In Conversation: Monica Tarocco

Monica Tarocco is a Zürich-based photographer and visual artist.

April 2013

Monica Tarocco self-portrait

Monica Tarocco, self-portrait

The past is always present

You have two particular series of images—Via Roma 35 and Past Perfect, a selection of which are presented here in The Woolf—both of which interrogate ideas about time, past and present. What draws you to this theme?

When I was a child my favourite pastime was to stick my head for hours in the old family’s album full of beautiful, old, black-and-white photographs—and wonder who were all those persons that I never got to know. The goal of this game was to find some familiar elements in those stranger faces.

Starting from that, the theme ‘Time’ has always fascinated me, especially the past. I love the feeling of being surrounded by images, stuff, places that have a strong history. In some sense, one can really say that I have an inborn fondness for this theme.

You talk about the affinity that can occur between the family photographs you’ve used in your images and our (the viewer’s) own personal history. What ‘measure’ did you use in order to decide if an image was going to have an element of universality?

In my images I look for what Roland Barthes called ‘punctum’; that is, the stinging particular in a photo, the personally touching detail that establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it.

I try to recreate this astonishing sensation by combining photos coming from different ages and with different histories and blending them into a brand new image. The friction between these two pictures gives the impression that they are lying in wait to be completed by the viewers own memories. Only then the pictures lose their personal character and obtain the archetypal value of universality.

When you are approaching your work, how do you make decisions about the process and medium or technology that you will use?

It strongly depends on what I want to represent in my work. Lately, photography has been the medium that fits for the contents that I want to explore: identity, memories, memento, and the relationship with space.

How long have you been producing visual art, and what was the very first medium that you experimented with as an artist?

I’ve been producing since 2002. I started with painting and drawing, my first and big loves.

Do you think the fact that we can publish photos instantly – and everywhere – with apps like Instagram has affected the way people value the art of photography?

Absolutely yes. Photography has become an easy and portable instrument to convey our everyday life to the rest of the world. This has been a big and really fast step in the evolution of photography, as everybody now has easy access to the technology.

I do not think this is a loss of value or a wrong way to use photography. I rather think that it is a great challenge for Art in photography, which must have the strength to cope with this radical change and become more solid than ever.

In these days it is only up to us and our criticism to distinguish between an art production or a daily life personal documentation.

Author: Libby O'Loghlin

Novelist, social entrepreneur, nutrition and narrative coach. Creative Director of The Woolf Quarterly; Co-Founder of WriteCon and The Powerhouse Zurich. Nature is my jam.

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