Eye On: Renato D'Agostin

Avant/Garde Diaries
Feb 27, 2013 10:58PM

The most fascinating thing about the photography of Renato D’Agostin is his subjects’ enveloping presence, even though the viewer usually never gets to see them. We are instead treated to representational suggestions – backs of heads, silhouettes in motion, shoes and ankles on a street corner. The Italian-born photographer, who develops and prints his work in his own darkroom, just released a new a series entitled “Shanghai,” which will form the basis of a forthcoming book of the same name.

Your latest photo series was taken in Shanghai. What draws you to China?The relationship between the people and the future that is surrounding them. The scale, the proportions, the massive repetition of constructions. The contradictions. The simple way of life and the futuristic buildings just around its corner.

What do you want your photographs to express to the viewer? I hope they might suggest a certain surprise. I know they might suggest a certain detachment from reality. I think they might suggest nostalgia and alienation. I like to think that my photographs can leave room to the viewer.

You often work with visual distortion and rear views. Why do you refer to these stylistic devices? 
What interests me is the presence of elements in the image, more than the elements themselves. I find that expressions of the face or the ability to recognize a person distracts me and somehow gives a time to the image. In my work, I tend to lose the focus of the faces, leaving them to white or black masks playing the role of “human presence” in the image, interfering with the space around. The outlines of the volumes fade away without losing their weight. I use a long lens for this, which also allows me to compress the layers of reality, reaching a more graphic structure of the image, narrowing the field, eliminating visual noise, and de-contextualizing the subjects. I feel like when I'm far away from the subject, I see something that I lose when I get closer.

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Avant/Garde Diaries