Landscape Stories: Could you tell us something more about how the project started? How does the project evolve since you start shooting?
Raimond Wouda: As I understood from the briefing for this project, the project had a link with a famous Italian Photobook called "Viaggio in Italia" where a lot of famous photographers as Ghirri, Basilico, Barbieri, Guidi and others, worked on. I had heard from the project but didn’t really know it. So first I decided to see what the works looked like and how the landscape was depicted by this photographers. As we all had to deal with the landscape as well, it was important to know this great body of work. After that I started with research in the Netherlands on google maps to see how the landscape looked and in that way I had a kind of understanding where the possibilities lay for the photographic approach. In the Netherlands I started to make some tests and after that I decided to try some different approaches on the first day with two different locations and to make up my mind after seeing the results. Ironically enough both approaches in a way were killed after the first day and I decided to emphasize more on the difference in the playgrounds and the context they were dealing with. The final photographic approach was very much a result from that.
Céline Clanet: Studying maps and walking a lot are very important aspects of my photographic process. The 1KM project required to study very carefully each areas on maps, in order to find the right place to shoot, to evaluate its position in the neighborhood, its importance relating to the Altevie assignment, etc. But a map is a motionless theory. Once “interesting” areas were spotted, I started to walk extensively around them to make pictures. It was pretty exhausting in the end, but it’s the only way I know of how getting the pace of a place: walking until you are a part of the city yourself, until you blend into it. The city unfolds under your feet, you meet people, weather and light change, some playgrounds are no longer there, and maps become an old memory.
Jan Stradtmann: Before my departure, I used Google Maps to study the places where I would be working, in an attempt to become familiar with the surroundings—as far as that‘s possible virtually. When I started taking photos, however, I realized that the selected places were often anonymous and with a lack of existence, and I had to deal with irregular climate and lighting—in fact, the first few days were completely ruined by the rain. In these conditions, it was impossible to find a uniform visual language, and I spent a lot of time looking for alternative places or ones with better lighting conditions. This repeated “stop and search” approach enabled me to gradually complete the entire series. In the end, I covered 4500 kilometers, accumulating many new impressions. I believe the character of a place reveals itself only through persistent observation.
Landscape Stories: The 1KM project offer you the possibility to discover new landscapes, but it was a journey through the geography and cultural variety of Italy. In a way, searching the key between recreation areas and working places, you can see the different aspects of italian identity. What are your impressions and experiences about this commission in Italy?
Raimond Wouda: Well, to be honest I have been quite often in Italy, but the variety compared with the Netherlands is very impressive. I am always surprised that in one hour drive you travel from the mountains to the sea, thereafter to flat land and everything in between. It’s very impressive all these differences in the cultural and natural landscape. Italians seem to have strong relationship with their soil and cities. That’s very noticeable. The recreation seems to have their own specific areas. Most of the time you find sport and recreation areas bundled together as a kind of small communities and they also seem to function like that. Life throughout the week starts on these areas mostly at 16 hours. People arrive and do their things. It’s very interesting to see. At 12 there is nobody and at 17 hours a whole community is alive and kicking.
Besides the difference in landscape I have noticed a lot of different mentalities throughout the north. People could be friendly sometimes hostile, open minded or suspicious, warm or arrogant. Some things are always the same though. The coffee is always heavenly and you can eat everywhere good food. What really surprised me were the large numbers of Asian and African people. The problem of migration is of course a huge topic in Europe but I didn’t realize Italy houses these lage amount of refugees. Especially in Brescia and Bergamo they seem to outnumber the Italian population.
Céline Clanet: First, I was surprised by the quantity of equipments. Every neighborhood has at least a sport ground and a park, which is not the case in France. Sport seems to be a powerful social linker in Italy, I remember watching people in the tribunes during a youngsters’ football match: several generations were attending the match, grand-parents, parents, babies, relatives… Men were discussing the game from the “bar”, and ladies were sitting together, shouting, applauding to their kids playing. It was packed with families. It was like a fascinating small village.
And, now I know that God and Football are one in Italy: every italian church has its own football ground!
Jan Stradtmann: During my journey, I observed that recreational sports and exercise are an important aspect of everyday life in this country. In my opinion, what drives an individual to practice a sport is the quest for balance, in the sense that exercise helps to enhance the quality of personal life.
I‘m skeptical, though, about the idea that sport contributes to the indirect formation of national identity. A nation can manifest itself as sporting only through international competition, and for me, the very ideas of sport and competition lose their meaning once they reach the highest levels,where doping, corruption and cheating seem to be on the agenda. I suppose that even in Italy, the public and private financing of major professional clubs leaves very little for small local clubs and regional championships.
I found this reflected in the state of abandonment of some plants and public parks that I visited during the project. Like the photographers commissioned by the Farm Security Association between 1935 and 1944 to document the plight of farmers in the United States, photography can contribute to the representation and communication of certain emergency situations. The challenge for me was to develop a visual language that would bring my personal observations and the project‘s purpose to the same level.
Landscape Stories: For this project you‘ve worked in an hybrid context between the photographical research and the work on a commission basis, so between art and business in some way. What is your point of view about the relationship between the artistic vision and the -more or less- strictly goals of a communication business project?
Raimond Wouda: The photographic approach for both contexts can be quite the same. The big difference is the topic and the statement you make with the topic. Of course there is another form of commitment in your own project and it has a personal kind of necessity. You are much more involved with the outcome and are completely independent in relationship to your photographic remark. This isn’t the case in a communication business context. And although you still can be involved and loving the project it will never completely show you as a person and a photographer.
Céline Clanet: Any assignment is a compromise. But any act of creation is a compromise anyway.
When I make a personal project, freedom plays a small part in it, I manage the work with many borders and directions that I decide. Then comes improvisation, but freedom is a minor actor in the process, really. During an assignment, rules are just different, they are the ones I didn’t choose. But it doesn’t mean it’s not fun playing that game…
Jan Stradtmann: In exploring the connection between my artistic vision and the project‘s purpose, I tried to integrate a certain irony in the images, observing the absurdities that sometimes characterize recreational and sports activities. As an example, I recall the photo taken at the International Airport Leonardo da Vinci in Rome, where an illegal waste dump forms a small hill in the landscape that plane spotters, appropriately equipped with ladders, use for their activities. Or the abandoned boat in the Bologna photo, symbolizing a failed and abandoned recreational facility that becomes an integral part of an almost romantic setting. These are just two examples.
Art has always been and will continue to be commissioned. I consider it legitimate that those who commission a work seek to represent or position themselves or their company in a particular way; this is part of the original agreement between the parties, and each can benefit from the other’s qualities. I do not accept such requests if I cannot apply my artistic and aesthetic vision to the work, or if this vision is not recognized and supported.
Landscape Stories: What do you think about the power of an artistic medium in order to relate to a company identity as Altevie Technologies actually do with this project?
Raimond Wouda: I really believe in the artistic power of the medium. I think it’s special that Altevie gave us the possibility of depicting all this different playgrounds. I hope the landscapes make them aware of the environment they live in and how it’s part of their own national identity. We live in a time where the way playground plays an important role both as a part of the Homo Ludens and as a metaphor for life.
Céline Clanet: It is a great thing. Art should be everywhere. Everyone, whether (s)he’s an employee, a CEO, a doctor or the guy that cleans the office, should know that art is for everyone, and that everyone can create too, have a thought on the world, and have an impact on others. And when a company gives its trusts to artists, it is definitly a good sign in terms of its open-mindedness!
Jan Stradtmann: Despite having a history of more than 150 years, photography is a contemporary medium, both modern and traditional in its artistic application as a language that can be read and understood by the many. I believe that Altevie‘s goal is very similar: directing modern processes and making them understandable and communicable to anyone. The idea of commissioning three photographers to look in from the outside at an environment previously unknown to them offered an opportunity to open up new perspectives. And this change of perspective can be found in the very formulation of the project.
Landscape Stories: You have produced a lot of pictures during the days spent in Italy, but what are your favourite ‘mind picture’ you can never forget? An impression that really touch you in this journey as a postcard you would sent to your loved-onces to describe this experience?
Raimond Wouda: Photography is about a lot of things but in this commission the meetings with people played the most important role for me. Most of the people shown in my pictures I have spoken with and shared something with me. I had a lot of beautiful, unexpected, touching and sometimes disappointing encounters. One of the encounters which really hit me was the one with a girl practicing as a javelin thrower. She was very ambitious and hoped to go the the Olympic Games of 2020. She and her coach were really a special pair of human beings. Physically they had nothing in common but mentally they had a lot to give to each other. They were both very friendly and warm persons and I instantly admired them in the way they were dealing with their ambition and the outside world. They were just two special persons. But I couldn’t get a photographic grip on the context of their workout and I tried and tried but I didn’t succeed. And it was very painful because I really wanted them to be part of the series but I just were not able to take the picture I wanted.
Céline Clanet: Probably the sound of some young kids attending a football match, and shouting loudly to the players like it was a matter of life or death.
Jan Stradtmann: It’s the image I took in Pescara (Italy Aptar Spa) at the exact moment of a child‘s fall during a competition. I call it “The Pain of Leisure.” The rigidity of the people watching the fall, the athlete’s helplessness, the uniformity of the referees and the „blue sky of happiness“ that shines on the event—these make the picture complete. I can empathize directly with the desperation of the person who is falling, and I can feel the tragedy.
Interview curated by Gianpaolo Arena and Vulcano – Unità di Produzione Contemporanea