University: University of Westminster
Statement: Rossella Castello, born 1994, is an Italian photographer and visual artist currently based in London. Primarily concerned with people, faces and lives, her purpose has often been to driven by the intimate lives of her subjects, which she explores through the documentation of their personal environment, lifestyle and perspective. Castello latest work, a photobook entitled Sonder, has been shortlisted at various festivals, including the Organ Vida Festival and the International Photobook Exhibition 2016, run by the RPS (Royal Photographic Society, London).
What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? That is surely one of the hardest questions you could ask a photographer! Currently, I would say Sugar Paper Theories by Jack Latham, the multiplicity of the work as both a photobook and a investigative document was very impressive.
Direction: A strong desire emerged out of my practice to explore the tangibility of the photograph and this led me into book making specifically - the ability to hold and flick through a project with my own hands has driven my work since I first began. During this exploration, I have created a number of magazine prototypes, concertina zines and fold-outs from my images. I am currently working on a second addition of my photobook Sonder, as well as another independent photographic project. I would like to continue to explore this interest by deepening my understanding of design, soon I will be taking a bookbinding course in order to expand my practice.
Considerations: For myself, photobooks are not only the most efficient means of communication for an artist, but also possess unique qualities lacking in prints. This is especially relevant for my current project; for instance, I focused significantly on selecting the correct paper, eventually opting for Fedrigoni Materica. This crafted paper adds both volume and strength to the work; it is such a tactile material, being almost raw, just like the stories printed upon it.
Other considerations of mine lie in small details such as the covers and endpapers; each volume contains photographs on both the front and back endpapers, that compliment the colour of the ribbon upon the cover. For instance, the cover of the first volume is decorated with five coloured ribbons; the first of these, a lilac ribbon, is symbolic of the first character I met, Violet, whilst the other four ribbons represent the four characters I went on to meet as a result of knowing Violet. My work has its origins in the narratives, anecdotes and memories, collected through my encounters with particular individuals and personalities.
Interior: Prior to creating a book with an equal balance of photographs and text, I was convinced that I wanted to neglect the use of words within my work entirely - I couldn't have been more wrong. Only later I realised that using text actually provided my previously mute characters with a voice. The hardest aspect of this process was firstly, finding the right combination of image and word, and then creating an equilibrium between the two; if I was to give one piece of advice here, it would be to experiment as much as you can with layout - make various copies, print them out, display them and just look at them! Nothing looks the same once it is printed.
Inspiration: I gather much of my inspiration from visiting bookshop and galleries, where I sit and flick through photobooks. Although it might sound rather banal, I measured and took notes of the various sizes of the photobooks I encountered and then, at home, I printed my dummy in numerous sizes and formats according to my notes and this helped me ensure I was selecting the right one.
When I first began, I started looking at books with seriously complex layouts such as Handbook to the Stars by Peter Puklus and Hidden Islam by Nicolò Degiorgis. Inspired by these works, I wanted to experiment as far as possible with the complexity of the photobook, however I eventually came to the realisation that, since my work focused on the everyday situation of my subjects, a simpler layout was much more appropriate. This led me onto much different works, such as the series entitled One Picture Books published by Nazraeli Press, Country Fictions by Juana Aballe and In Sickness and In Health by Colin Gray.
Advice and Future Goals: My best advice for a recent graduate with no idea where to go next is this: ‘It all begins with the submission process’; therefore, enter as many photobook competitions, awards, festivals and grants as you possibly can. Not only this does vastly increase your chances of exposure, but also helps establish essential new contacts. It seems to me that, before seeking out a publisher, a certain visibility is necessary in order for others to become aware of your work. Open calls such as those at the Organ Vida Festival, Cortona on the Move, Unseen Photo Fair, Gazebook, Kassel Dummy Award and the Bar Tur Photobook Award are all excellent starting points as they give a hint toward what it is the judges are looking for. Last but not least, an online presence is essential, visibility on platforms such as publications, collectives, portfolios and so on is a great method for circulating work.