Italian photographer Matteo Varsi has been snapping photos with expired polaroids since childhood. His daily documentation of everyday life is a constant search for the beauty and joy of imperfection. POSI+TIVE speaks with him about his vision through instant film.
What camera do you shoot on?
My favorites cameras at the moment are the Colorpack and a pinhole camera.
Are your images staged or do you have a camera with you at all times? Who are your subjects?
If I can’t move with a camera … I prefer not moving at all. I don’t know when I’ll start shooting as every moment could be “the right one”. Life is full of people and things to collect and I got a great desire to capture everything that fascinates me. A place, a person with a story to tell, a feeling or a mood.
With Polaroid film (especially expired film) “accidents” tend to happen. Are the possibilities of flaws and surprises part of what is interesting to you? Do you ever purposely expose or manipulate your film as it develops?
I’m looking for accidents! They are an added value, a kind of a signature or faith sign and something out of my control. If I had everything under control, it would be so boring! Polaroid expired effects help make a picture precious, distinctive and unique. I am always analyzing how defects can become strengths. I don’t like to manipulate pictures as they develop as I am a great fatalist! The editing process takes part in my head before the shooting.
What are the challenges of shooting with instant film?
The most fascinating challenge is how to create “art” with a 5 euro plastic camera and with expired instant film. I don’t want to get closer to photography, but just lie floating in a dimension where instant is blended with photography, reality and non-reality. Polaroid gave to me this amazing chance.
The Polaroid used to be the camera of the everyman – the photograph of the holiday snap or family photo. What do you think digital cameras have done to our documentation of everyday life? Have we lost something by abandoning the tactile nature of film photography?
Sure we lost something! The digital world is connected with the present and contemporary. However digital can also be consumed with globalization, an overdose, an abuse and a cannibalization. We lost the sense of what is precious and rare, losing many “objet trouvè” along our way. We no longer have that strange feeling of enshrining a yellowing picture where subjects are vanishing and you still feel love for it.
If you had to describe your work, what would you say you are looking for in an image? What drives you to take a photograph?
I don’t know what will be my next picture because I don’t know how I will feel, what I will love, what will make me feel something. I love to imagine my work as a stream made up of places lived and yet to live, and people we have met and yet to meet.
Matteo Varsi was born in Levanto, Italy in 1970. His first photographic research involved photography and literature. After graduating with a degree in Modern Foreign Literature, Varsi won a scholarship at the Italian Institute of Photography, Milan in 2003 where he graduated the following year. His work has been in numerous personal and collective exhibitions including the Festival of Photography in Rome and the Photo Festival in Milan.
Upcoming exhibitions include “This Side of Paradise”, a personal collection of images shown at I.E.D. Design and Communication, Milan (4th to 31st of October, 2012) and “A Presentation of Cold Cases” collective exhibition at the Italian Institute of Culture, Berlin (6th to 26th of November, 2012).
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