"Defiguration, your eyes to see me". The shots of the "explorer of looks" Danilo De Marco, on show in Pordenone – Pordenone
Danilo De Marco, Towards the market of Benito Juarez Huasteca, Mexico, 1997. Photo: © Danilo De Marco
He portrayed them with "a wrong lens" 50 centimeters away from them, with his face on fire and his eyes piercing the car. He has immortalized many of the subjects, this journalist and reporter who about 30 years ago began his solitary journeys always as an envoy of himself "and without the economic 'protection' of any newspaper, or assistance involved in mega photo agencies ». He explored half the world, De Marco – from China to Mexico from the Kurdish mountains, in Turkey and Iraq, to Sri Lanka, wandering between the resistance of the Tamil people and tea women among the Zanzibar seaweed pickers and the 'night commuters' in Uganda – in search of souls and faces, with its objective that it does not swallow what it frames holding it for itself, but that it is only "a humble mediator between the eyes from here and the eyes there ". Some of these works, 150 in particular, made between communities and peoples of the extreme suburbs of the world, will be at the center of the retrospective Defigurazione. Your eyes to see me curated by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle and scheduled from 3 March to 27 May at the Harry Bertoia Gallery in Pordenone.
"The eyes and the face are the first meeting we have with anyone", explains De Marco. And in fact, to observe them well, the images of the Kurdish population in eternal resistance, of the workers of sugar cane in India, of a Mexican indigenous intent to go to the market with their own hen in their arms, or even the mondine known to Zanzibar, they really have something magnetic. Their eyes speak and seem to recover the indissoluble bond that the Greeks conceived between sight and knowledge. Knowledge of the soul, in this case, which seems to emerge from these shots strictly in black and white, in a sort of "lens maieutics".
A provocative path made of bewilderment and sudden changes, held together by the strong humanity that the research of De Marco conveys, "defigurando", going beyond the 'figure' portrait to compose a photograph that rises an instrument of introspection, an invitation to understand the human "entity", interpreting the person and the meaning of his life path.
To help us to get inside his "defiguration" De Marco cites the essay on the writing of Antonin Artaud, Samuel Beckett and Henri Michaux entitled La défiguration about which Évelyne Grossman says: "The defiguration is at the same time de-creation and permanent re-creation of the provisional and fragile forms of oneself and of the other".
But next to these subjects, unknown to the observer, "explored" by the photographer through a path that, as he explains "requires time and patience, but that eventually allows those who shoot to become one of them" we find also writers, historians, poets, intellectuals from the Friulian Federico Tavan to Jacques Le Goff, from Claudio Magris to Carlo Ginzburg. Yet De Marco does not choose them all as subjects of his work. He meets them on a first date, some he sees them later to photograph them, some not. "Not all the meetings explode," he says.
«To meet the authors – he explains – has always been fundamental for me to understand how much 'coherence' there was between the work and its creator. The aim has never been to create a collection of celebrity 'figurines' . Precisely for this reason, among the women and men I met and photographed there are also the faces of strangers or those who remained on the margins of fame and fame, for lack of meetings or for less decisive wills. Other times by choice ".
But what do these subjects have in common?
« Surely – answers De Marco – they share the fact of being biped, of walking on this same land and of being the object of a randomness of birth. Carlo Ginzburg, could have been born, for example in Uganda and could perhaps have become the Ugandan child who is with him in the picture and vice versa ».
It is not always easy to get in touch with the subjects. «It is important not to give the impression of being stealing something, but rather of being giving, through an exchange of mutual trust».
These are not portraits, but "figures". A term dear to the photographer, to which he himself admits to have developed a good obsession after the meeting with the book by Gilles Deleuze entitled Logic of sensation.
«The explorations of De Marco – explains the curator of the exhibition, Carlo Arturo Quintavalle are the result of a long immersion in different contexts, in which the photographer wants to be welcomed as part of a group, learning to know gently and respect people. More than stolen images, his are experiences of individuals. Behind the apparent realism of his works lies something much more complex. Behind the desire to photograph for example over a thousand partisans of different experiences and nationalities there is an experience that goes far beyond the photographic document. Something as impregnable as the gaze becomes a reason of life for the photographer and of continuity of existence for the immortalized people. In the shots that focus the eyes of the partisans there is perhaps the idea of taking a close look at the old age of the person who keeps the youth of the ideas, while in photographing the intellectuals De Marco breaks the traditional portrait iconography, playing with the image".
It will be because of this complexity that lies behind his works, that the chat on the phone with De Marco becomes increasingly difficult. The eyes are hidden by a cold voice transmitter. We perceive a moment in which we can no longer go further with ulterior explanations of meaning.
It is the extraordinary, ineffable power of photography, is the greatness of art.
• Danilo De Marco. Defiguration. Your eyes to see me