Omar Calabrese



I’m really pleased to introduce Federico Pacini’s work because I strongly believe in its synchrony with three of the most important topics for those who care about the language of photography. I’m talking about the colour, the framing and the time dimension issues.

First of all, I would like to analyse the element of colour. Nowadays, the art of photography uses a wide range of colours, which makes it appear as a “print” or a “reflection” of the surrounding world. Being the colour originally not available, the attempt to get closer to reality created a sort of theoretical obstacle. World was colourful but photography represented it in a combination of white, black and grey hues. This is the reason why a lot of artists decided to colour their photos so that they could resemble painting, which was considered the major art for the world representation.

In other words, a cultural transformation of that artistic knowledge was necessary as a proof of coherence between the world representation and the new developing technique. If we observe different human cultures, i.e. the primitive one, we can easily remember that they didn’t consider photography a “realistic” world representation, proving once more the conventional nature of this communicative art. We can notice that Pacini prefers to work in black and white. Is he going back to the past? Or is it just a snobbish choice (Roland Barthes thought that the real photography is the one in black and white only)? In my opinion, there’s something more involved. Pacini wants to enhance the communicative side of photography as a language, while testing a large variety of grey hues. As result of this, he obtains, proceeding the other way round, sophisticated products that can also be profoundly poetic: instead of showing that photography is strongly related to painting, as it was originally, he emphasises that “pictorial” photography (colour photos) is akin to achromatic photography, the actual one.

As far as the framing is concerned, Pacini, in his portraits but also in his still life and landscapes representations, practises a sort of deviation of the canonical framing (centred subject, side wings research). Subjects often come out to be cut, displaced, not centred. Once again we have to face a theoretical reflection. The “canonical” framing we considered above originates from the communicative language of painting as it follows the rules of geometric perspective, which had put out the roots of an actual visual canon. For years the perspective had been treating the message transmitter as prosthesis of the actual perceptive act with the aim to imitate the human eyesight activity (lens as an eye – extension). The centred framing worked as a statement coming directly from the represented “things”, as if they spoke and the transmitter didn’t exist. But reality is far from that: we can, in fact, look covertly, laterally and secretly at the world around us. Our gazes might establish enunciative relations with the represented subjects too. The anomalies applied by Pacini in most of his shots assume the value of an underlining: in other words the photographer is entirely responsible for the transmission of the perceptive experience and “things” are not representing themselves. So, the photographer is the active subject of the representation.

Time dimension. Thanks to the technical ability to vary exposure time, photography can now give a quite wide duration to actions: from the instant duration (which creates the “snapshot”) to the no – temporal duration (continuous). Being this technique unavailable in the beginning, exposure time used to be much longer (do you remember when, a few years ago, we used to hear “stay, don’t move”? Because photos would come up out of focus). In some of his representations, Pacini experiences the new dimensions of time and thanks to technical improvements he can now enhance them to the top.

The snapshot: he digs to discover the imperceptible side of things, as he does with the rapid movement of water. The no – temporal duration: he represents the sense of duration through the evanescence of his landscapes and the shading techniques of most of his portraits.

Finally, I can conclude that Pacini is a very interesting artist especially because he can explore the linguistic nature of his communicative art. He works with the instruments that the art itself offers to him, without using words to make his art theoretical. It’s a hard work: according to the tradition, the abstract analysis of the events (their scientific description and their metalanguage) can be done only through the language. As we can see, that’s not exactly the case. In fact, Pacini is trying to propose esthetic - valued works, which, at the same time, are also a sort of essays on photography.


Omar Calabrese