Teresa Cicero Photographer

Concept

Self portrait

 

Teresa has been pursuing her photographic research using the pinhole since 1994.
Through this medium, the study of light and its behaviour has been the guide that has accompanied Teresa in her constant experiential work. She has an extensive image archive, which has been enriched in recent years with a new theme: the representation of man and his anxieties.

 

Teresa Cicero
or
are we sure this is just about photography?

The photos that Teresa brought me so that I could write these lines range from the abstract to the mise-en-scène and from landscapes to interiors, utilising horizontal or vertical formats, almost always 6×9 or more, which give the sense of space and time.

And they’re all pinhole photos.
I feel that this is where we have to start, not only to understand Teresa’s photos but above all to approach the spirit that hovers over the modern perception of the images.
The pinhole is as old as the world, and it would be pointless for me to retrace its history here since there are numerous websites that can be consulted. Suffice it to recall that the first person to speak of it was a Chinese philosopher in the fifth century BC, and that the word stenopeic comes from Greek and means “narrow opening”.

Nevertheless, despite its venerable age, today – at the very height of the digital, Photoshop age – pinhole photography is an incredible novelty. Furthermore, it discloses a range of possibilities for scanning the world around us that are totally beyond the scope of digital cameras, however many accessories or innovative software programmes they may boast. Digital enables us to easily grasp reality the way it is, or rather to embellish it to our heart’s content, or to alter its forms and colours; but it does not allow us to penetrate it, to look beyond appearances, in short to “see inside it” and grasp its most profound and hidden aspects. 

We can do reportage, we can record sports competitions, we can represent the scenic sequences of theatrical performances and concerts. Even children have no difficulty in trying their hand at photography, without knowing it at all, like my 8-year-old daughter: digital photography has indubitably simplified numerous aspects of our lives.

But when Teresa creates a photo such as Her Road, in my humble opinion one of her most moving and significant works, she doesn’t stop at simply shooting the white lines at the edges of a tarred country road: more than anything that photo contains the passage of time, the autumn of life, in short the transience of existence. The holes in the reel of 35mm film represent the flow of time and are an integral part of the photo, and indeed they “cut through” the row of bare trees and a few clumps of grass here and there, while the stripe of white paint becomes the motorway along which our lives run and flow towards inscrutable and perhaps disconcerting horizons. All this is something no digital camera can achieve.

The pinhole technique is like a journey through time, towards “another” dimension in which time itself is dilated, compressed, distorted, repressed, to the point of comprising not only the image but also all that goes to make it up and create it: scratches, flashes of light, the adhesive tape that holds the film in place, and even the brand, the symbols and numbers that mark the succession of the photos.

Pinhole photographers no longer use what we could call “cameras” (which moreover hardly ever contain mechanical, optical or electronic devices), but boxes and cylinders of the most varied shapes, everyday objects appropriately transformed – even wicker baskets, as Teresa has taught us.

What I grasp in her photos is not the spectacular nature of the “shot”, nor the randomness of having simply “captured” images that are actually hidden (contorted or distorted), but rather the profound work within herself to achieve what she, and she alone, considers can best reflect her own interior world, her own reality, through the perception of a sensitivity that reaches far above and beyond what it represents for others.
Thus, in the landscapes you won’t find beautifully ordered and composed rows of vines, but an indistinct blur with spiky tips pointing upwards, nor relaxing rainbows but sunbeams aimed straight at us observers, nor carnations beautifully arranged in engraved vases but a reddish blot within a deafening, formless white mass. Nor do we find comforting images in her interiors either, where what is striking is absences, people who are no longer there, shadows, laden tables crumpled at the end of a dinner by now over. And even when the scenarios seem to be more reassuring, as for example in Self-portrait with circles, we are transported into atmosphere of Space Odyssey overtones.

Teresa’s images appear disquieting, as indeed life itself is. And yet, another element that frequently recurs in the photos is the light that forcefully shoulders its way into the film, as in Paths more lives or in Spectrum and Fonale family or in Sabina’s house, to give just a few examples of photos of striking emotional impact. Obviously we might draw a facile parallel between light and life itself, both with their urgency and energy, both with the same strength of assertion, but in these images the light appears to have another value too: that of representing the very nature of existence, as if the light were inevitably bound up with creation. And, more than anything, as if not even the most profound darkness could exist without light. This, in my opinion, is Teresa’s powerful lesson.

Teresa, exactly. After having spoken of her photos, allow me to end with a word about herself. A genuinely wonderful person, one of those that life only rarely allows to cross your path, a woman who wins you over not only with her apparent gentleness, but above all through the profound intelligence of her gaze. Teresa, thank you for being you!

Mauro Tozzi

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