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photo-eye Book Reviews: My Wild Places

My Wild Places, Photographs by Luca Campigotto.
Published by Hatje Cantz, 2011.
 My Wild Places
Reviewed by Daniel W. Coburn
Luca Campigotto My Wild Places
Photogarphs by Luca Campigotto.
Hatje Cantz, 2011. Hardbound. 144 pp., illustrated throughout, 13-1/2x11-1/4".

Luca Campigotto's landscape photographs initially entice the viewer with a technically brilliant description of the desolate. Each photograph is pristine and concise in its representation of the landscape, but most lack any defining characteristic that would reveal its exact whereabouts, reinforcing the concept of a homogenous geography. By discriminately choosing locations and carefully framing the image, Campigotto is able to completely abandon an exotic representation of "the other," instead creating a tangible representation of a world that isn’t easily divided by vast geographical or superficial boundaries. Campigotto's My Wild Places intelligently presents a landscape that each of us can comprehend imaginatively and subconsciously.

The key to Campigotto's success lies in his ability to break from the paradigm of what is expected from a contemporary landscape photographer. He ignores the impulse to create an aesthetically cohesive body of work by presenting a succession of singular images that encourage a psychological dialogue. One is forced to contemplate how each image is connected to the previous in terms of its history, its aesthetic and its sublime presence, and by choosing to sequence the pictures in a manner that encourages this type of discourse, he completely abandons the notion of narrative. Black and white images are juxtaposed against those of vibrant color. An image made near the artist's home in Italy is presented subsequent to a photograph made on another continent. Campigotto carefully points at differences and similarities in these environments, steering clear of obvious juxtapositions that might have the viewer turning pages too quickly. He provides a universal experience devoid of the expected distractions. One is not tempted by the allure of travel to an exotic location or confronted with a heavy-handed political agenda. Instead, these images plead for an imaginative and emotional response from the onlooker.

My Wild Places, by Luca Campigotto. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2011.
 A majority of Campigotto's photographs lack any type of social commentary. One exception depicts an arid landscape inscribed with a web of pathways carved by the recreational use of motorcycles and off-road vehicles. One doesn't immediately realize that the riders are present due to an overwhelming scale. They are represented as minuscule and irrelevant perpetrators, dwarfed by the expansive tangling of lines and patterns carelessly scrawled over the landscape. Another image depicts the ruins of a building, seemingly war torn and dilapidated. However, there are no flags, nor any indication that this place represents a specific nation or political faction. This ambiguity points the viewer toward an implied narrative that is powerful and engaging. A majority of these photos lack any indication of civilization, showing only vast sprawls of ground, most composed with no focal point in an attempt to suspend the viewer's eye in a state of unrest. Themes of isolation and despair communicated via the landscape transport the viewer beyond the superficial representation of place.

My Wild Places, by Luca Campigotto. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2011.
My Wild Places, by Luca Campigotto. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2011.
 One of my few criticisms of this book lies in its reproduction of color. The over saturation of hue in several of the photos leaves me wondering if this was the artist's intent or a distracting artifact exaggerated by the printing process. Several of the images look a bit over manipulated in terms of their contrast, which makes me question whether this volume accurately represents Campigotto's artistic vision. A photograph that is easily identified as Easter Island seems contradictory to the artist's intent and would be my only critique in terms of editing. The book is handsome and well bound, including over 60 plates and 3 thoughtful essays that carefully analyze and expand upon the complex nature of the work.—Daniel W. Coburn


Daniel W. Coburn is a contemporary photographer whose visually arresting images have garnered national and international praise. Selections from his body of work have been featured in prestigious exhibitions, including Top 40 at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art and the National Competition at SOHO Photo Gallery in New York. His photographic works are held in the permanent collections of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, the Mariana Kistler-Beach Museum of Art, the Mulvane Museum of Art and the Moraine Park Museum. Daniel has published two monographs of his work: Between Earth and Sky and Rediscovering Paradise. His most recent body of work, OBJECT:AFFECTION, represents a photographic study on the process of self-objectification. Coburn received his BFA with an emphasis in photography from Washburn University and is currently studying photography as a graduate student at the University of New Mexico.