Translated by Tobia D’Onofrio
Through her artistic activity, Marina Giannobi explores the intricate critical universe which historically characterizes the old diatribe on the existence of an autonomous statute of photography. The eternal dilemma is: “photography as art” or “art as photography”? Since its origins, the mythical dark room has tickled the hottest questions, alternately in favour of, and against the artistic peculiarity of this medium, thus confining, from the beginning, the first camera operators to the rank of those “failed painters” who, by limiting themselves to a mechanical, specular re-production of reality, rejected any artistic claim for the image re-produced, thus depriving it of the typical “aura” which characterizes traditional painting. Soon this medium revealed its great artistic potential related not only to its productive automatism, but also to the conceptual possibilities it offered beyond the purely formal structure. Yet the photographic universe seems bound to live on in the dualism existing between the uniqueness of noèma, the famous “as it really was” expressed by Barthes, which testifies the very essence of the process by giving authenticity to the reality captured by the shutter, as well as the anti-artistry underlying the technique of infinite re-production of one single photo, that “detaches the reproducted object from the domain of tradition”, to use Walter Benjamin’s words.
Today, the rise of digital technology seems to have rendered the situation even more complicated: technological innovation has not only made the use of photographic equipments accessible to everyone both for reproduction and fruition (today we can have an immediate view of your pictures, by unloading a memory card on the computer), it has also made it easier the manipulation and modification of an image through software such as Photoshop.
On the face of it, digital photography seems to be declaring the death of the analogue one, damaging its unequivocal essence of trace, explicit and direct evidence of the referent, which now can easily be altered and could not even correspond to reality at all; actually the split between those who look back “nostalgically” on acids and films, and those “integrated” in the new system, designes the characteristics of today’s controversy. In this complex picture Marina Giannobi’s production takes its place in the middle, very close to a balance between formal and conceptual reading, where the contemplative aspect, the researched aesthetic harmony of an image doesn’t exclude its active function, and where analogue and digital perform exactly the same task. There is no sophistication in post-production, only a “pure” shutter-release whose final result, somehow premeditated by fitting the camera with filters and long exposure times, remains “frozen” by the shutter being closed. This happens indifferently whether the artist uses a digital or an analogue camera. Giannobi can “play” with reality and its image, on the tiny thread of an emotivity barely hidden and exalted by her experience; and she can do so thanks to her structured knowledge of programmes and virtualities connected to the photographic equipment, and thanks to her clear awareness that the very essence of photography cannot disregard its authenticity, its being a trace, a sign that re-sets in motion the memory of something past. Every shot embraces a universe, the uniqueness of a subject and its double, the atmosphere of a situation caught in its becoming, in which all the energy of the emanation of places, of people and of the artist herself merge in total unison. The photographer’s discreet eye provides a screen of veiled subjectivity to the eye of the camera, thus leaving the instrument free to record spaces, environments, atmospheres according to its own automatism, in a “combined system” (of author and medium) for choosing the right moment, by following a route that, on one hand, is based upon the study and exploitation of the potential of the medium and, on the other hand, relies upon the unexpected circumstances in which the picture is taken. Barthes states: “In the field of photographic practice, it is the amateur, by contrast, who is the assumption of the professional: because it is he who sticks closest to the noème of Photography”. Giannobi takes her place on the border between an amateur and a professional photographer, fully aware of the conceptual, semantic, formal and aesthetic meanings deriving from this place. The artist does not hide herself, nor pushes excessively the photographic process; rather she becomes one and the same with her camera, recording with it the indefinable shades of reality, becoming direct and active witness of the entropic degree revealed by the photo. Be them people, situations, urban landscapes, or foreshortened views of cities, her photographs suggest a new look on things thanks to her ability to establish that invisible gap existing between the “fragment of reality” and its double, as well as to her ability to constantly renovate the relationship between author, sign and user. A brightness apparently unreal that goes from green to blue or to red, coupling with the “risky” movements of subjects, confers the photograph that very “aura” of authenticity, increasing the value of the signifier and promoting an active, uninhibited interpretation instead of a static, exclusively contemplative one. In Luces Urbis, Giannobi establishes a direct connection with the city, accumulating during her passage a new wealth of experience and “grasped moments” which, by providing original and unusual views, are the starting point to renew the look on the well known and classic baroque of Lecce, thus stimulating the observer to complete the meaning of the image with his own background of memories and knowledge.