There is something about the early morning hours. The light is special and so are the faces of the people we meet. Daria Cipriani has chosen an interesting, even mesmerizing aspect of life to turn her attention to. Diversity is not only a value attached to life and the biosphere, it is also an important – and I would say: attractive – aspect of urban life. Again a worthy subject for photography.
In her series of 12 photographs, Daria presents 10 portraits of people who obviously come from very different parts of society. Four of them seem to notice the photographer, while the others don't. Six of them are shown in close-up with basically only the head visible, while three in a half-close-up with some of their clothing and posture to be seen. And then there are two photographs, which follow more a street-photography approach, showing almost full figures of women in public space.
This, maybe, is a little bit too much in terms of diversity. Mixing street photography and studio portraiture as well as different approaches to portray a person is a risky undertaking. The mix of formal approaches, types of light and integration vs. omission of context distracts the viewers from the people photographed. It blurs the qualities of the individual portraits.
And those qualities certainly are there. Several of the photographs carry strong moods, allow us to perceive the personality in front of the camera. We quickly connect with them, while clearly this is stronger with the people who look at us directly. The others seem to be speaking or about to speak to someone we do not see. They remain more remote and less interesting, at least as far as I am concerned. In any case they form a different subset in this series of photographs. – Any of those subsets can realistically only be judged in their own context, because holding them against each other does not seem to gain us much.
Unless – well, unless we see the series not as a series, but rather as a set of different possible approaches to the topic chosen. Then we may see the qualities, the promise of individual photographs. And then there are choices to be made: street or studio, communicating with the model or observing unseen, getting real close or allowing some context to become readable. All approaches are valid, but which is best for the photographer and her topic? Which results does she herself consider strongest? In which shooting situation does she feel best? Which approach conveyes the topic of the early morning hours best? Or looking even deeper: Which aspect of the morning hours does appeal to the photographer most? Where can it be seen in the pictures? How can it be rendered visible?
A word about concepts and topics: It may also seem wise not to mix too many topics and conceptual approaches in one project. So the decisions start even earlier, long before the actual shooting. Early morning and diversity – which topic works best for the kind of photography the photographer wishes to follow? If it is early morning then it should be this one and nothing else, otherwise the idea will hardly communicate to the viewers. If it is diversity, the range of diversity would have to be much broader to really comply with the meaning of the term. Do one thing and then fully follow it up as far as it reaches.
We should not forget mentioning those two photographs of women in public space that seem so detached from the rest of the series. One shows a woman in the street pulling a trolley. She is looking down, coming towards us. It is the first image in the series, strangely setting a tone which leaves us confused. The other seems to be showing a woman wearing a hijab in what may be a shopping mall. She is walking away from us, we only see her left hand, the rest remains hidden. This is the last but one image in the series, so an inital guess that these two somehow mysterious photographs create a frame for the rest of the series, must be wrong. Why are they there? What is their role in the concept? – It may sometimes be good to confuse or even mislead the viewers, but it can be problematic to leave them at a loss. – Sometimes only a tiny detail of the sequencing can change the meaning of an entire series. Sometimes not.
I clearly encourage Daria to pursue the qualities in her portrait photography, but urge her to be real strict with herself in making clear conceptual, formal and aesthetic decisions before shooting and also when editing her photographs into a series.