Chiara Ernandes’ (born in Rome, Italy) relationship with photography is a cathartic, conflicting and indispensable relationship: it is the tool that allows her to exist in the world most of all, the one that translates her perceptions and frees her memory, in a continuous exchange of signals and representations that build her emotional reality. Still Birth, her latest long term project is at the heart of our conversation here today.
Archive images, staged images, poetic symbolism, family objects, medical records, colour – black and white images. How did you manage so many different elements in one work without losing its coherence?
During the research and construction of Still Birth one of the things that guided me most was intuition. There was a moment during the study phase when it seemed that all the information spontaneously converged, making sense. As if Still Birth contained it within me and simply let it out. This made it possible to bring the different media together, giving the narrative a layering, different levels of reading. A visual variety that stimulates interest and the possibility of and drawing intimately into the story.
On some pages of your photobook we see pictures that have visual manipulations on them. How did this idea start and how does it contribute to the concept?
Image manipulation is a process that is very dear to me. It gives me the opportunity to implement a concrete experience first-hand, to forcefully link concept and image, giving the visual flow an irregular and tumultuous structure, never straight or didactic. Here again, intuition has been a great advisor, which I am learning to trust more and more.
In addition to its printed version, your project has been displayed in several exhibitions. How do you render it with prints on the walls? Do you prefer to keep the core of the book or experiment from scratch? May we see some documentation photos of your favourite setup?
The work, as already mentioned, is constructed on different reading levels. It was always clear to me that Still Birth could be declined in different ways, deepening the different phases that I narrate. The settings focus on the figurative/abstract core, between the familiar and the sidereal. The rendering is often that of an experience suspended between life and death in seconds, in a palindromic and chaotically ordered path.
What brought you together with Yogurt in this edition? What were the key points in your collaboration? Is it a stressful process dealing with the technical parts of a publication?
Meeting Francesco Rombaldi, Curator & editor-in-chief allowed me to better frame my artistic research and realise Still Birth in book form. The main challenge was to make the different visual elements coexist and communicate by creating a fluid and dynamic body, to create the different reading planes
What is the most significant contrast in your perception of photography today, in comparison to your initial days at university or when you took your first shots?
I started photography very early on, I still don’t really know why. After high school I attended a photography school, which was useful but not essential. I remember well how hard it was for me to recognise myself in this visual language. It was a long journey that led me to discover that I was expressing myself with a hybridised photography, polluted and reinforced by other media. Gradually I realised that I could break the rules, experiment and make mistakes.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently dissecting the themes I address in Still Birth, evolving the themes that recur in my artistic research into three-dimensional form. I am experimenting with techniques such as sculpture, experimenting with materials such as fabric, papier-mâché, ceramics. A process that moves towards an installation dimension, to construct material objects that modify the narrative, enriching experience and interpretation.
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