Here is the interview with Emma Grosbois by Sophie Bernard in the context of our coverage of the festival Circulation(s). In 2014, Emma Grosbois visited Palermo to complete the “Those Who Watch Us” series. Her work focuses on the mix between the sacred and profane and the survival of “altars” in places of everyday life. The assembly of the images suggests a disorder that needs to be analysed: it reflects the experience and personality of people.
How did you hear about the Circulation(s) festival? What are you hoping for here?
I’ve been following the festival for a long time now and I took part in the JEEP (European photography school days) with the Marangoni school foundation year in 2015. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and to some interesting discussions which will, I hope, lead to some joint projects.
Tell us about your series and what inspired it.
‘Those who watch us’ is a series on altars and the presence of sacred and profane images in places around Palermo. With a concern for the power of images in general, their value and the weight we give them in our lives, I sought out real-life uses of images to try and understand. The work was inspired by my first trip to Palermo and by reading ‘Christ stopped at Eboli’ by Carlo Levi. In his book, Levi talks about two images – the Madonna di Vigiano and American president Roosevelt – that are always found in the homes of peasants in the village of Lucania, today known as Basilicata, to where he was banished by Mussolini’s fascist government. In the book, he wonders whether these two images reflect the way in which power is shared in our world. Having taken all that on-board, I began work on this series, while continuing to read about Sicily and southern Italy. I first went to Palermo twice without taking any photographs, in an attempt to understand.
Who are your references in photography or in the history of art?
Luigi Ghirri, Wolfgang Tillmans and Giambattista della Porta, a 16th century alchemist from Naples.
How has photography changed the way you see the world?
Photography has helped me sharpen my view and, more importantly, make choices, take the time to choose what I show and what I photograph in this immense reality. Photography is a kind of ‘common ground’ as a medium because alone, it doesn’t mean anything, and that is what’s great about it. It is somewhere different connections and different frequencies can come together.
Festival Circulation(s) – Jeune Photographie Européenne
From March 26th to August 7th, 2016
5 rue Curial
Closed on Monday and Tuesday