Harry Crown: Mateo
After graduating back in 2015 I took some time to think about what I wanted to do, after a year and after acquiring some funding I began a new project that had been on my mind since my early teens. I soon realised after a lot of research, and visiting a few significant exhibitions, that I had become lost and took on a form of suspended animation where I would to drift through weeks doing nothing. There are only a few things in my life that keep me from losing myself, one of those things, arguably the most important, is my practice. So with the idea for this body of work - to spend over two months exploring the whole of Italy with my mechanical camera and with a minimalistic way of shooting - I stripped away all the unnecessary things in my life; with my camera and a backpack filled with film I left in search of complete happiness. My plan was to explore Italy for its vast amount of abandoned villages; to photograph what I saw. There was no initial thought process in regards to the end result and what that might look like. I wanted to shoot intuitively and see where that led me. With this latest work and my past projects I have always shot black & white film but printed with various techniques, it’s an ongoing development for me to find my own voice in photographic printing.
I’ve always been interested in traditional image making methods. The ‘objectivity’ of an image was something I was interested in at an early age. The uncertainty of capturing images on film made me pay attention to the detail of a shot which helped when it came to choosing the final image. I found that, when it came to printing this work, making the time to get to the darkroom while working another job gave me time to reflect on the outcome of this work and what I wanted that to be. I initially printed this series on black and white fibre base paper, but that left me feeling underwhelmed by the print. So the project came to a halt for a while. I began researching different printing techniques to help me fully realise how I wanted this work to culminate. This was around the same time I discovered Benrido and the fantastic work they do. I got in contact with the master printers there to possibly join a course on the Collotype printing process, however funding was wearing thin so I began to look at alternative methods to mimic the ‘painterly’ like aesthetic achieved through the Collotype process.
There has been a long time appreciation for process driven work, I really admired some of the process driven artists like Laurent Millet, Bruno Roels, Masao Yamamoto, Babs Decruyenaere, Miho Kajioka, Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer and Motohiro Takeda. They take their time mastering their technique and they show great vision to push their methods further. It’s this particular aesthetic that I’m hooked on.
Being brutally honest, when I consider my previous work I see a very finite range of mindset, approach and ideal. I would say most of my past works are visions that haven’t yet been fully realised. I’ve always been very critical of my own work and it’s something I'm trying to improve on, but it’s also a great way to remind yourself that “you can achieve so much more”. My previous work is mostly about defiance, but my knowledge in photography is growing and honesty seems to be a recurring theme in my work these days.
After I had completed printing the images for the zine and once I had begun physically sequencing them, I would read over the notes I had written during my travels. At this point I came across a section in one of my journals about the last campsite I had stayed in before crossing over the border to Italy. This was where I had met a local old man who took a great interest in me and my travelling, we spent a few evenings together swapping stories. He later introduced me to a local boy who would visit to keep him company, his name was Mateo who either spoke very little English or was very shy and didn’t talk much in general. The three of us would play a game of cards to pass the time until the sun would begin to set over the mountains that surrounded us. While reading my thoughts within the journal I realised that I didn't want to show this work as a typical ‘adventure’ narrative. I decided to separate myself from the project and use the Mateo’s name for the work; I changed my notes into biographical segments. Everything you read in the zine is true but it is a truth told through a semi fictitious character - Mateo. I initially hated the first set of black and white prints because they didn't resemble my memories or experiences. The prints where too literal, they needed a sense of distortion to match my memories. The final prints chosen for the zine are images I find comfort in and consider to be an honest reflection of my memory of that journey.
It’s hard for me to say where I can see this project and zine going in terms of further publishing. I would like to show the work to a group of like minded artists. There are still plenty of copies of my zine available and if you share an interest in my work don't hesitate to pick one up for yourself! The process to making the zine was really a no brainer for me. I went back to the UK, worked via Booths Prints who I highly recommend, and printed and hand bound Mateo. The zine is printed on a thick textured card, to match the paper I original fibre base paper texture, and then the zine was hand stitched together. I’ve always enjoyed the practice of making something, this being my first handmade zine, I gave it my all.