In a world accustomed to innovation and constant technological breakthroughs, it is rare to find someone who chooses to “take matters into their own hands”. Especially when this manufacturing involves chemical and physical processes, patience and dedication, when this craft side becomes the artistic work itself. Rare, patient and passionate about what he does, here’s Enrico Garzaro, 32-year-old man, Italian economist and photographer, currently living in the Netherlands. In the interview to Umbigo, Enrico talks about his childhood in Italy, his inspirations, his academic background, his projects and what he has learned most important until today.
A small town near Venice, a big house with a backyard, a vegetable garden and vineyards, the close contact with the grandparents and the appreciation of children’s playing time. Enrico delicately describes his youth. He highlights the importance of observing his grandfather’s handiwork in the metal workshop: “I still remember his hands vividly. I believed that he could do everything on his own”. This observation became an inspiration and reference in the photographer’s projects.
With Max Frisch, Felisberto Hernandes and Roberto Bolaño as his main inspiration in literature, and Daisuke Yokota, Karl Blossfeldt, Paul Kooiker, Wolfgang Tillmans and Miroslav Tichlý in photography, he expresses a great interest in storytelling, literature and psychology. He also states that he is influenced by everything that happens around him: “my artist practice and my life are constantly affected by my experiences and by what happens around me. All those leave marks, traces and memories”. For him, reading a novel can have the same impact as an unexpected discussion with a stranger on the street. Stories are what really matter.
One of his stories is related to the almost accidental way he met Gerrit Rietveld Academy, one of the best art and design academies in the Netherlands. It was there that he obtained his degree in photography, which he added to his diplomas as an economist and master in behavioural economics. It was also where he developed the Life Long Camera project and his graduation project Estetica Morelli.
According to Enrico, the first was the result of a simple idea: “I wanted to create a camera capable of photographing with the same exposure time as my remaining life”. For that, he thought about how photographs are made and used nowadays. He wanted a photo that could not be consumed instantly. Determined to approach the project with an almost philosophical method, Enrico started from scratch: he deconstructed the camera, analysed each of its parts, their functioning, the chemical and physical aspects, studied the photosensitive materials and identified the numerous possibilities. Then he began to create, make and assemble his own cameras. This whole process was an incentive to question his patience, confidence and role as a photographer.
Although Life Long Camera is still in progress, it has already borne fruit: as previously mentioned, the project Estetica Morelli derived from the former. According to Enrico, one of his great inspirations was the story of the art connoisseur Giovanni Morelli, whom he considers a symbol for the fact that “small details can be the key to a deeper reality, inaccessible through other methods, except by careful observation”. To pay homage to Morelli, replicating the journey he made through Italy, the photographer rented a van, put in it all the cameras he had built by hand, and customized the vehicle’s exterior. Also, he dressed as the connoisseur and, along the route between Amsterdam and Naples, delivered each of his 20 cameras to colleagues and acquaintances. The goal was that, while handing them out, he would open the shutter and take a photo with an exposure that would continue until his return. Enrico says that the last photo before returning to Amsterdam to collect the cameras was a three-hour self-portrait in a square in Naples, where he asked “who is recording who? Me or the camera?”
That kind of questioning is the fuel for Enrico’s creation. Since the days of his grandparents’ backyard in Italy, his camera manufacturing, all the way to the present day, he continues to develop new projects based on his doubts and insatiable curiosity, which turns the banal into extraordinary. Whether it’s during the course of a new adventure, at a café in Amsterdam, or on his online networks, the photographer invites everyone to share stories… at least until the shutter of his Life Long Camera is closed.