After finishing her studies in Paris and London, she was often featured in such magazines as Vogue, House & Garden and Country Living – but she turned to art from lifestyle photography. This week, her three-dimensional works in which she tackles difficult topics and encourages the audience to come up with their own interpretation, are exhibited in Brick Lane Gallery in London. Meet Caroline Gavazzi, a photographer.
After a successful run at Milan’s photo fair and Fix Photo Festival, Caroline has curated her award-winning work for a London exhibition once again.
“I decided to put the exhibition together because it’s a totally new project that I hardly showcased before, apart from Milan in March, where the projects have won the first prize at the Mia Photo Fair,” she explains.
“There are two projects that I’m going to exhibit – one in black and white, one in colour, and then there are two subjects which are totally different,” Caroline says about the main themes of her exhibition. “However, in the past year, I’ve been working a lot on “layers” – ones that could be seen visually on the artwork, or something based on this principle that is a part the image itself. That’s what the both of them have in common,” she adds.
The first project is a collection of portrait photographs that gain an additional dimension due to the technique. We Are Here captures the portraits of immigrants and uses them as a starting point of conversation about humanity.
“My project focused on immigrants is a collection of three-dimensional works. I placed photos of enlarged fingerprints printed on plexiglass over actual portrait photographs in black and white, taken in south Italy. The layer is very evident there,” she gives a brief introduction to her new project.
Speaking about the meaning of her works and the message she was trying to send, she introduces us to her way of fighting with stereotypes by encouraging us to re-think the bias so common in modern society. She underlines the importance of the individual by linking the portrait with something unique to each one of us: a fingerprint. And although they might be related to border checks and immigration screenings, they’re also strongly connected to one’s individuality as something that cannot be replicated.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people would be prejudiced or have a particular preconception about a person. The fingerprint symbolises the identity: when you look beyond the print on the plexiglass you’ll see a person,” she explains. “I wanted to portray them exactly as that, human beings, with their own soul and identity – and a lot of pain and sorrow as they have been suffering a lot.”
Caroline is French-Italian, and as a photographer, she spends a lot of time abroad – and she agrees that her own immigrant experience has also inspired her.
“I like being surrounded by people who have so many different points of view – I don’t see myself as more Italian or more French, I see myself as a European first,” she explains. “I really like that the idea of judgement of that comes with a label of ‘you’re from there’, ‘that’s your country’. Everyone should be judged by what kind of person they are instead.”
Caroline was thinking about taking photographs of immigrants in London, but soon she found a background for her photographs in Italy that captured the intended spirit of her works perfectly.
“With my project, I wanted to speak about humanity and seeing people as they are, and so it was very important for me to find the right place to photograph the people I worked with,” she explains.
“I went to work in an incredible place in the south of Italy, Riace in Calabria, which over the last twenty years grew to be increasingly abandoned. The younger generation has moved abroad, or simply to the nearby towns and cities, so the villagers there experience economical death. However, the mayor of the city, Domenico Lucano, has decided to accommodate refugees and provided them with a way to adapt,” she explains. “Because some of the houses were totally abandoned, he started reaching out to people – finding the owners that have left the village to buy their property. He started to rebuild them and house the newcomers there, creating the jobs, for example in local shops,” Caroline adds.
Why did Riace turn out to be a better place to work in for this particular project? Caroline tells me that it was exactly what she wanted to say with her art. She has also given a village a helping hand in return to the warm welcome – all the profit from the sale of the photographs is being donated to Citta Futura, the local immigrant association.
“The people there gained back their identity and respect – and that proved the concrete impact on the locals,” she explains. “I wanted to make others aware of this place – it’s amazing how everybody is helping each other, they’re feeling welcome.”
The second project on display, called Tropical Sighs, is a massive switch from the previous topic: Caroline turned her lens to the plants as she observed them through an additional layer of glass.
“These are tropical plants, but photographed from outside of the greenhouse,” she says. “I really like art that creates different feelings depending on the perception of the viewer. You can see it through the structure, or take it outside of it, so it depends on the audience’s point of view and can be interpreted in various ways,” she explains.
Her works put a twist on the works of Fox Talbot, a British pioneer of photography, who put a leaf on a sensitised sheet of paper and later covered it with glass, creating a first photographic negative. Caroline also looks at the shapes of leaves pressing against the glass – but instead, she encourages audiences to wonder whether the plants are protected inside the greenhouse, or rather separated from their natural environment and trapped.
“I referred to Fox Talbot because the first photograph ever was a leaf covered with glass – but his leaf didn’t have a “life”. I wanted to reply to this with an opposite: the colours of my works in this series to be strong, and the water and the steam on the glass added an extra visual effect so it looks like a painting,” she explains.
We Are Here and Tropical Sighs are exhibited at the Brick Lane Gallery: 216 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB, UK. The exhibition runs from 5th to 10th July. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 12pm – 6pm.