An Interview With: Luisa Avietti
Who are you, what do you do, and where did you study?
My name is Luisa Avietti. I Studied at AUB (Arts University Bournemouth) and I had a great time. I live in London and I’m just a normal twenty-two year old, I go out too much, do art things, catch up with friends and travel. I’m currently working as a picture researcher and want to get some shoots under my belt soon.
Do you have an artist statement for the body of work titled ‘Nineteen thousand beds’?
Nineteen Thousand Beds is based on notions of absence and is the documentation of specific architectural spaces, leisure complexes. These complexes represent a form of heterotopia; occupied temporarily, they are purpose-designed and built for a specific activity.
My approach to the work references conventional forms of architectural photography, these often devoid of human presence within the depicted spaces. Dormant, the individual areas documented in my work remain in a form of stasis; suspended in time and waiting in expectation of their future occupants. This creates an opportunity for the audience to consider for themselves, the missing sounds and actions suggested by the vacant nature of the images.
What inspires your work?
I’m interested in architecture so would look at that first. Following on from that I would look into the idea of emptiness – I love the idea that the interiors of a space has a purpose and function of when its inhabited but when no one is there it’s just adds to the emptiness. I referenced a lot of photographers and theorists, Jason Oddy, Candida Hofer, Lewis Baltz to name a few.
I’m keen on the idea of heterotopic spaces, the notion of waiting, mixed with the thought of something built for human consumption yet when not being used it’s just a space left for nothing. I have always been interested in these man made spaces; I started at leisure centres and then moved on to hospitals etc. After a lot of hours spent convincing managers that its for a university project and let free to have all the coverage as possible it thought about bigger spaces such as Butlins (Nineteen Thousand Beds) Butlins was built to contain all humans needs, (sleep, eat, play) which made it a perfect space to photograph this idea. I got access to Butlins during their quiet period, the space had this odd tension as if it was waiting for life, so I was happy that I didn’t have to try to force a fake atmosphere when photographing.
Can you talk us through your process of image making?
I also like to set a challenge to myself – I hate when people say you cant do this or that. Therefore, I just started to contact places where you don’t really get to photograph such as an hospital when its empty, swimming pools after closing time and for some reason they all just let me wonder around and do what I had to do. But Butlins was the best achievement – got the whole of Butlins to myself over a couple of weeks! It was amazing.
Everything was shot on a Mamiya RB67, using medium format ‘Kodak Portra 400’ colour film. It’s lovely to work with and gives a great finish. I made a book to go with the project and that had around 60 final images, I found it important to edit them all to get the same colour match on the finish. I really liked the colour and tonality of Chris Round’s images and ended up matching this up to my own work.
I would normally suss out the area first, working with film every shot matters – it’s expensive to not get the shot correct. It could take up to 5 to 25 minutes per shot, plus the time spent developing, scanning and editing. When you break it down, which I have never done before, it takes forever I can see why people use digital! When taking a photo I really like the minimalist, so the frame is usually face on with everything lined up perfectly.
Throughout your images, there is a deliberate sense of ambiguity, a tension between the reality and unreality of urban spaces. Do you feel that the absent feel of the images shapes the way in which the viewer may relate to them?
I personally like it when my images show this but I haven’t necessarily thought about what the viewer may have felt before. The ‘Nineteen Thousand Beds’ images all seem to create this mood, interestingly it just happened and you couldn’t escape from this spaces of ‘reality’ that Butlins has made for a holding hub for you to forget what is real and unreal. I did so much research into the realms of what is real, the work of Michel Foucault blew my mind, but there was other just great theory about this idea of urban reality.
Throughout your architectural study, there is an absence of any decisive moment, instead a documentation of a single real place, void of any people yet full of indicators to how they might interact within that space. Do you feel the images serve as a boundary or transition between the reality of the everyday and the idealistic utopia that holiday camps allege to offer?
I took the approach of ‘what is left behind’, what you wouldn’t normally focuses on in theses spaces, that had been designed to look real yet you can clearly see that it just a fake tree with this industrial building.
Butlins is a haven for this idealistic utopia, Billy Butlin even mentioned this is what he wanted to achieve. Mandy Lee Jandrell’s landscape work is similar to and references this topic; I used some of the theorists that she studied at as inspiration for my own work. It is so interesting to think about this as a new development and trying to create a reality of everyday life and the idealistic utopia!
What’s next for you; what have you been working on since leaving university, and how have you found that transition?
After leaving uni I honestly wanted a break from looking at images or even thinking about photography. However it didn’t turn out like that! Reflecting on the various work experience throughout university, I re-emailed people asking if they needed extra help in different magazines and now working as a Picture Researcher. I’m still very much in the photographic world but just a different way of looking at it. At university I wanted to get into magazines and didn’t want to be a photographer but I really enjoyed what I was doing and style but in the end it wasn’t for me (sadly.)
I would love to get back into it but I no longer have the equipment that I once had access to at university. I do want to get back into it but I’m having a break for a while. I still love the photographers who use the topic and photograph empty spaces. For myself, at this moment in time my only aim is to organise some shoots for the Magazine that I am working for.
Do you have any advice for 2016 photography graduates?
Yes, just say yes to anything that comes your way. I have said yes to free jobs that I hated and didn’t want to do, but I met people on the way that have helped me to get to the next step.
I was in the fashion cupboard for a while and everyone who has done work experience for fashion knows how it can be! On one shoot I have gone from ironing sheets for 4 hours on a shoot for bedding, to sweating like a pig paining a cove and slacks purple for a shoot then to be told they want them yellow.
Just say yes and go the extra mile!
All images copyright of Luisa Avietti