Igor Ponti - Looking for Identity
Hatje Cantz, 2014
The Swiss cross comes to mind, the Swiss army knife, the Alps, cheese of course, or perhaps fine chocolate: but just what is typically Swiss? What characterizes the country and its people, and connects the various regions despite their different languages? These questions led Swiss photographer Igor Ponti (*1981), who focuses on traditional and emerging identities, on a cross-canton journey—with the odd detour. He discovers expressive visual Helvetisisms and, in part in a mocking or affectionate way, points out distinctions between the cantons that nevertheless connect them in terms of culture and territory: freeways cut through picturesque landscapes, a massively carved William Tell stands by the wayside, wurst stands sell cervelat or fried sausage, a charming, old wooden house causes one to feel nostalgic, garden gnomes wear red and white, concrete antitank barriers protect the endangered idyll.
From Igor Ponti’s website
At the time of cultural contamination and hybridization as ours, the identity is an idea continuosly changing, ephemeral and hardly definable. From the linguistic view-point people often speak of violated, attacked, outraged identity. The young swiss photographer Igor Ponti on the contrary is going in search of the identity of his origin country. He doesn’t judge, he doesn’t criticize, but he limits to the documentary registration, to the story, to the selective description of an anonymous daily made by landscapes, pictures, meetings. Through the frosten glass of large format camera Igor Ponti must have seen, with a view after to give it to us, the symbolic epicentrum of the new helvetic landscape. As a shy ethnologist he moves to pursue signs and changes of a renewed anthropology of the landscape. With awareness and lucid rituality.
INTERVIEW with Igor Ponti
GA – Could you tell us something more about how the project started?
IP – I began this project to find an answer to one personal question, as it usually happens for my projects. At that time, I had decided to emigrate in a big city like New York or London to seek greater opportunities for artistic growth, you know, live in a creative center that forces you to keep up.
But I always had some questions in mind; If I leave my own country, do I know what I really leave? Do I really know the meaning of being a Swiss citizen? What is my identity in relation to the landscape and people that live in Switzerland?
I realized that I didn’t know what I would have left behind, and so I decided to start finding my personal identity in relation with the Swiss identity.
GA – How did your collaboration with Hatje Cantz and Giovanna Calvenzi start?
IP – At that time I had sent the dummy-layout, created by my designer, to some publishers with whom I wanted to work.
Hatje Cantz was one of the first to respond positively and enthusiastically to my project, and from that moment it all began.
With Giovanna all happened because a friend of mine told her about my project. She was interested to meet me to see the work and one day she came into my studio. I hung the pictures on the wall and I waited. It was one intense moment in my life because in that moment I understood that she was looking at my entire past four years of work and life. She looked at the pictures for a few minutes (which were a long time for me!) and at the end she looked me in the eyes and simply said “I want to write about this work”. Amazing!
GA – Did you start the project with the idea of making a book?
IP – When I started the “Looking for identity” project I had just published my first book “Skate Generation” that talks about the first generation of skaters in my own town. I was excited by the feeling of being an “author”, not caring about being a local publisher, the personal feeling was just great.
At that time I understood that I would talk about things that started from my personal experience.
And for me this modus operandus it’s possible in book form, the expositions are a big experience, have a big impact, but a book is something that you take in your own hand and you decide where and when to “read” it; for me it’s the most intimate form of photography.
So to answer, yes, I started the project thinking of making a book.
GA – What has been your favorite photo-book in the last few years?
IP – Buying a photography book it’s really hard for me, as I often look for books that go in my “direction of photography” or books that I like because I like their author; in general I like the author because I like their pictures. I know it’s a basic concept but I’m honest and I’m not able to love a book if I don’t like the pictures inside. But it’s hard choosing only one favorite book, I think the best book was the last I bought, the latest work of Thomas Struth.
IP (born in 1981) lives in Lugano, Switzerland; in 2013, he obtained support from the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, whose aim was to promote new talents in the field of photography. His images have been part of both personal and private exhibitions. His first book Skate Generation was published in 2009.
In 2010 he began his new research to describe and investigate the idea of an common Swiss identity. In 2014 is published by Hatje Cantz his second book “Looking for Identity” that in the same year he was invited to the international exhibition of photography Paris Photo, for the presentation. The book “Looking for Identity” was in the final selection of the New York Photo Festival 2014.
Giovanna Calvenzi describes his photographic research tool to question himself and check the roots of their membership through a slow vision, which requires planning, a language that does not judge, does not comment, does not indulge in stunts aesthetic.
Publisher: Hatje Cantz, 2014
Texts: Pietro Bellasi, Giovanna Calvenzi
Language: English, Italian
Product Dimensions: Format 28.80×24.70 cm
Curated by Gianpaolo Arena