Words by Claudia Bigongiari
All images © Chloé Milos Azzopardi
Born in 1994, and grew up in the suburbs of Paris, Chloé Milos Azzopardi probably inherited the passion of photography from her mother who tried to make a living out of it at a young age but after a couple of years gave up pursuing the artistic path. Chloe instead, after quitting high school and working as an assistant for a photographer in her city, decided to go to a visual art school anyway, focusing on different disciplines: installation, performance, writing and experimental photography. What moves her curiosity are also multiple things: ‘I’m fascinated by insects and astronomy and by the fact that we still ignore a lot of things about life on earth and how the universe works’. That’s why she looks at every element around her in the environment with the same gaze whether it’s natural or non natural, questioning about the existence of a wider and complex ecosystem of things.
Les formes qu’ils habitent en temps de crise is Chloe’s last project and attempt to travel with no boundaries of sorts around this ecosystem. She started the series in 2020, even if it contains images dating back to 2017, and it felt like the beginning of dealing with the condition of dissociation and depersonalisation the photographer used to suffer since her teenage years. ‘Photography was a means to be able to go outside again, it was a filter between reality and me and that was very protective’.
Dissociation is the condition for which a person lives a moment of extended detachment from his/her body and thoughts, where sensitive boundaries are lost and possibilities of extending into others are open. It manifests with blanks and no memories. Otherness and metamorphosis create the relationship among the different species on earth and also between them and the photographer: ‘projecting myself into the sensation of other beings was a way of learning to deal with dissociation’. The beginning of Ovid’s Metamorphoses,“I want to say the forms turned into new bodies”, echoes into Chloe’s images.
The approach starts to become more and more analytical with time trying to understand how to frame things and how to define boundaries and capture the whole space of something only perceivable in its parts. Consequently she started to understand again the edges of her own body and feelings.
In the collection of Chloe Azzopardi plants, minerals, humans as much as other inanimate things stay at the same level and in relationship together with no anthropocentric domination. There is a particular attention to hands, which make the tactile sense heavier than others. Hands have always attracted photographers, explains Chloe, for their ability to make and capture, but here what she finds interesting is their ability to support and connect to other things, such as a snake, butterflies, a rock. She is looking for repetitions and similarities into the ecosystem, and hands, like feet, like the branches of a plant make them visible and easy to follow. Also, according to the artist, touch is something strictly connected to the photographic process, ‘if you touch, you are necessarily touched in return, you can’t avoid it’ as if when you watch you’ll be watched even if what is watching doesn’t necessarily have eyes.’
The continuous exchange with other beings becomes the key to open little by little and feel again thoughts and a body which tended to disappear. The final images are mystical and dream-like, suspended into an atmosphere which is disconnected from reality and familiar at the same time. They remind of the visual influences Chloe draws from: Tarkovsky’s movies, the work of Abbas Kiarostami, Masao Yamamoto, Jungjin Lee and Yorgos Yatromanolakis’s otherworldly imaginary. The most difficult passage for the French artist was to photograph people, dealing with their emotions and expressions seemed too hard since she could’t handle hers, that’s why she decided to portray only her closest friends, people she learned to know as she learned to approach every element of the territory around. With Les forms qu’ils habitent en temps de crise she defines her own ecosystem of comfort where trees in the wind, people floating on the water and animals of any kind are sharing vulnerabilities.