Interview by Michela Coslovich
All images © Carlo Rusca
Carlo Rusca (b. 1989) is a photographer and director born in Turin and lived in Locarno, Switzerland. Raised in a creative family, he approaches the art studies at the end of high school when he begins a research in the field of visual arts. Returning to Locarno after a period of experience abroad, in 2016 he began his project Turistica, visually analyzing the place where he grew up. Together we talked about concepts very close to him, such as spaces and atmospheres.
Hi Carlo, welcome to Pellicola. In addition to being a photographer, you are also a director: can you tell us when you decided to take an interest in visual arts?
It all started in my family, from my mother who is passionate about art and photography and from my dad, a video amateur. I was lucky enough to grow up in an contest full of stimuli and images, books, cinema and visits at the museums. Then it came the passion for cinema and photography. I started looking at entire filmographies and I realized that cinema would be one of the great passions of my life. I remember well an exhibition by Nobuyoshi Araki in which I wandered for almost a whole day. After finishing high school, although I was already enrolled in the Faculty of Economics in Zurich, I decided to follow this ever-present instinct: I dropped out of the economic studies and enrolled in a film school.
Your project Turistica is a visual story of the place where you live, Locarno. What prompted you to become interested in the narrative and photographic heritage of this territory and how did your artistic process develop?
Turistica comes to life after a return to the place where I grew up, my family home, between memories and walks during sleepless nights. I was born in Turin, but I grew up in Locarno: somehow, this has always put me in the position of observer. The Ticino area is complex, apparently devoid of contrast and rich in economic well-being. However, it has many shades, barely noticeable, almost invisible. It is a borderland: tense, waiting, suspended. A place of passage with multiple faces, one among many, the tourist resort near Lake Maggiore. This project brought me closer to a territory I was used to, but which I no longer recognized. Working, image after image, I reconstructed some pieces: this allowed me to devote myself to showing a personal look, a story that interprets these spaces dear to me, more imaginary than real.
Turistica is also a book, published by Witty Books: how does this desire to represent your photographic project come about?
At first, the body of the work was formed spontaneously as a collection of images of my “wandering”. After a certain number of shots, the desire to create a story prevailed, perhaps due to my training as a filmmaker. The single images began to take the form of a sequence and, over time, the idea of combining them into a story in a photo book became well defined. I love photobooks very much and I consider them an exceptional medium: they allow an intimacy between the viewer and the images that are simply unique. At the end of the series I was therefore already intent on making a book of it. After the exhibition at the Aperture Foundation, I contacted Tommaso Parillo of Witty Books, who I had already met in Arles years earlier and who welcomed me with open arms. The work with him and with Federico Barbon (who followed the design) was enriching and exciting. A real team effort that gave birth to the object that I had imagined in my Locarno bedroom when I was young.
“Perceiving an atmosphere means capturing a feeling in the surrounding space, ultimately the most important thing for man and implied by any subsequent clarification, both sensitive and cognitive” (Tellenbach). Your work immediately reminded me of this concept: what is the atmosphere of a place for you?
This is a very difficult question. I am convinced that every place goes beyond its form, its physical and temporal space. I have never been interested in a representation of reality, being however intrinsically a lie given by the gesture and the look of the photographer. Reversing this concept we find that awareness of portraying a place because it is “another” and the will to seek a point of sharing. I don’t really think that this approach is something that needs to be taken in the moment: I think it must be built through the will and the conscience to convey a sensation with respect to a common imagination. I have always photographed thinking about the viewer and what feelings about the Turistica images he could feel and that he could share with me.
Where did you get inspiration for this work? Did you have any role models?
The sources of inspiration for this project are many, inside and outside the world of photography. Obviously the cinema from Tarkovskij to David Lynch and the films of Yorgos Lanthimos. Another great passion of mine is poetry. During Turistica I discovered Vittorio Sereni’s poems that have been a great inspiration for the environments and sensations in the images of this specific project. My photographic references are also many and it would be difficult to bring them all back; surely, even if in a different form, one of the photographers who influenced me the most is Todd Hido with House Hounting.
Are there any other issues that you have described in your projects or that you would like to address?
When I was a student, I created an experimental photography project: infrared portraits that highlighted the veins of the body like invisible tattoos for the human eye. I would like to go back to working on the portrait and the body, sooner or later. The perception of the invisible is a very stimulating imagery that opens a thought on identity, a theme that I am still trying to address in other forms.
What are you planning for the future? What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on a new project in the area, I have just started and I’m still in a moment of research, so I’m still very cautious in divulging the details. I can say that I’m trying to work with color photography, which I have almost never done and that for the subject (top secret) I’m dealing with, it could be an interesting language (even if, in my opinion, it is a very difficult medium). I’m lucky to move with the support of Prohelvetia and other sponsors who have believed in my work. As complex as Switzerland is, it cannot be denied that support for culture is always present for young photographers. I can only be grateful for this.
Thank you very much for your words and for your availability. It was a pleasure, I hope it was also for you.
Heartfelt thanks to you. It was a pleasure. I greet you imagining a near future where it will be possible to talk, with you and with the many colleagues and friends that I see in your magazine, perhaps around a table, in the real world, with a good glass of wine.