Camilla Ferrari was born in 1992 and took her first photograph when she was 14 years old. Camilla did not study photography. She instead majored in Communication and Humanistic Studies at Università degli Studi in Milan, Italy. After her studies she decided to dedicate herself to capturing images and developed her skills via workshops with photographers she looked up to such as Harry Gruyaert, John Stanmeyer and Gueorgui Pinkhassov. Here I take a look at Camilla’s technique through reference to her body of work, ‘Aquarium’.
Camilla’s work is concerned with the relationships human beings have with their surroundings and their stories. Selected by Photo Boîte as a part of their 30 Under 30 Woman Photographers for 2017, she was also chosen to feature in their exhibition in Rome from 30 September to 30 October 2017.
Her artist’s statement for ‘Aquarium’ reads, “The sound of the hands moving the bathroom curtains is so loud that it’s almost disturbing. And so it is the noise coming out the karaoke bars during the night and the chitchatting of the people walking on the sidewalk. Sometimes you observe and sometimes you’re being observed. It’s almost like seeing through a glass that distorts what your eyes see, that makes the light flicker in front of you second after second and inserts you in a completely different world. And suddenly you are on the other side of that glass. You cannot hear what others say but you can feel the sweet cuddle of the water that surrounds you. And before you know it, that sound of the hands moving the bathroom curtains become a lullaby. The noise of the karaoke bars turns into music and the chitchatting evolves into rhythm. Everything becomes so gentle, even the unknown.”
Camilla here talks about how she perceives the city, and viewing and observing people in the city to be like an aquarium that works both ways around. Sometimes you are the beautiful sea turtle, and sometimes you are the person viewing the sea turtle. She speaks of a constant shift and this idea is visually mimicked in the way that she has chosen to photograph this series.
At heart Camilla is a documentarian and she thus relies heavily on the available light technique, which can be seen upon examination. A characteristic of available light photography is its quality to be as accurate a depiction of the scene in front of the photographer’s lens as possible. Detail in shadow or harsh light is often lost to attain authenticity. Camilla’s series strikes a middle point, as this body of work is very focused on it’s purpose and it fulfills its purpose beautifully. Namely, to capture this aquarium feeling that she experiences from being an observer and being observed. Her images are thus often taken through windows and other transparent surfaces. The reflections on these surfaces add to the depth of this work and the natural light casting from external light sources add to the ethereal quality of her work.
Camilla’s series is striking and beautiful and makes use of off-centre framing, slow shutter speeds, perspectives that seem clearly observational and are not extremely intimate. She has the ability to create intimacy by means of playing with available lighting and her play on reflections and certain light castings to evoke moods within her viewers. All of this is good but the fact that she links the idea of looking at people to an aquarium could be regarded as problematic.