, a garden filled with 16th century grotesque sculptures, also known as Villa Barmarzo.

Dragon at Parco dei Mostri, gum bichomate print, 13 x 15 in., 2003

Let me back up a bit. When I took my second photography class in 1980, I was fortunate to go to New York City to see a show of Eugene Atget’s Gardens on exhibit at ICP (International Center for Photography). I fell in love with his images, and to this day they still inspire me. I spent most of my photography life photographing historic architecture, first with 35mm infrared film and then with a swing lens panoramic camera. Fifteen years ago, when I revisited a process that I had learned in 1980, gum bichromate printing, I realized that the process and the sharp lines of the architecture did not create a good fit.

After Atget, St.-Cloud, France, gum bichomate print, 13 x 15 in., 2009

The gum bichromate process is a 19th-century process that was a favorite of the Pictorialist group of photographers who worked between 1885 and 1915. Watercolor pigment is mixed with gum arabic and then photosensitized with dichromate (chromium salts). This emulsion is hand-coated onto the surface of paper under incandescent light. A negative is placed on top of the dried coating and exposed to ultraviolet light. After the exposure, the print is immersed in cool water. The areas of the image that are struck by light bond to the paper, while those that were blocked from light wash away, preserving the highlights. Several layers of translucent color are required to create a fully tonal image. Therefore the process of coating, drying, exposing, and washing is repeated up to five times.

Secret Garden, St.-Cloud, France, gum bichomate print, 13 x 15 in., 2005

If I haven’t lost you yet, registration of a negative containing sharp lines is difficult, since the repeated washings change the paper size. After struggling with this for several years, I discovered the Holga toy camera. The Holga image is sharp in the center and soft at the edges. To me, the camera is perfect for the gum bichromate process. Armed with several Holgas, I journeyed to the gardens Atget had photographed and to the lush Renaissance villas of Italy.

La Cerchiata Grande, Boboli Gardens, Florence, gum bichomate print, 15 x 13 in., 2009

I discovered when shooting with the Holga, I am drawn to shapes and figures that appear to emerge from the darkness. The wonderful vignetting created by the plastic lens enhances this quality within my images. This enables me to capture soft, dreamy images reminiscent of historic photographic methods, evoking the misty quality of memories.

Grotto God, Viscaya, FL, gum bichomate print, 13 x 13 in., 2003

Thus history and process inspire my image making process. I continue to collect things and images. And I am now beginning to photograph my collection of old and textured objects to revisit them in a new form of re-collected images.

Sandra C. Davis was born in 1960s near Philadelphia. In the 1980s she discovered photography as a way to express her vision. She teaches alternative processes at several universities in the Philadelphia area. Her award-winning images are exhibited nationwide and are in public, corporate and private collections.