Linda Fregni Nagler

From the negative to the resemantized image

A Mongolian girl of the upper class. Washington, D.C., from national geographic society (2019) by Linda Fregni NaglerLa Galleria Nazionale

My work was born first of all from a great love for historical photography, especially portraits, which I have been collecting for years.

I am interested in images from the second half of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century, when posing for a photographer was a ritual and conscious act. The reflection that arises from the reading of hundreds of images that seem born from the collective need to “look at oneself” is the raw material of my work.

Anonymous photographs arouse my interest. They are almost always professional but never author’s photographs, for their indebtedness towards painting and for the unconscious popular iconography that emerges from this extraordinary raw material. I generally proceed in parallel strands. I try to make the expressive conventions of a certain society visible in a specific historical moment.

I think in very simple terms: here are similar artifacts, someone made them for a reason, and they are certainly part of a larger system. I’m interested in the idea of being able to reactivate a material that is “extinct” in itself, to give voice and visibility to peripheral or marginal events in the history of images through different forms of “translation”. It is a historical but also a political observation of a visual cosmology. Visual arts are one of the very few disciplines in which looking is a profession.

Bali, all in the expression (2019) by Linda Fregni NaglerLa Galleria Nazionale

I try to make visible what catches my eye first when I search, collect and study. But I do it as an artist – neither as a historian, nor as a theorist: the language with which I return my reflections is visual, non-verbal, so I take all possible freedoms, always respecting the material I have in my hands.

The attraction for the material aspect of photography led me to experiment with different procedures such as oversizing, photogravure, manual coloring of prints, oxidations.

The use of archival material is quite common in contemporary artistic practices, and leads to reflect on some themes that I find interesting (especially considering them connected with photography): the author and appropriation, the overlap between the figures of artist, collector and curator, the introduction in museums of categories of objects once excluded from what is commonly considered art.

Linda Fregni Nagler

Tapada Limeña (2019) by Linda Fregni NaglerLa Galleria Nazionale

Linda Fregni Nagler
(Stockholm, 1976. She lives and works in Milan.)<&b>

For Linda Fregni Nagler, the archive is not a starting point in the realization of her photographic series, but an arrival, through researches that become part of the creative process and are influenced by chance, chance encounters, contacts with dealers and other collectors, with archives and museums.

This network, remaining invisible to the viewer, is the adventurous plot on which another tale is built thanks to the images that each time capture her attention and become part of a new order, a collection at the center of which is the artist, whose function is first of all that of “putting back together what belongs”.

The images seizing Linda Fregni Nagler’s attention belong to the dawn of photography, are mostly made by anonymous authors and become interesting when the artist identifies the recurrence of a subject, or the correspondence between themes and cuts, illuminating not only the past of which they are the trace – customs, attitudes, fashions or behaviors – but the present as well.

Tapada Limeña (2019) by Linda Fregni NaglerLa Galleria Nazionale

The negative thus becomes the matrix of a further intervention, which puts the enlarged, colored image back into circulation, in short resemantized by reusing obsolete printing techniques.

Tapada Limeña is a photographic subject that enjoyed great success in the nineteenth century. They are portraits of women from the Peruvian aristocracy, wrapped in the mantilla that leaves only one eye uncovered, thus recreating in the studio a ritual of seduction characteristic of the city of Lima.

Tapada Limeña (2019) by Linda Fregni NaglerLa Galleria Nazionale

The mantilla, which is the Andalusian version of the Islamic veil, recalls in the New World the origin and belonging to a certain family of the woman wearing it, and is used to emphasize her gaze while keeping her identity secret.

This exotic and extravagant subject, distributed also by Nadar studio, is a perfect metaphor for photography and for the dialectic of gazes that the portrait stages: the eye of the Tapada looks at, and is at the same time looked at through the lens, allowing for superimposition of (at least) two points of view, or their reversal.

Tapada Limeña (2019) by Linda Fregni NaglerLa Galleria Nazionale

Girls from the Southern Seas is a series in progress, and exhibited for the first time in this show. It portrays “young, innocent, half naked, eccentric, sweet and unattainable young women. I had started collecting them after reading Said’s wonderful essay,” so the artist.

The series addresses the boundary between fiction and reality in the construction of the image that has been central since the dawn of photography.

Linda Fregni Nagler colors the prints obtained from the negative by hand, through a manual coloring technique that tries to be truthful, but is based on fantasy: “I found it interesting to try and apply this true to life to female faces, to female bodies”.

Through an act of care, the artist returns reality and individuality to an exotic body, photographed to be consumed, as an object.

Cecilia Canziani

Credits: Story

Linda Fregni Nagler and Cecilia Canziani
Works cited:
Text refashioned by the artist and taken from Linda Fregni Nagler, in Various authors, Cosa può dire oggi la fotografia? (Milan, 2010) and S. de Martin, Linda Fregni Nagler, la scuola di Yokohama e il recupero della fotografia di un passato antico,, 2018.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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