Featured on the blog today is photographer Ottavia Castellina, who speaks to us about her collaboration on the book Slices of Life, launching this Thursday!
First of all, please introduce yourself!
My name is Ottavia Castellina, I am an Italian fine art photographer based in London.
Tell us your story – how did you get into photography?
I started to do photography in 2005 shortly after I moved to London. Previously, I studied art history in Turin. I have always been into art but at the time I had never considered myself an artist. When I moved to London I started to attend some short photography courses and soon I began to work on my first personal projects. In 2008 I decided to enrol to an MA course in fine art photography at the London College of Communication, and since then I have been working on both personal and commissioned projects.
What was the concept and inspiration behind the work, and how did the project come about?
The images shown in ‘Portraits from Slices of Life’ at The Muse Gallery are an extract from the book ‘Slices of Life, 52 recipes from 31 perfect strangers’ edited by Elia Romanelli and Piero Vereni. The book is an unusual cookbook that consists of life stories and portrait photography where each recipe becomes a blind date with someone you don’t really know.
The idea came to Elia Romanelli, anthropologist and filmmaker, who spent four months strolling around London meeting and interviewing people. Piero Vereni, anthropologist and lecturer of cultural anthropology at Tor Vergata University in Rome, then transformed the recorded interviews into short stories while I went to each participant’s house to take a portrait of the person surrounded by his or her personal belongings.
The book is published by an independent publishing house based in Venice called BRUNO. In the series of photographs presented at The Muse Gallery, people are portrayed in their homes surrounded by their “stuff” – the things that accompanied them through their lives and represent them best. Each person is depicted as part of his or her own private ‘Wunderkammer’, made up of personal belongings of their choice. The recipe suggestions in the book come from a diversity of cultures; they invite the reader to accept the challenge to cook and eat what a perfect stranger would suggest.
The photographs will be exhibited at The Muse Gallery (269 Portobello Rd, W11 1LR) from the 3rd to the 20th of March, becoming a platform to host a range of events inspired by the book, addressing elements of conviviality, food tradition and diversity. Some of the events will happen within the gallery space, involving Notting Hill community and neighborhood; others will take place in other locations in London.
The show will open on the 3rd of March at 6.30pm with an open private view, hosting a performance by ‘anthropologist-barman’ Gareth Calyton, who will create a range of cocktails inspired by the book recipes, flavours and characters. People will be invited to taste the cocktails during the performance.
On Saturday 5th of March at 1.30pm ‘Slices of Life’ will host a ‘potluck lunch’ and live music mixing sonorities from different parts of the world at the I’klektic Art Lab (20 Carlisle Lane SE1 7LG, http://www.iklectikartlab.com) in Lambeth North. Everyone is welcome to participate bringing their favourite dish to share!
Events will continue during the following weeks back to The Muse: on the 12th March at 2pm fine art mix media artist Federica Dalla Vecchia will involve the public in ‘Preserving Stories’ a jam making demonstration and storytelling session followed at 4pm by an alternative walk led by tour guide Claudia Colia, exploring culture, history and food variety of Notting Hill (for both events booking is required). The show will then close on the 20th of March with a ‘Sunday feast’ for the local community in Notting Hill accompanied by music by jazz singer Ilaria Mare’.
What paper type did you print your exhibition on, and why?
I printed the photographs on Hahnemühle German Etching paper as I thought the matt finishing of this specific type of paper would have highlighted the details and colours best. I also wanted to emphasise the pictorial feel of the images and their reference to painting.
What’s next for you?
After the exhibition at The Muse Gallery, the series of ‘Portraits from Slices of Life’ will travel to Rome where it will be exhibited at the MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art) as part of the Fondazione VAF Prize collective show.
What inspires you?
The photographs from ‘Slices of Life’ are inspired by Flemish art paintings.
Slices of Life