Allegra Martin’s work takes inspiration from the photographic tradition of landscape, territory and architecture, and renovates it: her photographs introduce a narrative. They do not tell stories and there is no linearity, however the objects she places within the frame seem to be connected by a plot. Atmospheres are suspended. The temperature, cold. Noir scenarios are immersed in a widespread, blinding light. Even the school and the museum portrayed in the photographs presented in 2016 – On New Italian Photography, designed by the architect Maurizio Sacripanti, deprived of any sort of presence and perfectly ordered, appear like the set of an imminent action.
F: What was your first approach to photography?
AM: My first approach to photography dates back to when I was a little child with a Polaroid camera. I started taking photographs in order to appropriate the things that surrounded me, or those that would catch my attention, to fix them. In my first years at university (I studied architecture in Venice), photography was a useful tool to depict places and details I was later required to redraw. It was only in the following years that I started to experiment with photography as a means of expression, and this awareness coincided with a more in-depth study of the history of art and that of photography.
F: Who or what had an influence on what you do?
AM: Everything I experience influences my work and, viceversa, my work influences my life. Photography involves the act of looking, thus that of knowing. Taking photographs to me means to be prepared for an encounter and, at the same time, to look for my projection in the surroundings. The influences on my work hail, on one hand, from the outside, which is made of people, meetings, movies, books, music and bizarre events; on the other hand, from my inner world, made of memories, suggestions, fears and fantasies. Nevertheless, the medium I use has a certain influence on my work, too.
F: What stories do you like to tell?
AM: I like to think of photography as a daily practice – even though I do not photograph every day literally, I do it mentally. It’s a continuous exercise, which allows me to re-elaborate the things I see around me. I am interested in the everyday, with its banality and repetitiveness; I am not into stories, but I am fascinated by the mystery that lies behind every image. A body of work loses its power when the story it tells needs to be explicated in words and becomes more important than the images. The best photographs are the ones I can’t take my eyes off, which foster questions and are enveloped in a veil of mystery.
F: What is the best photobook you have seen sofar?
AM: The book is my favourite support for reading images; it allows a direct and personal relationship: you can look at them for as long as you feel to, anywhere. Many photobooks have been and still are important to me. I could mention plenty, for different reasons, but the first ones that come to my mind are: Varianti by Guido Guidi (1995), Shimmer of Possibility by Paul Graham (2007), Every Building on the Sunset Strip by Ed Ruscha (1966), but also William Eggleston’s Guide (1976) and American Photographs by Walker Evans (1938). One of the books I bought recently is How What Exists Exists by Nicola Nunziata (2015), published by FW:Books. I am amazed by the metalinguistic operation the artist has carried out, re-photographing the photographs taken for Viaggio in Italia as fragile bodies on a surgery table, and turning them into something else.
F: What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
AM: A few weeks ago, I visited the exhibition Del Disegno Disposto Alla Pittura, Riccardo Baruzzi’s solo show at P420 Gallery in Bologna, which deeply stroke me. Riccardo translates painting into drawing, and with just a few signs on the canvas he is capable of great expressivity. Drawing is abstraction, line is thought. The artworks hanging on the walls seem the result of a deconstruction of the language, with no apparent effort.
F: And the record you like the most?
AM: Here too, all I can do is to mention but a few among my favourites: London Calling by The Clash (1979), Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (1959), Movement by New Order (1981), Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division (1979), Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan (1965), Exile on Main St. by Rolling Stones (1972).
F: What are your future projects?
AM: In the immediate future, I would like to finish the series Maurizio Sacripanti, which is still ongoing. Another project I’d like to carry out – but I keep on postponing – is a trip to the United States, where I’d like to photograph the places that constitute my imagery. I have many goals and new projects in mind, but I don’t like to speak about them until the negatives are placed on my desk.
Allegra Martin, born in Vittorio Veneto in 1980, lives and works in Milan. A pupil of Guido Guidi, she graduated in Architecture from the IUAV University of Venice in 2007, with a photographic thesis on the landscape of Veneto. In 2011 she took part to a project on welfare spaces in Emilia promoted by Linea di Confine per la Fotografia Contemporanea, to the residency project Confotografia in L’Aquila, and to the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency in Bethlehem (Palestine). In 2013 the i2a of Lugano assigned her a project on the CSCS Data Centre of Lugano. In May 2014, Lido. A Sud di Nessun Nord was published, edited by the Osservatorio Fotografico of Ravenna, while in 2015 Double Bind was published by Editrice Quinlan. Her solo shows include Second Choice at Breadfield (Malmö, 2014). Her main group shows include The Third Island at La Triennale di Milano (2015), Il Presente on the occasion of the 14th FOTOGRAFIA – International Festival of Rome, Calamita/à at the Alt +1000 Festival in Rossinière, Switzerland (2015), Dove Viviamo, curated by the Osservatorio Fotografico (2013), Ravenna, Laboratorio Italia at the Spazio ex MIR MAR, SI Fest#23, Savignano sul Rubicone (2014), Konstellationen at the Galerie f5.6, Munich (2013), Calamita/à. Indagini e ricerche nei territori del Vajont at Padova Fotografia (2014), Uno Sguardo Lento at MIA Fair (2015), From There To Now, Learning Photography at Micamera, Milan (2013). Since 2013 Allegra Martin has been among the curators of Exposed, a research platform which exploits photography and other media to investigate the city of Milan and its transformation. www.allegramartin.it
Conversation with Planar and the authors of The Third Island Tuesday, July 12 at 7 pm Viasaterna Via Leopardi 32, Milan www.viasaterna.com