venerdì 19 maggio 2017

Gioacchino del Balzo: the man beside the Pirelli Calendar during the fashion golden age

Exclusive Interview with Gioacchino del Balzo
Translated from italian

July 1964 Pirelli Calendar

Tony Graffio: Good morning Mr. Del Balzo, I contacted you because I knew you have been the  Pirelli Calendar Executive Producer for a long time. Now that you have anymore obbligation with that Company I would like to know what you really did in those days and how it happpened Pirelli became so popular everywhere with its precious gadget. 

Goodbye Gioacchino: Good morning Mr. Graffio. Yes, that's true, I followed that project for almost 18 years, until 2012. Then, I had enough of it, because the world has changed quite a bit. 

TG: Surely, you will have a lot of interesting things to tell about this prestigious project. I came to you also because I am passionate about printing techniques and I've been able to find the first typographer who printed the Calendar in 1963 and also the last firm charged to work on it now. 

The first photograph of the First Pirelli Calendar showed a Chinese girl in Hong Kong on a bicycle, because in that country Pirelli was selling many tires and bicycle inner tubes.

GdB: Interesting. Most of the printers I used were in England. 

TG: Yes, I know.

GdB: I had two typographies in England and then I had a very good print coordinator. 


Typographer Lythographer
Angelo Vavassori, 75 y.o., retired typographer and lithographer.

TG: I met here in Milan one of the printers of the 1963 Calendar. I hope you will satisfy a few couriosities I have. First of all, I would like to understand why that edition is not mentioned as the first one?

GdB: The 1963 Pirelli Calendar was made as a test and it was not fully endorsed. It was never distributed, it circulated very little and in the catalog it is considered a form of newcomer. The idea, which was born within the English marketing office, was to represent women from various countries along with the product to be sold. Then, the brand autonomy was very strong, even at local level. The Calendar has always been conceived and printed, regardless of the fact that I was concerned with the project, and it has always been the expression of a British reality, in an English environment that was much more favorable to this initiative, for a thousand reasons. In Italy, it has never been easy to create such projects. Believe me!

TG: I can imagine it... 

GdB: I left this environment after so many years, even because it was a bit Italianized during the last years... Anyway, the first calendar makes a bit of a story in itself; it is considered out of print by Mondadori and by the German publisher Taschen. 

TG: Is it a rarity of great value? 

GdB: I think in England there is one copy in the archive, but you can not find it elsewhwere. We have shown it in various publications to explain the story, not for a collecting matter. The most valuable editions, of course, are the first ones, while the value of the editions of recent years is quite insignificant. 

TG: I understand. I'm not a collector, but I'm interested in many things. From a printing point of view, some collectors told me also the first calendars were very well made

GdB: Definitely. 

TG: Why was there a printing break between 1974 and 1981? 

GdB: The Calendar in England and in the Anglo-Saxon countries had come to the top of the success, and then was stopped for practical reasons. In 1971, Pirelli merged with Dunlop and the complexity of the Merge of the two companies did not facilitate marketing projects.  It's also true that in the following years an important oil and economic crisis emerged, inducing Pirelli to make  a pause. The Communication Project was considered perhaps ephemeral for the context of the time. In the pictures of the 1982 Calendar, it was decided to show the tyre, at least as a reminder, more or less evident in the photographs, something that had never been conceived before. Beautiful Models were quickly chosen and we did traveled to exotic places where pictures were shot in total freedom, spontaneously. From this mode of action, there have been moments of great sensuality that have become mythical. Between 1983 and 1992 it was chosen, instead, to show a sign of the product. The idea was not wrong and some great photographers like Norman Parkinson in 1985 and Arthur Elgort in 1990 were able to propose this element in a fairly veiled manner. In 1988, this purpose was a bit too present and recreated a somewhat forced setting, imposing a theme that obliged the photographer to reduce part of his creativity. I think that at that moment the Calendar was losing that Magic Feeling and Exclusivity have marked it in the past. It was at that moment that we decided, in agreement with Pirelli Management, that we had to return to the origins and the origins were freedom and sensuality. 

Woman-pacemaker

TG: According to you what was the most successful edition? 

GdB: There are some beautiful editions with Avedon and Herb Ritts photographers. The first Herb Ritts Calendar for me was perhaps the beginning of an era of enthusiasm and great emotional creativity. Models were very beautiful and spontaneous and the photographer was perfectly able to convey the great female sensuality. He had had fully absorbed the concept of Robert Freeman: "Let's go to a wonderful place and let's take a picture." There were no schemes. We came back from the trip and we picked the 12 or 13 best pictures. That was enough to make an exceptional product. Then, we went to Avedon asking him not to set limits. The novelty I think I have introduced is that a Calendar should not be linked to the number of the months. One month might even have three or four solutions. Or we introduced the quarterly period... Everyone started inventing other solutions, because it was a shame to discard the photos that were successful. Avedon presented up to 24 pictures, we agreed on a version of the natural woman and of the dressed woman. All photographs were a decision, 90% of the photographer. Then the last word, whether to delete one or more shot it was up to us and to the Pirelli management. At that time there was a total freedom for both, the artist and art director and they accepted these choices. Photography is largely subjective, but there are also objective factors. The photographs were taken by great photographers who first produced the Polaroids in large format, to better feel and understand the situation and the ambience and to achieve what they felt was an outstanding picture. With the digitization it's all changed, you shoot millions of photograps and then pull out what you need in an infinite number of shots... At the end, of course it's easy to choose the best! 

TG: I heard each picture is totally post-produced. 

GdB: Digitizing is all different. If somebody snaps 10,000 photos it's easy to obtain twenty beautiful pictures! (Laughter) 

1965 refuses

TG: Is everything processed in Photoshop. True? 

GdB: But of course they are all retouched, the digital medium allows to do it and it's always done. 

TG: I saw a French publication that also reported some pretty scandalous images. Was there an internal censorship that tended to exclude the most audacious shots? 

GdB: The concern not to go too far there has always been, we tried to play on the nuances of certain atmospheres. Let's say that sometimes some choices have generated a bit of a debate, like the shots of Terry Richardson. The French television has talked about this (of pictures not approved ndTG)! 


Pirelli Calendar 2010 - Photographer Terry Richardson. 

TG: What budget did you have? 

GdB: Budgets have been declared. The models did not earn much, while the photographers were paid, in my time, from 100,000 to 500,000 dollars. The models were paid around $ 10,000. 

TG: Overall budget for the whole operation how much was it? 

GdB: It was around two million dollars. It was not huge and the return was big.  Do you know how much it was? 60 times as much. 

TG: Wow! 

GdB: Yeah, because if you count all the advertising pages, the television minutes passages, the radio, and the rest, you would have spent or invest, much higher. The news was talking of "The Cal" for at least a quarter of an hour. In Italy the TV show "Porta a Porta" (Italian popular talk show kept by the RAI ndTG) spoke of it! 

TG: When? 

GdB: In 2003-2004. 

TG: Now the Calendar makes much less news, why? 

GdB: In my opinion, the Calendar has lost the spontaneity of its great origin. The Great Calendar were the ones that left the photographer the freedom to express his creativity. When I do not accept the choice of a photographer I'm forced to work with, I'm automatically faced with a non-creative choice... 

TG: Who normally did choose the photographers? 

GdB: At 99% I chose them, I knew everyone, I had the technical skills. The calendar was made 100% in England until 2010, probably the print was then brought to Italy for having more control over the final product. The world has changed and we began to hear about purchasing office that intervened. When they began to argue, to make auctions to find a typographer, the photographer had automatically lost his creativity. I do not argue that we have to stay within market prices, but there is way and way to make certain choices. Once, there were very competent and professional British printers. In addition, this also provided a logistic plan and particular privacy. This world has changed between 2009 and 2010. 

TG: The Management for legitimate reasons was more careful about cost and less about creativity? 

GdB: I believe that it is now a business trend in all areas. It is not that before costed more than now, but the over reacted attention to the costs inevitably reflects on creativity. 

TG: In the early 1990s, the world's most famous calendar was printed in 40,000 copies a year, later by half, and now? 

GdB: We printed 40,000 copies to spread it all over the world, now the thing is very complex, we say it's also a marketing tool. When I was in charge of producing it in England, I had to make it known to the world; We introduced it to China, Soviet Union in South America and the whole world. We have organized Calendar launches and events in Rio, New York, Paris, London, Berlin, and Naples to try to make it more known. It was an Anglo-English and even Italian reality, and then slowly it spread to the world. Over the last few years, the circulation has been reduced to 15,000 copies. 

TG: I've heard about 12,000. Why? 

GdB: Probable. At the beginning of 2000 there was more spread because each country where Pirelli operated was calling for a number of calendars that were spread, let's say among VIPs. Diffusion number was also the criterion for debiting the Calendar cost. 

TG: At first the calendars were distributed primarily to the sellers? 

GdB: No, they were given to the garage. We have to divide everything in four decades. In the 1960s / 1970s, British VIP and a number of important English garages were given. In the '80s in England and to the Anglo-Saxon countries, the VIP and something came to Italy. In the 1990s, when I was busy, it was spread all over the world, of course, through the local business management. Lately, people talk a lot less of it, why? As you make the calendar visible to everyone, it makes it much less interesting and more accessible. Before, to see a photograph you needed a miracle. We distributed 3 or 4 photographs all over the world. Some could take pictures of the Calendar, if they did, but if they put it on the internet without authorization we pursued them legally, because we wanted this to be a much desired object and not seen much. 

TG: So, you needed to talk a lot of it without to show much... now it is the opposite. 

GdB: Right, now things have changed. I have no relationship with Pirelli, but it is clear that the project has less exclusive features! Today, perhaps, it has become more difficult to talk about it,  we need to communicate and repeat continuously. The news disappears quickly! For this reason, I am convinced that showing little creates curiosity, expectation and aspiration. 

TG: People have little memory, with the internet talking about something for a day, but the next day everyone already thinks of something else. 

GdB: I agree, things have changed a bit. We can talk about it, but we used to play the little mysteries too: we gave a little news before the summer and then, in a second time, when the Calendar was launched. They were small teasers with great results! 

TG: Now there are also lots of videos on the making of. What do you think?

GdB: Yes, on Youtube. 

TG: Why? 

GdB: Lately, parts of the footage have been given to the public. The original full video lasts 20-25 minutes. I think it's wrong to do such a thing. Creating a commercial spread of the Calendar loses the aspiration of having an exclusive product. If I always see a certain thing, I no longer have the desire to have it. This is an elementary rule. 

TG: There is no waiting that is part of the desire. 

GdB: Exactly! I remember that when we brought Sofia Loren to the United States, to California, we announced her arrival and all the American News talked of her since 8 am. We had given a picture for Sofia Loren's back stage and the whole world talked of her. 

TG: It is difficult to balance something to show with something to hide. 

GdB: It's tough, I agree, but me and the one who took care of the central management, a dear friend, we got the right results. The Calendar was a mythical product that over the time lost its extraordinary name because it was shown too much. One time, of a calendar made up of 20 photographs, half of it could not be seen, even on the Internet. What we put on our web site could not be copied, there were several systems to limit this diffusion of images. Anyone who received our photo was a privileged one, we distributed a very small number of photographs so everyone wanted to have them. Then, there were those who smuggled the photo because it was firing from the calendar, something that made us play. It was good for us to have someone who photographed the picture of the picture, because so it was spoken in a clandestine way, not in an official way, do you understand? Who copied the photograph was someone who was not linked to the official site; It was not the "Corriere della Sera" or the Times of London... That meant that somebody was talking of it, there was a bit of chaos and then the thing fell there. Big expectation was created. 

TG: Back to the print, what specifications were required and what techniques were used? 

GdB: It was all above the photographer to approve the quality by going to see the first print tests to see if the colours were right and whether certain qualities were fine. Once, the photographer went on a typography for a whole month before he could fix the print colours; it was a much more complicated job from that point of view. This was normal until 2007-2008, we are not talking about prehistoric times. The digital infographic then simplified the work a lot. 

TG: Why do people who work with Pirelli, I'm talking about typography, can not even publicly to be an important partner in making such a prestigious product? In this company near Bergamo, where they now manage print management on printed paper, on behalf of large international brands, using external suppliers, they would be happy to tell everything to me, but they cannot. At the end, Pirelli does not pay much, and in addition, whoever offers his services must partially give up their image return, although later there is an indication of the names in the final credits. Is this right? 

GdB: Now they cannot speak for contract, but once in the Calendar, the name of the printing company was imprinted, and the company that used the printing found this great advertising that allowed us to get great prices for the Workmanship we asked from them. I believe that the current Management has opted for new rules. 

TG: I know the first typographer to deal with was here in Milan, it was called GBM; While now they print from the parts of Treviso, from Antigua Graphics. In England, who was working on this work? 

GdB: A typography that has now closed, Pure Print, its print coordinator was Mike Welles. 

TG: How do calendars look like the last two years? 

GdB: A bit different from what they used to be; I think they reflect the big changes that have happened to Pirelli quite clearly. There is no longer the fantasy of the old times. Naked or half-naked should be seen as a message that can speak of a fairly precise theme. Annie Leibovitz is a perfect poster photographer for American Vanity Fair; She is a very nonconformist woman; It does wonderful things, but in my opinion she has a vision of life without imagination. I think Peter Lindbergh worked a lot better, a bit like the Patrick Demarchelier of the best years: these are photographers capable of making wonderful images, but also having a cultural message, do you understand? 

TG: Is there any other calendar you think is well done or would it be worth collecting, in anticipation of its future reavaluation? 

GdB: No, I do not think there can ever be anything that comes close to what we did with Pirelli in the '90s and 2000s. The British have always had a lot of fantasy about these calendars, let's call them "garage calendars" They were also funny because they were imaginative. Lavazza did something good and Campari too, but they did not choose the right photographers. It is to be said that the object calendar, a bit like many paper publishing products, has lost its charm. I understand that the cult calendar is over, so in the digitalization world, something was to be invented that would always be a paper message, but able to talk about it. I've seen this transformation with a photographer like Patrick Demarchelier who once said to me: "You know what I'm saying to you, now I'm also making digital photos!" When he was already famous for being very fast in shooting. Clearly, digital era has made everything easier for everybody. To make a good shot, instead of putting one day, we took 10 minutes. One that is already fast with the film, in digital is also faster. So he did a bit of digital shots and a bit with the film; in this way life was simpler and services rather than 7 days lasted 5, the logic of work had changed. 

TG: Dr. del Balzo, did you really want to take Demarchelier and half a dozen of nude models to the North Pole in the midst of white bears? 

GdB: Yes, there was the idea of ​​doing something like this to give a more important meaning and message to the project that could have been such a cry of hope for a very worrying idea. 

TG: Mr. del Balzo, could you get me a 2018 calendar? 

GdB: No problem. If you had asked me 10 years ago it would have been different. At that time I had 50 people who were foolish to have one. There were people who obsessed me for a whole month to have it. Did you know how many people asked me last year? Only one! Now I did not ask for them anymore, but if you want it, I can make an exception. 

TG: Thank you so much Mr. del Balzo, you make me feel like a semi-VIP.

GdB: Once the Calendar was a status symbol and there was someone who kept it on his office desk, maybe even closed, to show everyone that he had it. This was the game. The Richard Avedon calendar for exapmple was a bit bigger, holding it on the table, but they show it... Now it is no longer so.


Naomi Campbell Dereck Forsyth Pirelli Gioacchino del Balzo
Gioacchino del Balzo Executive Producer Pirelli in 1993, Naomi Campbell is featured in Richard Avedon's photographs taken for the Pirelli Calendar 1995 in the months of July, August and September. Gioacchino del Blazo, in this personal photo that has courtesy granted to Ortodox Photograhy, is behind the British model. On the Right, Derek Forsyth.

All the rights are reseverd


For those who desire to know more of the Pirelli Calendar and see the images of the complete collection, I suggest to consult the website of Mr. Giuseppe, alias Giuseppe Balzarotti.


martedì 14 marzo 2017

Who is the artist. The opinion of Fabio Castelli

"Art is research, those who do not research are not artist." Anonymous

At the opening for the press of the MIA Photo Fair I immediately wanted to hear the opinion of the Director Fabio Castelli on a topic which I believe is of interest to all the readers of "ORPHO".
Soon, I will return to talk of the authors who participated at the most important Italian photographic fair held in Milano between March 10th to 13th, 2017.

Fabio Castelli
Fabio Castelli, Creator and Artistic Director of the MIA Photo Fair.

Tony Graffio: Director, I would like to ask you a single question, but very difficult. What does distinguish a photographer from an artist?

Fabio Castelli: Well, this is one of the fundamental themes of this dichotomy between the world of art and the world of photography. Many artists are offended when they are called photographers and many photographers feel offended when they are called artists.

TG: Really?

FC: Absolutely. I give you an example. If a war photographer is called artist this is like questioning his ability to describe reality. Actually, maybe he was able to show reality at the risk of his own life, so it is understandable his aversion to the idea of ​​being called artist. More and more classic photographers, maybe a little old fashioned, do not want to accept photography as a contemporary art language. It's easy to recognize them because they are people who are very attached to the mediums by which they have lived since they were very young. For them it is very difficult to change this approach, but it is clear that over the years also photography will be recognized by everybody as a language of the contemporary art.

TG: The problem for a photographer is always to be recognized as an artist ...

FC: This is a problem that affects all the arts: the painter, the sculptor, who makes performances or who draws collides against this difficulty. Regardless of how we express ourselves, it is difficult to be recognized as artists. Probably, time is the only major means able to show whether an author is an artist, in any way he expresses himself.

TG: Thank you very much.

mercoledì 15 febbraio 2017

Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie: two pioneers of the Super8 Renaissence

Unzalab: on the Left Dianna Barrie, in the centre Richard Tuohy, on the right, with the colourful shirt, Francesco Tartaglia.

Hand and Machine
Cinema was the first inescapably mechanical art, but in this post-mechanical age, the traditional apparatus of cinema has all to rapidly been deemed obsolete and primitive. 
Yet the handing over of industrial machinery to anti-industrial users represents one of the prime creative opportunities for re-appraising and re-interpreting the nature of ourselves as transformed by the age of machines.
Post-mechanical age, the humaness of the machine can be made evident. Post mechanical age, machine craft is the new hand craft. In the evening of june, 30th 2016, 7 recent film works from australian DIY cine experimentalists Richard Tuohy and Diana Barrie were presented to the audience.
These films were exploring the primitive apparatus of cinema and the relation between hand and machine.

 Crossing

Crossing

Crossing 2016, 21 minutes, 16mm, R.T.
Across the sea. Across the street. Cross processed Super8 footage of fraught neighbours Korea and Japan in grain focussed enlargement.

Blue Line Chicago

Blue Line Chicago 2014, 10 minutes, 16mm R.T. & D.B.
Architectural distortions of the secon city.

Last Train 2016, 12 minutes, 16mm R.T. & D.B.
Found in the (now lost) archive of Lab Laba Laba, footage from a trailer for the Indonesian film "Kereta Api Terakhir" (The Last Train) melts into a suoup of chemigrammed perforations. 
A film madre in seven cities and none.

Etienne's Hand 2011, 13 minutes, 16mm, R.T.
A movement study of a restless hand. Made from one five second shot. Sound constructed from an old French folk tune played on a hand cranked music box.

Ginza Strip

Ginza Strip 2014, 9 minutes 16mm R.T. & D.B.
The Ginza of fable and memory. This is the first film the australian duo have finished using the "Chromaflex" technique that they developed. This is a very  much hands on colour developing procedure that allows selected areas of the film to be colour positive, colour negative or black and white.

Dot Matrix

Dot Matrix 2013, 16 minutes 2X16mm R.T.
Dot Matrix is a dual 16mm film involving two almost completely overlapping projected images. The "dots" were produced by photogramming sheets of dotty paper used for Manga illustrations directly onto raw 16mm film stock. These dots were then contacted printed with "flicker" (alternating black frames)creating strobing "interruptions" to the dots. The drama of the film emerges in the overlap of the two projected images of dots. The product they make is greater than the parts. The sounds heard are those that the dots themselves produce as they pass the optical sound head of the 16 mm projector.

Richard Tuohy, 47 y.o., experimental cinematographer.

Tony Graffio: Please, Richard tell me something about you and your activity in the Super8 film production and processing.

Richard Tuohy: Ok Tony. I'm 46 (At the time of the interview. He was born on 12/8/1969) years old, I'm from Melbourne, Australia, but I live in the country, in a town called Daylesford wich is one hour and half away from Melbourne. In Daylsford, Dianna Barrie and I have our own lab, Nanolab which is partly a commercial lab for Super 8 processing, but Nanolab is also a big lab space with several darkrooms. There, we work and other people can come, staying for a while and work with us having a sort of artist residency for making a film or whatever. 

A frame from Ginza Strip a Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie experimental film.

We also run a lab in Melbourne called Artist Film Workshop which is a community lab like this (referring to Unzalab), a membership lab. Both of these films labs are listed on the filmlab.org website, but they are quite different. My background is in philosphy, but I was making films before I started studying philosophy. I had a break while I was studying. I started making flms in the middle eightys, but they were a different kind of films to those I make now. In those days there was not internet, of course and there was a great scene in Melbourne for Super8 films. It was very, very vibrant. It was a very productive time. We had meetings once a month and there were always new films to show. In that context the enviroment of new films was very productive for me. None of us got to see films from anybody else. We saw only our own films. We were like this, just looking at ourselves, we didn't have an archive to look at, or a collections of films to look at. It was kind of good because we didn't worry about the canons. We didn't worry about the big figures of experimental films. We were just worried about ourselves. It was a good way to make work. In those days I was making narrative Super8 films, but I was watching experimental films made in the group. I was trying to make Ozu films!

A frame from Ginza Strip a Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie experimental film.

I came back to making films early in 2000 because we moved to a small town in the country and someone said: "You should come to the Super8 screening tonight". I thought: "What? A Super8 screening in Daylsford?". In those days Super8 was finished. I was sure it was finished. Ok, come on and make a film! So I thought I would make one last Super8 film, just for the old days. Then I went crazy and I made forty Super8 films. Working with Super8 was a very productive way to develop, because you could move quickly. I didn't have to process it, I could sent it to Kodak and edit it and then it was done. And then you could make something else. So you were able to develop your skills and ideas, themes, devices very quickly.
Quite quickly we got on developing our own films and started the lab. We still develop films by hand in spirals. I do have processing machines, but generally I prefere develope by hand. What is special is having printing machines.



A frame from Ginza Strip a Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie experimental film. Here you can see the "Chromaflex" a processing technique developed by the Australian artist.

TG: Have you got a Truka or an optical printer?

RT: What's the first one, the Truka?

TG: A sort of animation stand used for precision camera movement...

RT: Yes we have, but I haven't actually set it up. We have an optical printer, a very simple one, a JK, but the most useful thing was our first contact printer. We have now 5 or 6 contact printer because they are too valuable to let them go, you know... I do different things and I get different results from the different machines. I think contact printers are very important. They allow you to go very quickly, at least at a practical level, from making one print to multiple prints. They can really improve the quality of the finished films because you don't have to handle the negative so much, or your original so much. Getting our first optical printer was a liberation because we had to make it work and we had to pull it apart, clean it up and put it back together, but in studying how it worked we could "bend" how to use it, we could make changes from what it was meant to do and play games with it. Personally, I think being able to spend time with the equipment is a very important in being able to explore and then understanding and exploit what the media is.


A frame from Crossing, a Richard Tuohy's experimental film.

TG: Is it easy finding Super8 films in Australia?

RT: I Import it. I get it from Kodak Australia. They bring it in. If you ring Kodak Australia and you press the right button you end up in China. They send me their film and sometimes films from Wittner in Germany, or from Spectra in the USA.  Other than us there are also a couple of shops that buy films sometimes from us, sometimes from Kodak, but mostly we are the sellers of super 8 film nowadays. It didn't use to be like that. It used to be our film stock sales was just a small thing because there were other shops. When there was reversal film there were a lot of shops that sold it, but now there is mostly negative film with Super8.


The reel of Crossing, a Film by Richard Tuohy

TG: Do you work also for professional cinematographers?

RT: As costumers of the lab? Yes.

TG: And do you process Super16?

RT: No, we don't do that commercially, we only work with Super8. Sometimes, if they do a flashback, a dream sequence or something like that, if they use Super8 they deal with us, but I don't want to work with 16mm commercially. For me, the commercial side of the business is only a way of supporting our own film work and I don'want to make a big empire. I just want to keep it going, we can process Super8 very efficiently and we can't do 16mm efficiently. I can process 30 Super 8 in about one hour and half, while I could maybe process two 16mm films in the same amount of time. So it just doesn't make economic sense. I don't need to do it.


Two frames overlapped on the same screen of Dot Matrix, a Richard Tuohy's experimental film.

TG: Dot Matrix, the last film you projected tonight, do you think we could say it is optical art?

RT: I hope so. Yes, I think it is an adequate description. I like that. Certainly, I think it's more about optics than cinema, but in a certain way it's trying to take something apart regarding the cinema mechanism. One of the things that I find fascinating is the fundamental transformation that happens in the film projector - the transformation from a long continuous strip of film into little discrete pictures that end up generating the appearance of movement on the screen. When you work with rayograms, which are like photograms, that transition from continuous strip to discrete images is really brought to the front. You experience just what the projector is doing to the continuous strip by arbitrarily making this division into frames. The game with rayograms, for me, is to do something that plays with this fundamental transformation at the heart of cinema from continuous strip to discrete pictures that does something interesting on the screen. Often when people do rayograms it just goes quick, quick, quick and it doesn't seem to be working with the mechanism. The game for me is to find something that work with the mechanism of the 24 frames per second.


Richard Tuohy at the projectors during the projections of Dot Matrix

TG: Are these films the unique copies you own?

RT: No, I can make more. They are prints. However, by cleaning the projectors I can project the films a great many times without particularly damaging the copies. We have made 70 projections from the two films of Dot Matrix. Film is tough as long as you know how to use the projector.

TG: Sure. Have you ever thought to make also digital video art?

RT: Yes, but I'm not fascinated by digital and it would be like asking a trumpeter if he has ever thought to play with strings. He could, but it would be a completely new thing to learn, so I don't have the need to, because I have my film equipment and I feel they (digital and film) are like quite different instruments. It is difficult to asses the different aesthetic properties (of digital and film). Yes, they do do something that is the same. You can record people moving and see the appearance of movement; you can record colours and see the colours and see that they are similar in both cases, but in other ways they are very different.

TG: Do you think it would be possible to make the same colours of film digitally?

RT: No, you make different colours. If one day digital gets closer to film, there will still be differences in the way one goes about making films (moving pictures) digitally and on film and therefore in the results you get. Different media generate different works. I think if we lost films all together we will be losing a set of possibilities that can't be replaced by digital. If Citizen Kane was made on video it would be a different work and could be equally good or bad or whatever. Even in a Hollywood film like that, I still think there are differences and there would be a loss if we lose film. A lot of people challenge me by saying I could make this or I could make that one in digital. Perhaps you could make something which is close, but I think you could never make something which is the same and what's more, you wouldn't, this is the other thing. For example, Dianna's film with the drifting perforations (Last Train, seen in the program) is pure chemistry. There is only a small amount of filming using a camera in it. In the rest of it the perforations you see are  'printed' in the image area of the film just by using chemistry and by spiraling the film into a coil and putting it in one bath, in another bath and back in the first one and stretching it and whatever. It's an entirely physical thing that you wouldn't do digitally, you would do something else.

TG: Do you sell your films as art?

RT: I don't know how to do it. I have sold some to universities, but not for a large amount of money. Video art galleries seem to have buyers, but for experimental films I don't know where to find buyers.

TG: Maybe in a contemporary art gallery. What are you going to do in Nantes? Are you going to show there the movies we saw here tonight?

RT: Some of them yes, but not all of them. In Nantes there will be a big event and we can show there only 3 films. Apparently we are going to do a round table. Other than that I would like to do practical things. I want to help to organize the whole labs in the world to be able to make the cost of working with film cheaper. That's a big priority for me. So, this means organizing them to work; buy at the cheapest prices and also making sure that everyone knows what is available to buy and how to buy it. Sometimes, something comes only in a big pile, like you have to buy this much, but if we can communicate about that better with each other it's helpful. These are the things I find most important about meetings like these.


Dianna Barrie
Dianna Barrie makes her own films; Richard and Dianna makes films together and Richard makes his own films, but they put each other names on the films because the other person is always there and he or she gives advices, it is helping or do the sound, the music or whatever. Dianna made the music for many Richard Tuohy's films.

TG: Is technique important for your art?

RT: I think technique is important in art and I think that film has its own set. Technique has to be learnt. Sometimes people think film is too hard, but I don't think film it is any harder than anything else. It's just that people don't have these skills anymore. When you look at the way people used to be able to shoot home movies back in the '50s or '40s or whatever they could get beautiful results because they were familiar with film. They were familiar with aperture, exposure and focus. It's the same with painting. If you want to be a fine painter, you have to know your stuff, you have to know to clean your brushes properly or mixing colours. I think there is a lot of learning in most practical arts, so when people suggest film is hard, I think it's not inherently hard, it's just people don't know the technology now like they used to.

TG: At the  REMI, in Nantes, who will you be happy to meet? 
RT: So many people are going to be in Nantes. Put it in this way, I like a lot the films by Esther Urlus from Rotterdam; Roger Beebe from Ohio, but Esther is a very much lab person, while Roger Beebe is a straight filmmaker. Juan and Anja from  LaborBerlin - they are great; there are a lot of great filmakers from  L'Abominable; also some friends from the USA,  Robert Schaller , he makes very nice pinhole films using two of the little black boxes that 16mm film comes in.  He has the film supply in one of the boxes and the film take-up in the other and the pinhole in between. They are very beautiful films. The big change about this meeting in Nantes is that there will be so many people from North America and that's partly a product of the half lab meeting we had 3 or 4 years ago in Colorado, where there were quite a few people from Europe at a Festival called TIE. It was a whole festival about film, not video. A lot of american people who run labs there and were at TIE will come along to the meeting in Nantes. So I think that's a benefit to build these connections, but there will be also some people coming from Asia and I think this is a really good thing too. A couple of people from the Philippines, they have got a small lab there and there is a person coming from a very exciting lab in Indonesia - Lab Laba Laba - which means Spider lab. It's great to see people from my region basically who are getting into this kind of filmmaking activity.
TG: Thank you very much Richard.

Richard Tuohy explains his films

Here you can read the article in italian about Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie at the Unzalab

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domenica 15 gennaio 2017

Mimosa Photo Papier: a collectible item found in a flea market in Milan

Last summer, before to leave for the vacation, I visited a flea market in the quarter where I live in Milan and I found an interesting framed item. It was a picture with inside two packs of Mimosa barita photographic paper and a typewritten sheet of paper.
Unfortunately, the written was not readable and I kept the curiosity to know why somebody decided to frame the two packs of old photo paper.
Both the packs, made in Kiel, were new and contained 10 sheets of 5X7 inches of Mimosa photo sensitive paper. 
One pack had inside Rapido Bromosa SP12 (Special extra white) contrast grade 2, emulsion number 910808; the other was marked RP SP11 (Special white), contrast grade 2, emulsion number 920802.

 Two packs of Mimosa Rapido Bromosa SP11 and SP12 Made in West Germany framed with a unreadable sheet.

I was in a hurry and I didn't want to carry the picture with me, so I didn't buy it. It costed something like 20 or 30 euros: I thought to come back to the second hand storehouse after the summer, but I forgot to do it, so I have no idea if somebody else bought this item. Probably yes.
I also thought to open the glass, open the packs and use the paper to print some old picture, but obviously I couldn't do this because I don't have the paper.
I imagine the written faded away because the picture was exposed to the daylight, so probably also the sensitive paper could be quite old and unusable.
Italy in the past produced very good photographic papers, so it was strange for me founding a german sensitive paper that probably was not even so easy to buy here in Milan.

My friend Adrian shows the misterious picture of Mimosa photo paper.


domenica 8 gennaio 2017

Why I don't like Polaroid

 Polaroid 600 SuperColors

Recently a friend gave me a nice yellow Polaroid 600 Supercolors, so I bought an Impossible colour film pack and I tried it.
This was not the first time I took pictures with a Polaroid camera, but I never owned a Polaroid 600 before because I never had a good feeling with this kind of instant film camera.
Still now, I can't share the enthusiasm many people have for this kind of photography.
I like the idea of having in my hands a colour or a black and white photo after a few minutes I took the picture, but with the Impossible colour film time dilates out of proportion and you have to wait more than 30 minutes for a colour print photo. More than 10 for a B/W photo. Definitely too much for an " instant" photo.
The photo camera is made of plastic; if you like plastic you will enjoy it, but if you love chemical photography especially for the possibility to use strong metal camera, Polaroids will seem to be what they are: just toys.
Like every toy, Polaroid camera design and colours are very nice, in fact I suspect that people enjoy Polaroid more for the appearance than for the effective results this camera provides.


I shot this picture in the evening after the sunset, when the sky is still bright. It's possible to see the lights on the platforms, but evidently it's already too dark for the Impossible film. Despite its 640 Iso the camera required the help of the incorporated flash light to take this urban panorama. I don't like flash lights and I don't like a camera that pratically always requires the use of the flash light.
Polaroid cameras are very simple, but when something is too simple or too automated it's difficult to obtain a good result.
It's impossible to obtain photos completely clean.
If you don't count them it's impossible to know how many photos have left inside the camera because there has not a counter for this funtion.
The format of the photographs is too small and too square for my taste.
Impossible film quality is poor and not constant. Buying a film pack is always a surprise, also because the film shoud be kept in the fridge before the use and it's impossible to know how the seller retained the film.
The price of the film pack is excessive, the activity of playing should be cheaper for children and adults.


The Polaroid 600 closed in its plastic shell is protected quite well from dust and shocks.

Conclusions: not every vintage photo camera is good just because it is old and shoots on film. Impossible film has this name because it's absurd to think to get good results from it.