Saturday, 28 May 2011

Olivio Argenti

Olivio Argenti FRPS has travelled to more than fifty countries. His projects include:
  • a street-photography project ―Traits d'union‖ in Tunisia;
  • Losers of a forgotten conflict, a reportage in Azerbaijan and Armenia on refugees from the Nagorno-Karabakh;
  • a reportage in Peru ―Atrapados [No way out] - Family violence and juvenile deviant behaviour in Lima (2005-2008), which combines photographic images with testimonials written by boys and girls met in gangs, drug rehabilitation centres, family houses and prisons;
  • Wrestlers and Wrestling, a personal view on the world of Olympic wrestling (2006-2008).
He has received international awards and has published three books. His work has been exhibited in China, Colombia, Italy, Peru, Switzerland and Tunisia. (from the RPS programme)

From the RPS programme and also the book Atrapados by Olivio Argenti
Olivio Argenti gave a fascinating talk about his photographic learning curve and his present interests. He came relatively late to photography and  says ‘I originally took a descriptive approach looking for images to illustrate my work, then moved to black and white to express emotions, and now to narrative, how life can be hard, and bringing emotion into the story’.
‘Photography captures my soul… I want to let other people know what I feel is going on in the world’
‘I look for beauty, often there is suffering but beauty is .. capturing the pain in someone's eyes with dignity and respect… a moment that is unique’.
He then described and showed images of several projects he has been working on:
  • Wrestling: a selection of images of wrestlers before and after their matches, including in training. They show a great physicality,  movement, and often a sense of pain and exhaustion together with pride and machismo.
  • Refugees in the forgotten conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan with images of people from both sides. It is impossible to tell which are from which side, both are exhausted, and down-trodden.
  • Atrapados – a long piece of work with the street children in Lima, where he talked to the people and got their stories and linked them with the photographs.Many are children who are put out of their families because of violence and abuse and find living with the gangs the only safety they have. Often they then go to a centre for 'rehabilitation’ where they are further abused. ‘a circle of poverty and violence they cannot break’.
  • The Columbian Army Battalion de Sanidad -  is an on-going project looking at the rehabilitation of war wounded soldiers, often very severely injured, and thinking about what will happen to them in the long time.
Olivio says that to work with these people and to get meaningful photographs the ‘key things are: to have respect and sincerity, to say something they can hear,and to listen and not judge.’
The images ranged from the startlingly beautiful to ones that showed great despair.  The audience was left stunned and quiet for a few minutes at the end.  Many used extremes of contrast and movement, none were pretty but many will remain in my mind for a long time.. Olivio hopes to use his work to publicise the violence still common in the world. I wish him well and remain in awe of his courage and vision.
Words in italics are Olivio’s own.
I have his book  Atrapados, the words are in Italian, but are not needed to allow me to recall the fervour with which Olivio tells the children’s story and the pictures speak for themselves.

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