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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Valentina Riccardi

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Most of my work happens in Ibiza, Spain, where I decided to live a few years ago to merge and integrate in a community and discover a way of living that was far from what I knew, having grown in a big city, but very close to what I have always aspired to. I didn’t realize that this inspiration would eventually become a huge part of my photographic practice, a photographic story. I started to photograph the people I lived with, to document  the life there. Over time, this became an intimate and personal project.

Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean Sea where the local people and the hippies merged at the end of the 60’s. At that time, Ibiza became one of the popular places to live “freedom”. What intrigued me is the fact that in the midst of all the corruption (drug dealing, partying and real estate dealing), you can still find people who want to live outside society, self-sufficient, living their lives in a humble way and pursuing other values rather than materialism, emphasizing values like sense of community and harmony with nature and themselves.

Several houses on the island are inhabited by squatters who pay no rent. And if most of the time they are allowed to live there, they don’t have the security you get if the house was private. Most of those houses (sometimes hotels) are ruins that are renovated and inhabited quite normally. I would like to show how those places are transformed and take cared for, show the way the space is used, the way they live in their community, ecologically and very creatively.

No rent, no power, no faucets, and all this by choice. Water comes from a well, the washing machine runs with a pedal mechanism, power is a gift from the sun. Not far from drunken British tourists and disco boys and girls full of Ecstasy, this is a totally different world. It’s Pink Floyd 40 years later, but with a different dream: no more utopia, just life, essential life.

I wish to document people and places that represent this lifestyle and would like to show this minority that decided to leave the struggle of the city, to get closer to the nature.

 

Bio

I was born in Brussels from a Belgo-Italian family in 1987.  I lived in Spain for several years before moving to NY to study at the International Center of Photography. I started to photograph what surrounded me, work with images in familiar situations and document the everyday life.

I am based in Ibiza now, where I plan to pursue this photographic essay. Being my first long term project I plan to dedicate myself fully in this passion, create images. I consider this an amazing journey and know there will be more, because life is a perpetual movement.

 

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Valentina Riccardi

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From new book coming, HOW TO TAKE BETTER PICTURES : USEFUL THOUGHTS FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS EVERYWHERE

 

Every time i get ready to quit Burn, something happens which keeps me in the game for another 5 minutes…I am sure you can imagine I often have to ask myself “is all this really worth it?”…a pretty typical thought for all of us , most of the time, regarding wherever any of us are putting our psychic energy…so, I really came into Burn 02 thinking , ok this is it…done..finish with flourish

Then I actually held 02 in my hands.  Hmm, THIS is something…THIS is it…and I honestly can say that I could easily (well not easily) rock out at least 10 issues before my feet even hit the floor from a content standpoint…I am in touch with just that many photographers and have so many of the iconics and emerging ready to throw their best efforts into this pot…so that’s nice…at this point in my life, that’s just nice..…i like that….a peer group after many many years can love you or hate you….

At the same time, oddly I have some buying into my “future”…that’s a new one for me…yes, buying work, actually paying me for work that I have not done yet…no, not commissions/assignments, but prints out of my darkroom… selling and the darkroom is still not done yet..a show and book launch at the Australian Center of Photography booked done on for May 2012, and I am on my way out the door to go shoot a chapter of this show/book in a few weeks…nobody is that crazy…curators will be nervous, my friends will abandon me, all stuff I love of course, and then I will ride into town with the show…with work that coulda been better if I had just been organized!!! smiling…

Point is: my time is going 100% into you/Burn and 100% into me and my work…somehow it is possible …I am on it..somehow doing it..comfortably..learned to zen it…minimal stress….not much sleep , but the minute I fall asleep I wake up with a new idea…yet still I cannot help succumb to temptation and let my mind drift into total selfishness to manifest the hell out of my own work ….and yet just about the time i get ready to drop the hammer on Burn, something happens…

Five minutes ago it happened…dammit,yes, one of dozens of emails i get a day to open a link and look at work and 99% of the time it is hard work to look carefully and rarely a spark and lo and behold tonight i open up our friend Jukka Onnela work and just got blown away..I looked at it for maybe 30 seconds tops…ok maybe two minutes tops tops…fast anyway…and I KNEW right away, that I had to publish his book…no, not right now nothing else is right now, but next year or whenever the time is right….Jukka tells me I am the only one who has seen this particular sequence of work…maybe I have that part wrong…but never mind, not important …so dammit, now i am stuck putting all of my energies into somebody else!! his is brilliant work, you will see, you will see…a powerful  extended version of what he had in 01..

So what exactly is the photo/life lesson here?

Isn’t is obvious? Time worn. Works. Every time. Do what you love passionately and pass the baton to others as often as possible. Makes for a better day. Or rainy night.

Or, looking at it another way:

If you can get to a stage in your work and believe you are playing the piano, then you ARE playing the piano.

Just a state of mind, just a state of mind.

-DAH-

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Dasha wants to see California. Los Angeles specifically. She knows L.A. from the movies. New York  police car chases a la television shows she wants to see as well. In the meantime, she and a few hundred other Ukrainians are biding their time on the Carolina coast filling in all sorts of jobs. Dasha and her friend Katya work at a miniature golf course. Galaxy Golf. A golf course where you might immediately look around to see if Martin Parr is indeed doing a book on it. Has crossed my mind too. Classic kitsch.

I have spent the last three days photographing the Ukrainian community that paradoxically lives here side by side  in the land of rednecks and tourists and fishermen and construction workers and surfers. Most return to the Ukraine after a three month summer stint, but some have married and raised families with the local crowd. However, Dasha and Katya see themselves raising their families in Kiev.

The Carolina shore and L.A. and New York are simply passing fancies. A growing up adventure and a first time, maybe last time, flirtation with America. My best pictures of these women and men mixing in the local environment must be saved for my upcoming essay on this coast for NatGeo and book following, yet I can never resist simple portraiture just because, well, I just like to do it.

Summer jobs. The best of times, and maybe the worst of times. How about you…Ever now fantasize your best summer job?

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The smell of fixer is one of my oldest memories of photography and my dad’s Nikon SP and the black Besseler enlarger would eventually become part of my own path into photography. Robert Levin was a writer at heart, and didn’t flatter himself with comparisons to the pros of the day, who happened also to be his professional associates and friends, but took some pleasure in his creations. As an editor, he assigned Henri Cartier-Bresson to photograph Dr. Anthony Pisicano, a local Long Beach pediatrician, and the Frenchman visited or house. Weegee passed by the house once, and Life’s Bill Ray photographed our family for a Life Magazine. Bob’s photography books were among my earliest photographic influences, although the truth is that I came to photography in my 20’s, and that his friendship with Howard Chapnick of Black Star, who also lived in Long Beach, was a major door-opener for me.

When my father passed away in the early 70’s I was given two large boxes by his secretary at Redbook Magazine, containing thousands ofj prints, negatives and personal papers from his childhood in the Bronx, where he attended Dewitt Clinton High School amd eventually the City University of New York and then Columbia. Like many of the upwardly mobile Jewish families living in the Bronx, the Levins had begun a slow migration to Long Island. For Alfred and Frances Levin and their two boys, Long Beach was the preferred summertime residence. Alfred was a jewelry salesman, first travelling in the South and than opening up his own business in the Jewelry Exchange on 47th Street. America was both affluent and expanding, and young adults were mobile and interested in things like Kodak Brownie cameras, which were extremely popular and easy to use, and made photography available to the growing American middle class. The first section of pictures taken in Long Beach, of Bob and his friends were made with one of them.

Robert served in the military during World War II as a writer for Stars and Stripes, the army’s newspaper. But he returned to Europe after the war with my mother, Martha, and spent a year, writing and photographing extensively, this time with a black Rollei twin lens reflex camera. These photographs are among most interesting, moody still-lifes and landscapes, often inspired, or so she jokingly insisted, by the direction of my mother, who had studied art history, and considered herself to have the finer eye of the two. In fact, she took full credit for his ability with the camera.

After returning to New York, Robert freelanced as a writer for men’s magazines like Pageant and Coronet, writing detective stories and doing interviews with celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy. The young couple lived in Long Beach in a rented apartment, and looked foward to a bright future in a country of expanding opportunity. I was born in New York City in 1950, and with my sister Peri followed two years later Before settling in and buying a house with a GI Loan, my parents decided to return to Europe, and the four of us we sailed off to France pn the Liberte. We lived in England, France, Spain and Italy, and my dad continued to freelance for the men’s magazines. typing off manuscripts and mailing them off to his editors in New York. By this time he had purchased a Nikon 35mm camera which had become the rage in photography and was aware of the work of Cartier-Bresson, as he was of the progressive writers like Jean-Paul Satre, and of course the American Henry Miller, and in our little family he had a opportunity to document what was a very idyllic and transformational time. He liked street photography, but some of the most compelling images are clearly of his own family. I don’t remember him posing any pictures, he was definitely a bit of a lurker. He rolled his own film, and developed much of it in a portable darkroom.

The family returned to Long Island so that I could begin school. We bought a Levitt house in Long Beach, and eventually Bob would take an editorial position in Manhattan at Redbook Magazine and commuted by train or car from Long Beach. The photographs from this time period are less candid and more representative of special events, a school play or graduation, or a family gathering. Eventually he was able to purchase a larger home in nearby Lido Beach very close to the water and it is here that the photographs tapered off. A divorce, a new life in Manhattan, made photography more of an afterthought, and less of a passion. There was less time, and certainly much less time for the family on Long Island.
What has become clear to me, is that the camera and the photographs of the family represented a vision of what family life was supposed to be, rather than the reality of what it was, or what perhaps what my father was.

My own career as a photography, if you could call it a career, has roots in the work of my father’s pictures. My comfort about the camera, came directly as a result of its presence as an indicator of love. I started with the Nikon SP that was used for all of his European work, although by this time the SLR had become the magazine photographer’s workhorse, and I quickly gravitated to the newer cameras, for better or worse, and the eventual assignments that took me all over the world and allowed me more success than I ever thought possible as a professional photographer.

But looking back at my father’s pictures, what impresses me most is that some of the most meaningful images that we can take are of things that are of our families, our friends, our communities, and the moments of our lives that are worth preserving. All photographs are proof that something happened and a way to mark our time as we live our days, one at a time. The increased volume of images, from cell-phone cameras, digital SLRS and the like as easy to use as they are, doesn’t really change the reason for using a camera. And I can only wonder what the children of today will see forty years from now when looking back
at the images taken by their parents. Will they be nostalgic for the 2010s? Probably so,

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