Many Hands Make Light Work
Photography by Elena Cremona
Interview by Barbara Naz
'Many Hands' was born out of a lack of connection & intimacy during Quarantine. I've been obsessed with photographing hands for years and during isolation I've really missed shooting and connecting with my subjects that way, so I've taken it upon myself to reach out to artists to see if they can lend their hands during a little FaceTime shoot. I've been particularly drawn in capturing dancers' hands because of the control of movement they have over their bodies.
I started out by screenshotting frames from my FaceTime conversations, and I got frustrated, (as I am trained in analogue photography and my whole practice is centered around being in the darkroom), so I decided to start shooting on my analogue camera through the screen - it's important to me to be involved in my work hands on, being able to develop it and make handprints from the negatives.
'How has the lack of meaningful human contact affected you throughout this time?'
The affection of friends, family & the collective embrace of a rave is what I've missed most. In the everyday passage of movement between people there is an aversion of the eyes as the bodies brush past one another, now however, there is no body contact but a clear understanding with the gaze. Post Covid-19 we'll be engaging with one another in a different way
- Luke Farley
I think the lack of meaningful contact has affected me during this time by forcing me to take a step back from everything and living more in the “now”. While this situation/ isolation proves to be difficult in so many ways, I think there’s also beauty in truly being alone with yourself and having this time to just think/ self reflect and evaluate the value of certain things in life! This period has definitely allowed for lots of personal growth as an individual which I think will only strengthen the meaningfulness of human contact for me in the future.
- Kele Roberson
A lack of human connection during this time has really made me realize how important it is to have people around and close by. We take it for granted - we cancel plans, distant ourselves, sometimes in good faith but in most instances its the direct opposite, we are social creatures and human connection(s) is what society thrives on. We should cherish it and make an effort to build meaningful connections with ourselves first, fellow humans alike and nature as we move forward.
- Kenny Sang
You mentioned that you have been obsessed with hands for years, which is also evident from your Instagram, how did this obsession begin?
I don’t really know where it came from. I think it’s because my Dad is Italian, and I grew up around a lot of Italian sculptures and art, a lot of renaissance art where hands are always depicted really gently. So, I think that’s where it came from. Hands are so unique to everyone, it’s like a face but without a face. At school I always drew hands even though I’m not really great at it. I think it’s just the tenderness around them. I have recently bought three books about hands, and one is about how hands reveal hidden thoughts.
The series ‘Many Hands Make Light Work’ was born out of a lack of meaningful human contact. I see in your work many different hands, in different shapes, movements but not only that, I also see many different skin colors coming from all over the world. Apart from them being your obsession, why have you chosen hands to make signify the lack of meaningful connection?
I think it’s that hands are our first extension when we reach out to someone else. The first thing you think about with human connection is touch, which is helped through hands. I think that’s why I went with hands. They are an extension of human connection. Human connection is such a vital part of life and if you are striped of it you are going to crave it even more.
The series ‘Many Hands Make Light Work’ was born out of a lack of meaningful human contact. I see in your work many different hands, in different shapes, movements but not only that, I also see many different skin colors coming from all over the world. Apart from them being your obsession, why have you chosen hands to make amplify this point?
Well it started with me being frustrated because I hadn’t been able to create as much as I used to when I it wasn’t lockdown. I felt like, if I can’t create then who am I, since I identify myself as a creator. So, it was like well if I can’t do that, I’m going to use the tools I have, which is a laptop and technology so I can call people. It started off on FaceTime with my best friend, I asked to see her hands and then made screenshots. However, the screenshots were not satisfying me as I’m trained in analog photography and I shoot everything analog. I work at a lab so I’ve got a dark room and I can make contact sheets from it and I can be with the negatives. So, then I thought why don’t I photograph through the screen and see what happens and it worked out really well.
Why is it so important for you to be physically hands on with your projects?
It just makes me feel more connected to my work. There’s a whole process to get to the end bit. It’s not even about the end bit, because if you have a negative there are so many options you can do; you can scan it, you can make a contact sheet, you can hand print it, you can manipulate the negative, the choices are endless. I’m not really a fan of digital work. I know at the end everything is digital, because of posting on Instagram or your website. But as much as I can, I want to be physical involved with my work or hands on
Do you think that using analog photography impacts the quality of the shoots in comparison to screenshots?
It’s so much better. I guess it’s just the grain you get with analog as well. You can’t get that with screenshots. It’s just not the same. If you photograph a screen you might get reflections with it but that might be work well or light leaks that works well. You never really know what you get until you see the roll and then you work with that. I hated that I had to drag the screen for the screenshot, rather than the action of winding the camera and then pressing a button, where I see through a different machine. It didn’t make me feel like I was a part of it. I guess the camera is like an extension of me and without that it doesn’t feel right. How can I make people see what I see If I don’t have a camera in front of my face. With a screenshot I can only capture exactly what’s on my screen, but with a camera I can still move or change my angle. It gives me the freedom to do more and be as expressive as I can be.
You stated that you have been drawn to dancers, due to the control and movement they have over their bodies. What did you aim to discover when creating this project?
I didn’t have an aim or an end goal. I was just trying to photograph as many people as I can as a way to stay connected. Actually, my friends and I have extended it into a short film. We are now filming people through the screen to make a short film about the longing for touch. We have girl that is going to write a poem for it and a friend that is doing original instrumental music. This wasn’t my aim, but it is bringing people together, which I guess is a subconscious aim.
It seems like a lot of what you do comes from your heart. However, in the current social climate motivation and inspiration have been hard to find for a lot of people and there is often a pressure placed on creatives to always be creating, yet you have achieved both with this ‘Many Hands’. How did you find the motivation to continue working and creating through the lockdown?
In a way it’s actually quite nice that this lockdown has happened as it’s made me do more personal projects that I maybe didn’t have time for before because I was trying to make money off my work. Whereas now, it’s given me the time to reflect and ask myself, ‘well is it that I want to say through my work and what can I explore’. I do get the lack of motivation, in the first two weeks I thought what’s the fucking point of doing anything because I’m just stuck at home. It got to the point where I just felt drained from not creating. Then it became what’s the point of me being me if I can’t express myself. So, my advice is; just have patience and it will come to you or you will feel the urge and when it comes grab it but if doesn’t, don’t feel bad because that’s absolutely fine.
When observing your other work I noticed that when the entirety of the model is shot, they or their face is often blurred or out of focus. What is the purpose behind this?
When I photograph I don’t think of the end frame. I sort of just capture what I’m captured by, the energy and then go from there. I can’t photograph someone if there is no connection or understanding there, then it doesn’t work.
So, this is a slight tangent from your ‘Many Hands’ series but I see that you are the founder and creative director of The Earth Issue. However, after 2018 I see a big transition on your personal page from environmental photography to your focus on hands. What led to this transition?
My two biggest obsessions in life are hands AND rocks. My Instagram would be full of rocks if I had access to nature and landscapes. I didn’t actively make a transition, but I’m in a London so access to nature isn’t easy. I grew up in Germany, right near the alps, so going to the mountains was easy for me. I had constant access to the outdoors. The best trip I’ve ever been on was to Iceland. There is a road there named Road 1, and every half an hour of the drive the landscapes change drastically from mountains to glaciers and so on.
What inspired the importance of raising awareness about our environment through your work?
At university I started making work that was more environmentally charged. I felt frustrated by the lack of meaning in big art works and advertisements, pushing us to buy more and be a consumer. I feel like we need to actively make a change and engage the community. To make sure they are educated and aware. That doesn’t mean you need a picture of death, but you can just have a lovely image of a landscape and let people know that this is what the world looks like and that we don’t want it to change. My inspiration was driven by a lack of meaning. I would like my work to engage a dialogue, whether it’s good or bad. I want people to take something from my work and talk about it.