Zoom: You have a degree in Set Design. In addition to photography, are there any other artistic fields you’re active in?
by Sara Namias
Born in Lecce, Italy Emanuela Bartolotti’s training is decidedly artistic and scenographic. Having graduated from the arts high school, she then attended the “WWW Operar ad Arte” and “Laboratorio Sperimentale Audiovisivi 2002” courses and finally received her degree in Stage Design. Her original series, “Imprinting”, published here, is striking, yet her work splits off into two tendencies: some series imbued with fantasy are tied to the world of fairy tales, play and imagination, such as “The Little Mermaid” and “La Bella e la Bestia” (Beauty and the Beast). On the other hand, while maintaining the form of a sequential narration, her “Mirror” and “Scarpette Nere” (Black Shoes) series are inspired, respectively, by the world of filmmaking/fashion advertising and daily reality.
Emanuela: “Imprinting” is a work that dates from 2003-04, a series playfully inspired by my love of fairy tales, cartoons and toys. I began to collect small objects found in flea markets, basements and second-hand stores to the growing concern of friends who wondered what in the world I would do with them. Choosing them, what emerged was a preference for elements that become fairy tale and popular stereotypes: red shoes, the mirror, she-wolf and mermaid, all recurring symbolic forms that become universal images. In this way I have tried to create an alternative world similar to that of our childhood. The photographs spring from the mark left by these small colored objects: toys designed by adults for young children that are both shiny and attractive. The project unfolds in the elaboration of “visual” tales with sequences of images and in the creation of actual games aimed at involving viewers. The photograph becomes an object and returns to being a plaything.
Zoom: Are you trying to communicate a message to someone in particular? To people who are too realistic or those who have buried their childhood memories?
E. B.: No, I think that each of us spontaneously gravitates towards what we feel is most akin to us. So, it is most probable that people who have not yet lost these attributes will be most amused by my work. When you dedicate yourself intensely to what you create, people who later interact with it should be able to perceive the passion that has given rise to it. If I am not able to communicate emotion, I haven’t succeeded. I love this type of imagery because it allows me to invent something. In a fairy tale you can fly, you can grow up and then become little again, you can eat a cookie and make a wish that will come true. You can perceive as magic things that to a too-reality-bound adult seem insignificant but which for a child are mesmerizing, such as the flight of Mary Poppins.
Zoom: Why the pairing of animals and dolls?
E. B.: Because animals are also key in fairy stories. In them we find animals anthropomorphized, like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood or people with animal-like features, such as in Beauty and the Beast. Plus, I liked the contrast between these different types of playthings. When you start to play, the beautiful girl can become friends with the hippopotamus and while exploring the garden they can meet the imaginary zebra who tells them what road to take before becoming bewitched in front of the mirror to put on the right outfit that the frog will then get dirty by jumping out unexpectedly from the mire under the plant.
Zoom: Where did you get the very creative idea of photographic tablets collected in a box? Where is it available for sale?
E. B.: The objects in the photographs are very small and therefore lend themselves to the idea of some kind of container to hold them. This solution also goes back to the idea of stories in boxed sets dating from the 1800s. It makes me think of card and board games. Haven’t you ever played Old Maid or Concentration? Plus I love boxes. Boxes that bring things together, that contain them. It gives me the idea of something intimate and precious because it is personal. Something that is born from within and is kept and preserved, but which can also be opened to show to others. This gives birth to an interaction with the person invited to take a look and who can also touch the photos. I saw people smiling spontaneously as they played with the tablets and revealed the box’s content. I find this to be a real pleasure.
Zoom: When you print your works, for an exhibition, for example, what format are they?
E. B.: I prefer small formats. The 35 tablets in the “Imprinting” series contained in the box are 7x10 cm, which become 15x22 cm for the wall series. For “The Little Mermaid”, the size is 20x30 cm. In any case, I have never gone over a 70x100 format which I only used for the diptych, “Gerda” in my “Racconti Brevi” series. But even this calls for a smaller format and the creation of a box (I think it will be oval or round) to hold the photographs. In my concept, what remains central is the photographturned-object,
E. B.: I have worked as a set designer and in creating still photography sets. For my projects, in addition to photography, I also utilize other techniques with which I would like to continue to experiment. For example papier-mâché, typical of the area where I was born, which I used to create art-design objects. They are works that share a playful aspect and a major component of recycling and restyling. We continue to produce incessantly, but we should actually begin to recycle and renew what already exists, if for no other reason than respect for our planet. Luckily, I’m not the only person who thinks this way.
Zoom: Is there anything else in particular that you’d like to tell our readers?
E. B.: Yes. I would like to say to enthusiasts to persevere and continue to believe in what they do, even if just for personal gratification. To those with children, to let them have the space and freedom to express themselves. This helps them to develop the ability to think that we almost seem to have lost, and I’m not just talking about imagination, but the ability to make judgments. Put more simply, the ability to differentiate and choose. In order to discover in the end the things that involve us and move us are common to us all, or virtually.