Caterina Lombardi was selected as one of two winners of a call for work we created for 2018 photography graduates. See the results in full here.
University: Falmouth University
SATIS was born from the idea that shock factor is not the most effective tactic to encourage conversation about women’s rights. I believe that by taking inspiration from Still Life paintings, I might pique the viewer’s interest in the subject, and in doing so, educate them. In the spirit of this, it felt appropriate to give the project and each image a Latin title, as Latin is a well-respected language, which is unrelated specifically to any cultures relevant to these images. The word SATIS translates to ‘enough’.
To avoid any unintentional offense, I endeavour not to represent specific cultures, but rather to trigger conversations about the tragedies that women suffer through around the world daily.
Where did you attend university? Tell us about your final year experience. I started Falmouth University in 2015; I’m 90% sure I only got accepted due to discussing cats with the interviewer, but we’ll never know for definite! The third year as I’m sure most people know is a lot of hard work, and all about pushing yourself to your limits (mentally and physically) while fuelling your body with the most nourishing of substances: coffee and chocolate.
On a more serious note my final year was probably the year I developed most as a person which is likely down to my dissertation. When it dawns on you that you’re in your final year, you realise that you’ve only got one chance left, and the quality of work, in general, improves dramatically.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? I mean there are so many, but Falmouth does set you up particularly well. They have a fantastic guest lecture programme, where artists can come and discuss their work. My favourite being when Art Director Sarah Ward visited. Falmouth also pushes us to find work experience in the second year which allowed me to work shadow with the BBC, and also work on a client brief with Cornwall Fire and Rescue.
But my main highlight would probably be our set build project in the second year which was our only project where we had to collaborate with other people. My set was chosen to be built and we had 3 days to bring it to life which was incredibly difficult considering the set had a pool of water. We managed to pull it off and get a fantastic grade - it was just extremely rewarding.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into and what themes do you find yourself exploring? Without a doubt, this body of work falls into the conceptual/ fine art bracket, but I’m still finding my style and I’m open to evolving. My work is usually politically charged - art in general always becomes richer when there is passion and intention, and I find personally it helps to keep me focussed.
What initially inspired you to use photography in the way you have to explore the issues your images portray? The project actually stemmed from my dissertation which discussed whether shock factor or beautifying were more effective tactics of gaining attention in regards to social atrocities. There are obvious strengths and weaknesses of both methods but I felt it would be interesting to put the beautifying theory into practice. Richard Misrach once said that he came “to believe that beauty can be a very powerful convert of difficult ideas. It engages people when they might otherwise look away” (1992). I did consider making it a portrait based project but as Misrach also said, “Portraiture is just not ethically clean. It’s complicated” (2013).
Avoiding making the project advantageous, images were created not to centre around individual women and their experiences, but rather the fact the event’s themselves take place, and the atrocity of them happening in a modern era. Still life, in particular, Vanitas, provided the opportunity to optimise the use of symbolism. This method was not intended to minimise individual experiences, but proffer something different: evoking a reaction in those who otherwise would be unable to relate to such ordeals.
Explain some of the image titles to us. Tell us a little more about what you'd like your viewer to learn. Although the images thrive initially on lack of understanding I did want the titles to subtly hint to what they are about. The titles are in Latin, some of which you can work out, but others are less clear. Latin was specifically chosen as it is a language commonly associated with education which compliments the aim of the images: to inform and encourage conversation. Each of the titles is simply what they are, for example, GENITALIUM FEMININORUM MUTILIONES is Female Genital Mutilation, while PUER NUPTAE is Child Brides.
It’s surprising how many people have approached me having seen the project and admitted that they weren’t aware of the suffering depicted so I what I’d like is for the viewer to have their curiosity piqued, and then go off and do the independent research themselves. When I've exhibited the work I’ve displayed a booklet to provide some of this extra information.
Name some photographers and/or painters who inspired this work. So many artists have inspired me, from Richard Misrach, Simon Norfolk, Alfredo Jaar, Laura Letinsky, all the way to Pierfrancesco Cittadini. Laura Letinsky was the main inspiration behind the aesthetics, whereas the rest inspired the approach and the research.
Did you find yourself carrying out a lot of research to ensure you photographed different objects in the correct light? This whole body of work required an incredible amount of research, both into still life and the symbolism of objects, but also into each women’s right’s violation. Having not experienced these issues first hand I felt I needed to be aware of all the facts surrounding them. It’s been an incredibly fine line between being accurate, getting the message across, and potentially being offensive. I think this particularly is the case in regards to the images and videos about FGM and Obstetric violence. Watching them both take place feels uncomfortable, and I recognise could be upsetting for some people.
Who are you aiming this series of work at? Where would you like your work to be seen and why? I’d like to say everyone. But realistically the work is aimed at Western Countries. We’ve grown up being surrounded by this particular style of art, whether that be in galleries or in public spaces, and though people may not consciously realise, everyone usually has a basic understanding of symbolism and would be able to make an educated guess at what the image could be describing. Saying that I made the booklet to ensure it was transparent to those who did want to know more and may not understand. I don’t think it matters where it is seen necessarily, just that it is seen. I drew the illustrations for contexts such as a magazine or newspaper so it would be great if it could get published at some point.
I think the ‘why’ is obvious; because we need a change in the way Women are treated worldwide. The work is especially relevant because although there is a lot of attention to women at the moment with the Abortion Referendum that took place in Ireland in May 2018, alongside the ‘Time’s Up’ and ‘#metoo’ sexual harassment and violence campaigns, they are campaigns associated with First World Countries, rather than being inclusive to all those who are suffering. So the work intends to be more inclusive which I understand is contradictive as I’m discussing it through a very westernised form of art. Viewers can experience a desensitised reaction when looking at images representing cultures removed from their own, therefore deeming them unrelatable. SATIS has aimed to make this more accessible by westernising it: translating into a form that is familiar to those who will most likely be seeing it. By doing this I’m not intentionally ‘othering’, but I’m conscious that in some senses, I am, unfortunately.
How did you progress through the creation of this work? Was it your initial intention to create still life photographs to encourage conversation? The project was evidently inspired by Dutch Still Life which is commonly seen in galleries - a place people make a choice to go and visit. It’s an experience, whereas as commonly we actively avoid upsetting charitable advertisements. So the intention was to use intertextuality to disguise the politics in perhaps a more ‘respected’ genre to capture an audience’s attention, only to realise the true meaning: “You can scarcely have a starker example of art that lures the eye, only to punish the mind with terrible knowledge” and appreciation for the suffering of women (Jones, 2013).
Every object is a metaphor, and therefore when objects are placed together, it becomes a story. Not only did it provide a sense of irony through objectification, but it also seemed appropriate, as “Indeed, still life painting was often…assimilated to “woman’s work”…because of its depictions of the kitchen or dining room, seen as a woman’s workplace” (Rowell, 1997:13).
The video was very last minute, however, but I love the spoken poem alongside the music and enjoyed the process of collaboration that came with it. The poem, named TERRA was a play on words referring to the Roman goddess of earth, but also sounding like the word ‘terror’.
What are your plans now you've finished university? How do you think your work will progress? I’ve just been offered an internship at a local company called Still Moving Media which I’m looking forward to starting in the next few weeks! I do hope to continue my work in my own time, however, I do have a Metro Imaging mentor session lined up to take place to aid this.
Have you got any tips or advice for final year students? The best tip I received was to keep your project and dissertation revolving around the same subject. That doesn’t mean that it needs to be the exact same, but when you’re so busy, it’s time-saving to be able to keep research and apply them to both projects. It also ensured that the theory behind my project was valid. Most importantly, if you follow that advice, choose to do it revolving around a topic you’re really passionate about.