Far From Here

Through his intimate image of a Moldovan couple, Alfredo Covino captures the mood of a nation and reflects upon the feeling of being in another place.

© Alfredo Covino, from the series, Moldova Elsewhere 

This is Ion and Cristina who live in Crăsnășeni, a village near Chișinău in Moldova. It's evening. They have just finished eating and are drinking cognac. Both are deep in thought, staring, but not at anything in particular. Each of them is looking in a different direction and they are in their own places in their minds – their ‘elsewhere’: the place where a part of them would like to be.

This image is very much about the concept I want to express in my project Moldova Elsewhere, from which the photograph is taken. It embodies my vision of a tired, defeated, unsupported country. The project as a whole looks at the sense of precariousness that is slowly spreading throughout the former Soviet country, from the countryside to the capital city of Chișinău.

Moldova is a ‘stuck’ country, beset by economic and socio-political difficulties. My work focuses on the people who live there and the landscapes through which I portray this feeling of isolation and sense of waiting. Places seem to decompose, to crumble, and the boundary between abandoned spaces and those that are inhabited is increasingly blurred.

A home is a place of stories and memories and is made up of people and objects that are essential parts of it. Spending time inside domestic environments in Moldova, I was keen to capture these elements in people’s homes, but also in the landscape.  

I had already imagined such a scene in my mind and it appeared in a natural way – it's not a staged portrait. I was thinking about this idea of ‘precariousness’ in economic and political terms but to do with issues surrounding identity. On this occasion I was looking for these things in relation to the human element.

I want viewers to find something in my images that leads them into the depths of their own memories and in doing so creates a bond with the image and me. I don’t employ a strictly informative approach because I don’t want to work in the field of current affairs, so I can’t say that I describe a certain reality. I like to gather clues, stories, and elements from the realities around me that I reformulate in my personal storytelling. I do this freely, without imposing any mental constraints on myself, and try not to stop at the first layer of the image but to dig into it deeply.

To me, building an image means using the elements of light, composition, pose, gesture, subject, and colour to convey my personal vision. I was sitting next to the couple and watching them, enjoying being relaxed after eating together. Their comfortable body language, the messy table, the warm artificial light of the intimate domestic space and welcoming atmosphere: all these things add up to make the image what it is.

I never feel that I am the master of the place or subjects in front of me. I see the process of making a picture as a transition based on a kind of intuition that comes from an experience and then becomes a photographic image.

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Alfredo Covino is an Italian photographer currently living and working in Rome, Italy. Through documentary photography, he explores several issues: from subjective changes and an individual’s need to affirm their own identity to affectivity and cultural belongings.

Gemma Padley is a freelance writer and editor on photography, based in the UK. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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