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Valentina Quintano

In The Absence Of Things

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Murmansk (Russia)

The project ‘In The Absence Of Things’ explores life in darkness and the difficulties of true communication between people.

Every year the city of Murmansk (because of its arctic latitude) descends into darkness for forty days; the sun doesn’t even rise above the horizon. These are the ‘Polar Nights’.

This is not a project about Russia, it is a project about being human… and yet the fact that it was shot in Russia does matter.

It was born from an urge to explore darkness. Both the inner human darkness that sits inside each of us in different forms and shapes and moments, and the ‘real’ darkness; the absence of light, the obscurity, the experience of living in a place which is (almost) completely dark for some part of the year.

Early into the project I understood that what really mattered was how the darkness felt, how it slipped under the skin.
There is no story, it is the tale of a feeling because emotions are the unifying element of human kind. They create a bridge over the incommunicability, they allow us to overcome barriers.

The project may seem obscure and schizophrenic in the way images of interiors clash with landscapes, but this reflects the way the people are disconnected from the places, yet also part of them. The anonymity of the subjects and their facelessness was not at first a conscious choice, it happened.

The fragmentary structure of images and text reflects the nature of human existence – we all perceive the world in different ways and because of this, sometimes struggle to communicate our experience, which is influenced by our personal history, our language, our mood, our current context, as well as those of the receiver. Because of the infinite complexity that results from these myriads of factors, our communication is always a continuous process of translations. The lack of a point is somehow the point.

The 2nd part of the project will concentrate on the opposite phenomenon of ‘White Nights’.



Valentina Quintano (b. 1982 in Napoli, Italy), is a photographer who has worked in photojournalism since 2007.

Her work has been featured in some printed and online magazines and newpapers, in three books and in a few joint exhibitions. She has been commended for the Ian Parry Scholarship in 2011 and was among the nominees for the Joop Swart Masterclass 2011.

After having been self-thought and having learnt through assisting, she studied photojournalism in 2009 at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Rhus, and graduated with a distinction from the MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication in December 2010.

She has been working on personal reportage projects since 2007, as well as on commissioned works.


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Teresa Cos

I Was There – Observations on “The Society of The Spectacle”

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“I Was There” is the first chapter of a long term (lifetime) project which explores western society and its obsession with success. I started by depicting the worlds of art, fashion and culture, where anxiety and struggle for success, together with the desperate need for recognition and approval are ubiquitous; where people live with the constant fear of being considered losers. The images have been taken in 2010 at Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice Film Festival, Milan and London Fashion Weeks, Frieze Art Fair in London and Paris Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC).

I chose these events because they are globalised examples of a bubble (for instance the art industry) that is on the verge of explosion. As wrote Jean Baudrillard: When one looks at the emptiness of current art, the only question is how much such a machine can continue to function in the absence of any new energy, in an atmosphere of critical disillusionment and commercial frenzy, and with all the players totally indifferent? If it can continue, how long will this illusionism last? A hundred years, two hundred? This society is like a vessel whose edges move ever wider apart, and in which the water never comes to the boil.

If one substitutes current art with current society the equation doesn’t really change, does it? And who are these indifferent players, if not us? I want to keep on exploring and understanding photographically the Hyper reality created by consumerism, where people aspirations are dangerously confused with the models of living that the society of the spectacle is constantly selling us and where need has become desire and admiration envy.

To me, it is fundamentally important to understand these social dynamics because, by creating the idea that through a selfish individualism everybody can finally reach extreme forms of wealth and success, one drastically contributes to the social and economic disparities in this world.



I was born and grew up in a small town called Latisana, in the North East of Italy, a one hour drive from Venice, where I ended up living for six years as an architecture student. It is thanks to architecture that I discovered photography, because it taught me to look at the world through different eyes.

After graduating in 2008, I was in the Italian team of architects and urbanists in the international table of consultation wanted by the French government to produce ideas for the future of Paris. I lived for seven months in the suburbs of the French capital, producing my first important body of work, Banlieue 08/09, that allowed me to be accepted last year onto the Photojournalism & Documentary Photography MA program at London College of Communication, where I graduated with Distinction.

I live and work in London and I am also part of the photography collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine.


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Teresa Cos

Collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine

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