Blurring Fiction and Reality: Paolo Ventura

May 01, 2006

By Anthony LaSala

Tom Hunter and his elaborate conceptual creations of Old Master paintings combined with modern day headlines are not the only innovative, fabricated reconstructions going on in the photography world these days. Another name that has received a lot of attention in the past year is Paolo Ventura and his complex images that recreate fictional scenes from World War II. Ventura 's work is featured in War Souvenir, a publication released this Spring by one of our 2006 PDN Players, book publisher Contrasto. "Since the first moment I saw the images by Paolo, I was totally fascinated," says Contrasto Director, Roberto Koch. "He works on the real memory of true events, and he reconstructs them in a narrative environment that he creates with his hands, only in order to give us back a photograph full of details. The traditional power of photography as the privileged medium to provide evidence is now brought, with Paolo's art, to a different status: it's indeed through his photographs that we can now remember something even if we have never seen it before." The Italian-born Ventura produces his images using miniature figurines and sophisticated sets. The photographs range from gruesome events - with set-ups displaying hangings, suicides, bullet-ridden rooms and deceased soldiers buried in mud - to nostalgic scenarios showcasing couples kissing in low-lit bistros and soldiers relaxing at theatrical performances. The images focusing on the fallen soldiers encased in soil are especially gripping. Glancing at them, viewers could easily imagine these being genuine combatants depicted through the lense of Robert Capa as he traversed the war-torn European continent. Ventura, who now splits his time between New York and Anghiari, Italy, has had his work published in a number of magazines, including Aperture, The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine. His "War Souvenir" project will also be exhibited at the Hasted Hunt Gallery, along with images by Eugene Richards. The show runs through May 20th. "Ventura has a unique childlike and dark view of a special world - Italy in the late 1930's and 40's," says Bill Hunt of the Hasted Hunt Gallery. "We have only known about this through movies and old black and white photographs. The artist takes us on a strange tour of period, place and people. These photographs are his imagined forensic evidences. This is wonderfully well done, dramatic, tragic and funny story telling. Pairing him with the ultimate in reportage, Eugene Richards, seems like some sort of divine and curious marriage".