Luca Massaro on the Display of Captionthis at PhMuseum Days

Discovered through last year's Festival Open Call, Massaro's exhibition reflected on the accelerated mediascape we live in, questioning how words can live within images, and the other way around.

As the PhMuseum Days 2024 Open Call is welcoming applications until 9 May, we touched base with the selected artists of last year's edition to delve into their process and experience in Bologna. Here, Luca Massaro guides us through the key concepts of his practice, while recalling moments from the festival's opening weekend.

Ciao Luca. Your work Captionthis is the result of extensive, in-depth research on the relationship between images and words in physical and digital ecosystems. How do you articulate and refine your point of view through image-making?

Photography allows me to go out into the world and therefore always refine my point of view, not only as an internal mirror but also as a window looking outside. My next solo show, part of this "Captionthis" long-term project, will be installed in the street of Biel, Switzerland, the city where Robert Walser was born and wrote the book “Der Spaziergang” (The Walk) about. The show will be called “A Spasso” the Italian translation of this quote that means both “stroll” in an antiquated way and “having fun” in a childish way. 'A Spasso' I replied, 'I absolutely have to go, to revive myself and maintain contact with the world; if I lacked the feeling of the world, I would no longer be able to write even half a letter of the alphabet, nor compose anything in verse or prose. Without walking I would have died and would have had to give up my profession, which I love passionately, a long time ago - R. Walser

Depicting words in the space of the city, your photographs have a sculptural presence. How important is it for you to materialize them in installations?

My work often borrows from the urban and online accelerated mediascape – as the proliferation of backlit devices, the repetition of graphic logos and leitmotifs. I'm currently also having a show in Milan organized by Viasaterna in Porta Nuova Milano: there will be a 3 meters lightbox in the public space, with a sculptural presence, that will camouflage itself into the commercial mediascape of the most corporate Milanese neighborhood. Also in the 2 shows in Switzerland and in Gibellina with the Triennale Prize, all the 180CM handmade unique "paintings" were a 1:1 scale based on my height, this correspondence introducing a Modulor (scale of proportions based on human measurements) and an autobiographic characterization to the serial display.

At what moment in your career did the show at PhMuseum Days come about, and what did it mean for the dissemination of the project?

The show at PhMuseum came in my best year so far: the 10 years project book "Dizionario Vol.1" had just come out with Art Paper Editions with good reception (Rencontre d'Arles and Photo España Best Books of the Year) and a lot of touring book presentations and exhibitions. PhMuseum festival was great to meet an international crowd while eating tortellini. Bologna is a city close to my heart and 30 minutes away from my hometown Reggio Emilia.

What was it like to join us in Bologna and see your work installed in the post-industrial location of DumBO, as part of the exhibitions circuit?

At the beginning, I was a little scared of the impossibility of using the location in the pictorial site-specific way I had thought. But speaking with curators and the PhMuseum team, I finally trusted them with a new installing solution. I'm happy I did, I think a work should be strong enough to be perceived in different exhibiting contexts, and we're often too insecure to let the images speak for themselves and live their own life. 

Any advice to share with other photographers on how to present their work for the application?

Ask for advice, then think with your own head, and then ask again for feedback. If the work is strong enough it will stand the proof of other's people reception and the test of time.

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All images © Luca Massaro

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Luca Massaro's project Captionthis was selected last year through the PhMuseum Days open call. Apply to the new edition to have the chance of exhibiting in Bologna, Italy next September. The deadline is set for 9 May.