Interview with Lucretia Moroni on the occasion of her show at the MIA Photo Fair 2019 in Milan, with Galleria l'Affiche.
Once you used to paint, now you photograph. When did you choose photography as an exclusive means of expression?
I have always photographed, but I thought that painting and decoration would have been enough, given the ease with which I obtained good results. Then I decided to follow some photography courses: I was intrigued by the moment of transition from analogue to digital. The courses then turned into a two-year school (ICP - International Center of Photography). And this is how I have developed a printing method with an alternative process, which has become the basis of my photography.
Do you miss painting?
I find photography infinitely richer in terms of stimuli. It is less repetitive: the printing process I use gives back very pictorial results.
Why do you photograph bridges?
The bridge is a symbol of change, of transition. It is particularly significant for me, since my life is divided between northern Italy and New York.
In addition, I do like very much American bridges for their engineering structure. They are photogenic. And it is fun to chase them, in the attempt to photograph them from the street, in motion: you cannot get that much closer to them. I consider it a challenge, a work in progress.
What about the image of the house in the mist?
It is my family home in Bergamo. That image is from three or four years ago. In the room upstairs, you can see a light: the life inside the house, my children. I was outside, and I walked around the building for a long time to capture as much fog as possible...
In your photos, Lombardy appears as quite flat and foggy. In your American subjects, on the other hand, light is well noticeable, a somehow more aggressive vitality...
I have always liked the misty landscape, because it is quite metaphorical: it tells about what you do not have, what you have left behind. There is nostalgia in it. Lombardy suits to this symbolism: it is foggy, and it is the land of memory. I use sunny days only when I want to photograph structures: I here need clean skies, because the focus must be on the subject only.
Are the glimpses of urban structures, of stations, part of a research on the cities?
I consider them rather representations of passages, a bit like bridges. I live in two different places: stations, trains, they all symbolize my moments of passage.
Why the reflections?
Reflections have been haunting me for years. Even as a child, I used to look for them when photographing. For me, the reflection has an almost metaphysical meaning. It appears and disappears: it could easily be a dream, an illusion.
Beside between Lombardy and the United States, do you travel a lot?
I travel from the city to the countryside: for a while, I spent a lot of time in Tuscany, a land where there is plenty of light. But I used to go there out of season, and what I encountered were the greyness of the autumn months, the downpours. Now, I have moved from New York city to an Upstate small town. But it was there that my obsession with machineries started, becoming then one of my recurring subjects. In the countryside, I always saw tractors, wheels, caterpillars. And wine bottle-corking machines.
For you, different technical treatments correspond to different subjects. Or am I wrong?
Sometimes. For example, the bridges I photograph are often made of metal. These are structures that need to be contrasted, in terms of photographic rendering. When I portray them, I am already preparing to turn the negatives into prints on a base treated with gold leaf or palladium.
The reflection of the precious metal helps to bring out the tonicity of the structures.
At a superficial analysis, your gold leaf and palladium works may seem like engravings. Do you agree?
In some ways, yes. And I also find references to the world of the Italian painting on golden background, the miniatures, and the Byzantine mosaics. I chose photography and I am not going back, but my work absolutely moves in the direction of a pictorial research.
Have you ever worked with engraving during your past as a painter?
No, never. But I have worked with silk-screen printing for a long time. However, this is a process somewhat akin to photography. All my technical basis in terms of emulsion, light, graphics, and repetition come from there.
You work to acquire new technical means. Do you then keep them in your repertoire or do you overtake them?
I resume them, and I reuse them continuously, with a cyclical pattern. I have just installed a darkroom, and resumed printing in black and white too.
As for the printing, you mentioned before an alternative process. What is it?
I first prepare a chemical composition based on palladium and platinum salts and others, and then apply the emulsion by hand on the paper. The chosen image is processed and turned into a digital negative, which is then put in direct contact with the emulsion. Finally, the whole is exposed to light.
Why do you photograph sunflowers?
It is a particularly photogenic flower: it lends itself to being isolated in its solid structure, with a sculptural flavour. They are the first flowers of a long series.
Does research on materials and printing techniques help you in rendering the textures as more "sculpted"?
When I take a picture, I already have in my mind the idea of how I will print: I know that I will have to clean the background so as not to have too many details that could blemish the image, and I know that the shooting moment is only one phase of the process. Then, the scientific, chemical, and almost alchemical part follows. These are ancient producing processes, and they are largely uncontrollable. Also because of the variables: the light, the exposure times. When a new printing process succeeds, I write everything down, right away. I compile books, which are halfway between alchemist manuals and apothecary recipe books.
When photographing, do you look for something specific?
Yes. I have noticed how over the years I have been focusing on five or six subjects. I chase them, moved by a sort of obsession. There is the theme of the landscapes made hardly recognizable by the fog or the opacity of dawn. There are the machines. Then, the bridges, the trees, the flowers. The statues. And the puddles: whenever I find them, I photograph them.