Sometimes you have to leave a place to discover the artists living there. I spent most of my life in Catania but I have never met Corrado Lorenzo Vasquez, a talented photographer and director. We still haven’t met in person but we had a very nice conversation about his work, the relationship with his land and so much more.
At a young age you decided to live in Catania, a city with such an important history, an enormous artistic tradition, and a vibrant cultural life. Tell me about your relationship with the city and how much it has influenced your work and aesthetic.
I was born in Syracuse, I lived in different cities between France and Berlin, but Catania is the city that adopted me, I have always chosen, consciously to live in its peripheral or popular places, probably the most authentic even if often degraded. I have the impression that in some quarters time has crystallized in ancient rituals and popular customs. However, it is a multi-ethnic city where the Sicilian culture coexists mostly peacefully with other realities from around the world in a mixture of cultural influences. I like to tell stories in the frame of black lava, the folklore, identity, defined contours, and traditions, but also ethnic blends and diversity in their appearance and in their habits. It is also a culturally vibrant city in a surprising way, and for me very stimulating, here going to concerts as a fan equipped with a camera and then sent by web-zines, I met the musicians, often international, with whom I still collaborate.
You are a photographer and a director. How do you decide which medium is more suitable for a certain topic or subject? Or is it the other way around, the medium affecting the content?
What makes visual art in all its meanings unique, is its immediacy, in the case of photography this is the fastest medium to date, from the moment of conception to its availability.
For me photography has always been a form of improvisation, even when the images provide a preliminary study, my reaction to the subject is instantaneous and borrowed in an exchange like a circuit, between me and the subject. The video, however, is a more complete tool in its expression and in its way of telling, because it contains more elements (audio and photography itself) and requires more time to use. Video making therefore implies, most of the time, also the support of other people, so it is a tool that I have used only on commission, I hope, however, in the near future, to use this tool also for my personal projects.
Looking through your photos, the street ones, I have the sensation that your gaze is not the one of a detached voyeur or of a reporter who is looking for a sensational shot. I felt lot of empathy in the scenes that you portray. Can you describe your attitude towards the street?
During high school I bought an old Russian SLR for five euros with a broken light meter and I started to take pictures that were technically right, at least. Some time after I found the book of Magnum Photos in the library and This is how my journey in photography began. It has become maieutic process, unlocking me from the shy and introspective character that I got. The approach to portrait photography was in fact fundamental in my personal growth, stimulated by the need to create an empathic relationship with the subjects. My interest in this kind of photo is therefore the knowledge of the subject and therefore have a story to tell, however what also attracts me, are real compositions of street scenes that stimulate me visions where all the elements coincide to compose a significant picture.
I think that Light Wounds is my favorite series of your work, I love the dark oneiric vibe in it. Can you tell me more about the concept, the process, and the technique?
In opposition to my reportage work, where my interest is to interpret reality by immersing myself in it, getting in touch with people, and sometimes imagining them, but always based on something real and visible to everyone. In the Light Wounds series, I simply let myself be guided by my emotions and my impulses. Art for me is the visualization of a dream, of something that happens, that tells uncertainties, past, legacy, exorcises thoughts and transforms them into matter. In this series, I have therefore, staged, shaped and used, the bodies of people to recreate fragments of my imagination, there is clearly a strong reference to the pictorial art of the past and specifically to the allegories of the “memento mori”. The figures exist in a dreamlike dimension, often blindfolded or hooded, they are deprived of their identity in favor of the entire scenic communication. These bodies, they cannot see the reality that surrounds them, represent the staging of our missing senses and the relationship that we have with what we cannot see, but that we live equally from a technical point of view instead, With this work I wanted to emphasize how a digital image can be transformed into something more alive, digital photography, in general, perfectly replicable, back to being something unique and unrepeatable, as if it had a new life. Trying to explain better, the work is based on an analog digital print made through an experimental technique that I invented, in which I intervene with the brush on the print, and I create shapes every time new and therefore unrepeatable.
You have directed several video-clips for artists such as Marta sui Tubi, Hugo Race and Silent Carnival. How it is the relationship with the music and the lyrics? Do they play a prominent role, or you go on your way and the music is just accessory?
Music, together with visual art in general, represents a great passion of mine, the realization of the video-clips becomes therefore for me the possibility to express an artistic construction according to my personal interpretation. When I direct a music video-clip, my primary goal is to reproduce an atmosphere instead of being didactic to the lyrics. What interests me is to create something that can reflect or evoke the atmosphere of the music and of the lyrics, but I tend to make it in a way that it might tell something else and the viewer can see something that goes beyond the path of the music.
There is a series of photos about Thapsos, which struck me immediately. As a Sicilian who studied archaeology, Thapsos is the epicenter of most of the studies of that area so I have always seen it through the eyes of scholars and perhaps neglected to see what happened with the construction of the oil plant. Your photos depict, with a mix of sadness and anger, what is now of those places. Tell me more about this series, what brought you there?
My life has always been divided between two different cities: Catania and Syracuse, along the way my gaze is often turned to the industrial areas of the petrochemical plant that was settled right in the middle of these two places. The plant was built in the late 1940s as a sign of development, technological innovation, and progress, and was welcomed by the entire population with great initial enthusiasm. In fact, the structures were built on this entire archaeological area known as the largest Mycenaean emporium in Sicily, and therefore of enormous importance for the history of the region and the whole Mediterranean. During the works the archaeological remains were not taken care of properly and many traces were simply erased without the possibility for scholars to study before the destruction. Furthermore, in the area the cases of cases of tumors is extremely high due to the inevitable pollution generated by the plant. Yet again, as in other parts of Italy, the choice was between work and public health. The few people who tried to fight this state of things were killed. Today many of these plants are closed and abandoned, what remains is the devastation of the territory. My project reflects these feelings of bitterness and indignation for the damages these places have suffered.
You live in Italy where the restrictions for the coronavirus crisis were harsher than anywhere. How was your lock-down experience, not only as an artist? Are there new projects you are working on for the next future? The experience of the lock-down due to the coronavirus outbreak has given us the weird opportunity to live something unrepeatable, the suspension of time has made me vulnerable facing my inner thoughts, I would lie if I would not tell you that initially the idea of impotence has negatively affected my days, the waiting became a customary reality, and in the loneliness of my days I had to come to terms with myself. Despite a path of suffering, this situation has brought a new awareness, new inspiration, and new ideas to produce. Moreover, an event in my private life, the meeting with my current partner, has opened new creative routes. I guess that art is also made by the accidental events that happen in our lives. I understand that we are living a unique historical moment that will surely be a fertile ground worth telling. Right now, I am working on something that reflect what we all are going through, the changes in our daily life and I would like to show it through the materiality of its different aspects.
I am at an early stage of the work though; I hope to be able to show it in a couple of months.