Until August 31, Renato d’Agostin is showing his latest work, Harmony of Chaos, at the Thierry Bigaignon Gallery in Paris. The photographer’s approach—abstract work done using silver gelatin photography, a camera, and darkroom techniques—is deployed here in the service of a reflection on the way urban environment impacts humans and their identities.
The inescapable darkroom
The Italian photographer Renato d’Agostin is one of the contemporary representatives of analog photography. His work has long been exhibited in museums around the world, including the International Center of Photography in New York, the LACMA, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris.
If d’Agostin’s style is unmistakable, it is because he considers the darkroom to be a true extension of the camera: “The darkroom is an extremely relevant part of my work because that’s where I connect the elements. … [T]hat’s when you can be rational enough, brave enough to take out something or to include something else,” he declared in an interview given to the GUP Magazine in 2018. The darkroom is the birthplace of d’Agostin’s personal style: well-honed black-and-white shapes, effects of scale, and vertiginous contrasts.
"The darkroom is an extremely relevant part of my work because that’s where I connect the elements"
In the 13 photographs which constitute the series Harmony of Chaos, Renato d’Agostin wanted to show the way in which cities and their infrastructure impact humans and their identities. It was the hustle and bustle of Shanghai that first inspired this project: d’Agostin wanted to show the infinitesimal that can only be seen on a large scale, the feeling of anonymity, and the claustrophobia associated with city life.
To create the desired effect, d’Agostin used large-format view camera, set up a 100-square-meter-large darkroom, and developed the following process: he would overprint several negatives from the same film in an effort to recreate the impression of a “beehive in constant motion.” By enlarging these constructed images, he manages to show something that escapes the naked eye, something that can only be felt. Isn’t this the ultimate ambition of every photographer? By juxtaposing different presences—fragile, organic (humans, nature) and man-made (architecture)—d’Agostin conveys the anxiety of being crushed by the city, as well as the poetry spawned by this environment. His photographs become our melancholy gaze, that moment when urban life reveals itself as surprising and acceptable in its singular beauty.
By Sophie Puig
Renato d'Agostin, Harmony of chaos
May 25 - August 31, 2019
Galerie Thierry Bigaignon, 9, rue Charlot, 75003 Paris