Observer, Listener… Photographer
Raquel Bigio has tried out many creative solutions. However, the representation of urban spaces is one of her favorite subjects. In order to capture it she doesn’t shoot every time the mood strikes her, but rather establishes a deep connection with each image she captures.
By basing her work on both imagination and methodic observation, she is able to go beyond the limits of the known reality in order to open the path towards a dimension of metaphysical abstraction.
The artist recalls that it was raining persistently, soaking Paris and engulfing the French capital in one of its typical cinematographic atmospheres. That evening, stained in gray, was her last in the Ville Lumière, which is why she decided to go to see la Villette park anyway. “Upon arriving –says the photographer– I was amazed by the light and by the shapes that were projected in front of me. However, much to my dismay, I didn’t have my camera.” All of her equipment had actually been left in the hotel. Nonetheless, there among the flashy architecture of the famous Parisian park and while asking herself how to resolve the emergency, her husband approaches her and, under the rain that continued to fall, kindly offers her one of those disposable cameras with the cardboard body. “I looked at him as if he was proposing something absurd to me, yet, in truth, I didn’t have much hope regarding the results, but in the end I succumbed to my passion to record the moment… And upon developing the roll of film, what a surprise! The photos were incredibly successful. What mattered was the viewpoint, the location in regards to the light and the framing.”
Maybe what happened during that rainy evening is what best reveals how the Argentinean artist, Raquel Bigio, is a meticulous observer of reality before anything and it reveals what is hidden behind her. Maybe just that trip through La Villette is the example that best shows how the artist from Buenos Aires, despite the wide range of creative solutions she has used, tries to be a tuned and refined listener not only of sounds, but also of the silence that characterizes our living environment. In conclusion, the “mishap” with the cardboard camera probably perfectly describes the poetics of this Latin American photographer who, by mixing influences from different disciplines such as painting and cinematographic art, is able to “give new meaning” to any environment seemingly known by only looking, framing and shooting. “I analyze the frame –she explains– and, when my intellect and heart are activated in unison, I capture the image. I never shoot just to shoot. The viewpoint requires inspiration and needs to be in tune with the location. For example, I’ve always known that each city has its own rhythm and different language that isn’t always perceptible to the untrained eye.”
Although it would be complicated to give her only one label, you might say that Raquel Bigio has a preference towards urban shots. In this context, this artist from Buenos Aires tries to get away from all that is banal and already represented. For this reason, whether in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles or Paris, she constantly runs from topics related to the practice of photographic mass production, in order to open the way to –and open the mind of anyone looking– an unknown dimension of the environment that surrounds her; by basing her shots on her prior experience as a painter, with an analytical viewpoint common to photojournalist, and by handling the camera as if it were a paintbrush and letting herself get carried away by the raw emotions of the moment, she constructs her representations based on a frame of strict technical opinions.
“With the camera in hand, like an archeologist, I go out and explore the exterior world, trying to discover that which is hidden under the apparent realities. Since the beginning, my mission has been to make a work that transforms the reality that had served as the model for my shots. And, if my calling is artistic photography –she says– I believe, however, that it is important to master the technique and the ability to adapt it to the target that will be captured. In my case, that precise technique is preceded by intuition and emotion. The construction of a good shot is the starting point that leads to an original composition. Thus, when my vision records this moment, just then I point the camera’s viewfinder towards the chosen objective, while keeping the lighting in mind, which is the element that unites my photographic work.”
At the moment of shooting, Raquel Bigio sets out on a path that is related to the discovery of a new reality. Or, better said, the rediscovery of the old. Hers is a real journey towards a metaphysical dimension through those previously known places and now captured after the click of the shutter. A borderline experience captured, for example, thanks to the “amplification” technique (completely clear in the three works represented here), that is the construction of a new environment that breaks that fine line between reality and abstraction thanks to a symmetrical duplication of the captured image.
However, it is true that among the many creative techniques that she uses, Bigio loves more than anything to immerse herself in the metropolitan chaos in order to find those hidden particulars and those urban fragments that are usually invisible to others and that, once taken out of their general context, take on unexpected meanings. That’s how a glass dome and steel, part of an escalator in the darkness, a window reflecting another building or a half-open door go from being small unknown parts of a whole to visible chunks of a reality that, thanks to the Argentinean photographer’s meticulous observation, take on a new semantic decline. “I learned to train my eye –she says–, in order to extract a fragment from a major work that stands on its own and turn it into an abstract image. I adamantly make sure to not reproduce the obvious and I like to throw myself out there like an alchemist of the camera, in search of the philosopher’s stone. In this age of proliferation of photography it is very important to distinguish between the love for making a copy and the passion to recreate.”
The artistic intention that Raquel Bigio has pursued since her beginnings is here clear. When handling her first camera, she chose to explore the expressive capabilities of the photographic medium: “I decided to express my understanding through the camera,” she recalls. “I was convinced that it was possible to build images with pictorial art, where aesthetics, perspective, and the combination of colors reside. In these images, the structuring of shapes gives place to the conceptual and, at the same time, what is testimonial.” It is for that reason that, right after finishing her studies and after literally locking herself inside her workshop in front of a white canvas –without going back or forward– comments the artist who, in the end, went out to roam the streets while investigating them through a viewfinder. Raquel Bigio recalls exactly how it happened on that vivid evening, among the architecture of La Villette under the Parisian rain: “reaching those goals, in the photographic task, turned into a wonderful experience.”