On the occasion of Miami Art Basel 2015, Gazzelli Art House presented a practice performance by the young London-based artist duo Walter & Zoniel entitled ‘Alpha-Ation,’ which took place between Wednesday 2nd and Saturday 5th December at the Delano Hotel. Focused on today’s meaning of portrait, the presentation feautred a series of high-profile figures being photographed by the artists using a large hand-built camera, characterised by its 1850’s brass lens and long exposure time, to produce exclusive portraits similar to giant polaroids. The images have been subsequently hand-colored and gilded with 24ct gold in order to “iconize” their subjects, eventually forming sculptural altar pieces. We sat down with Walter & Zoniel and discussed about their unique approach to photography and the modern day relationship with the self-perception.
How the idea for the Alpha –Ation project came about ?
We did a project with the Arts Council in East London a few years ago called Iconostatus where we shot kids off the street in the same format, we iconized them by handcolouring them and gilding with 24ct gold. The reaction to the project was amazing so Alpha – Ation is a progression from this project where we want to take people who already are known and have a following and create an image of them unlike any other an image that harbours back to the Painted Icons that were worshiped in there day. It has a poetic cyclicity to it.
You decribe Alpha –Ation as an ode to modern-day relationship with “The Portrait“. In this context, what meaning does the portrait have in the age of “selfies“?
The portrait is key now more so than ever. To create an image of someone that can stand alone and stand the test of time is truly an achievement and something that we strive to do in all of our portrait works.
In analog photography, time and space are collapsed and the subject finds a reflection of himself in the photographer’s eyes. Digital cameras and photo retouching changed this whole dynamic as the outcome can be edited according to the subject or the photographer’s taste. Ultimately, camera phones turned anybody into a “photographer“ drowning the world in images. Are you using old school photographic techniques such as tinypes and ambrotypes to re-establish the original balance ?
We use techniques that will give us a unique product. We like the tangibility of hand made works. There is a great satisfaction to making something with your hands and knowing it is completely unique in the world. That being said you can make unique works by taking apart and manipulating modern technology. We have taken apart a large format printer before and are using a 3D printer in collaboration with an old photographic process so for us its more about creating new and interesting works. A lot of what we do and others like us is probably a reaction to the abundance of images and the throw away nature of society as a whole, it makes you want to create unique objects that really stand out amongst the mass produced.
Are smartphones killing photography ? In your opinion what is it going to happen to the medium in the future ?
Smart phones are not killing photography. Artists will always adapt to societies and technologies changes. We are fans of utilizing modern technology as well as old processes. Its all about creativity and using a tools it doesn’t matter if it’s a 3D printer, smartphone or a lens from 1850 its how you use it.