Diego Ferrari is an artist who primarily investigates the way we inhabit space. From his early installations (Reflections,1991, and the Split Personality of Light, 1993) to the most recent series of photographs (European Public Building, 1995-2007) he has focused on the subtle shifts in meaning gained by changes in light; multiple perspectives within a single frame; the interplay between the visible and hidden interiors; and exaggeration of details of the architectural and human forms. For Ferrari, space is never seen as a neutral stage upon which people performs their tasks. Rather space is interpreted as an active force which transforms and is transformed by our actions. In Ferrari’s words: “I don’t photograph objects. I photograph spaces, and space is the subject of my photographs.
He has turned his attention to both the public institutions of art and private working environments in order to reveal the way certain key actors are involved in their own spaces. By focusing on the dual relationship between the spaces available for people to view art and the production of art by artists in their studios, Ferrari has created a series of moving portrait. The aim of these images is not to value the romantic status of the artists, nor to sanctify the institution of art as hallowed spaces, but rather to reveal the common energy within the production and experience of art.
The photographs that Ferrari takes create an “echo effect” between the spheres of production and reception. This he achieves with his customized 35-mm camera. At first glance, his photographs appear to be the result of either conventional collage or a form of computer-generated simulacra. However, his practice is both more crude and more demanding. The particular camera that he works with is the cheap disposable variety, slightly modified, so that a number of images, usually three, are joined together. Having disconnected the automatic mechanism which regulates the shutter and the winder, Ferrari manually controls the duration of exposure and can reconnect the location of perspective by withholding the surface of film that is exposed to the brush of light. This demands precise physical stillness, whereby his whole body becomes as rigid as a tripod,and his breath is timed with the exact memory of each frame.
The aim of this technique is to break down the grids within which the frame of each photograph is normally constituted. The space within each frame is suspended in order to maximise both the possibility of connecting different perspectives and the freedom of lighting the film in an extended time period. The use of light, which is intrinsic to all photography, becomes more active in this process, because by provoking a degree of overexposure Ferrari is able to diffuse the boundaries between spaces. Light is used to make connections that are otherwise invisible in these spaces. To grasp these links often requires sustained and repeated involvement with a space and the way it is used by other people. This process is as he notes, consensus: “When I enter the studio the thing that binds us together is that we are both, the artist and I, there to create images-we share that obsession with ways of seeing. But my studio is the camera. The photographs I take of artists in there workrooms represent a reciprocal agreement between the artist’s space and my camera’s ephemeral studio space”.