This project is the result of my fellowship at NAHR, Nature Art & Habitat Residency. Located in Taleggio Valley, Italy, I worked in this project during my residency there in June 2017.

If Rene Magritte in his seminal work La Trahison des Imagenes (The Treachery of Images) makes us aware of the gap between images and objects, this project tries to bridge this gap through a bio-inspired process that results in a perfect symbiosis between the natural constituents of the photography subject and the actual photographs. The result goes beyond representation and metaphor merging culture and nature.

To this end, the darkroom process is polluted with the very essence of the photographed subject or with those materials he or she has contact with daily. In this process, the images are revealed through chance, noise, and non-programmed events.

juan barte taleggio valley alps italy

In my practice, I always try to draw attention to certain aspects of the past that, in contrast to the present, show that our world is neither natural nor inevitable, trying to open up the possibility of imagining a different future. Therefore I establish a connection, not nostalgic, but of interest, for specific aspects of certain times.

Renato, a local farmer, owns a traditional barn, Baita, a large compartment of pasture delimited by a temporary electric fence and keeps cattle and sheep for meat, milk, and cheese. He checks on his animals daily, milks the cows by hand, provides minor husbandry care, salt, water, forge, and transforms milk into cheese.

Decreasing numbers of young locals in Taleggio Valley are interested in managing traditional upland hill farms due to isolation and the harsh nature of the work and the habitat. Renato is one of the few valley inhabitants to still sustaining an economy based on high altitude bovine pastoralism in sync with nature and its cycles and processes.

In the belief that what turns access into learning is time and patience, during my time at NAHR, I established a direct and constant contact with Renato with whom I interacted closely, thus allowing me to photograph from an informed point of view. As a result,  I captured him apparently unaware of the camera presence with a sincere and intimate result.

I took samples from a selection of the bio-materials Renato interacts with in his daily routine: stream water, the valley’s soil, stones, cheese bacteria, milk, wine, and grappa, a local liquor. The final wash of the prints in the village fountain, so the photographs sucked up not only the water but also the algae of the area.

These materials were added to the chemicals present in the darkroom process resulting in photographs where the gap between image and object, representation and reality, culture and nature is narrowed.

Photo by Juan Barte (www.juanbarte.com)

The result is photographs I did not consciously expect.

Photo by Juan Barte (www.juanbarte.com)

They are at once serial and singular, have a mechanic look, but are done manually, each of them unique and unrepeatable.

Photo by Juan Barte (www.juanbarte.com)

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