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“Scarti was quick and intuitive and done in an afternoon, like playing cards between friends.”

“Scarti di avviamento”. The Italian term refers to paper that is fed through the printing press to clean the drums of ink between print runs.

Thus it’s a by-product that normally gets thrown away once the book is printed.

With the new publication from Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin Scarti it was different.

During the editing and publishing process of “Ghetto”, publisher Gigi Giannuzzi had put the scraps aside – without telling anyone.

After his death in 2012 the material – neatly stored away in boxes – was discovered.

The scraps from “Ghetto” with their layering of the original images seem almost purposeful. The twice-printed sheets reveal uncanny and often beautiful combinations, both compositionally and contextually.

In one, for example, the arm of a South African prisoner drops casually into the scene of young Tanzanian refugees perched in a tree, whilst in another an American octogenarian from ‘Leisure World’ retirement home sits almost perfectly atop the knee of a Kurdish lorry driver.

In this interview the two authors Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin tell how both books are connected and explain while the editing process of “Scarti” was almost like playing cards with old friends.

 

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin Scarti
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin: Scarti, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Trolley Books

 

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, what was your first thought when you saw the boxes in which Trolley’s publisher Gigi Giannuzzi had stored away the material from the editing of your book “Ghetto” in 2003?

We immediately thought of making a book. Originally we were shown the images by Trolley Books Director Hannah Watson who wanted to use them in the anthology “Trolleyology” that celebrated ten years of Trolley Books and Gigi.

But beyond that, we were excited and thought they told a story in their own right.

The Italian word “scarti” means scraps; a term used to describe the by-product of the printing process that are usually thrown away. Why did it occur to you to publish them as a proper body of work?

“Almost as uncanny as the images themselves.”

We like the contradiction that they started as scraps, but they are uniquely beautiful, and look anything but accidents.

Gigi had stored the ‘scarti’ for a reason; he must have been compelled by the chance and beauty of the images even as they came off the press.

Ten years later and they seemed to fit perfectly with our current work, as though we had made them on purpose, which is almost as uncanny as the images themselves.

 

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin Scarti
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin: Scarti, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Trolley Books

 

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin Scarti
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin: Scarti, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Trolley Books

 

What does the “scarti”-material mean in the context of the book “Ghetto” which has already been published in 2003?

Ghetto was our first important book and collaboration with Trolley Books and is now out of print, its context for us is now more historic. Scarti is a departure from ‘Ghetto’ and does not exist to support it.

It is totally new work.

Can you please share your experience of the editing process? Did it feel like editing the same book twice or on the contrary?

“…like playing cards between friends.”

Totally different.

Scarti was quick and intuitive and done in an afternoon, like playing cards between friends, whilst Ghetto was trying to bring together comprehensively three years work, in a much more didactic way.

It was however a pleasure to work again with the same designer, Fernando Gutierrez.

How are both books connected and in which aspects do they tell a different story even though the images belong to the project?

The books are connected in that they share our images but they tell very different stories.

We didn’t foresee ‘Scarti’ when we published Ghetto all those years ago. With Ghetto we were always in control of how it was going to be, and Scarti is the opposite.

The role of chance and accidents make it more beautiful a story.

 

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin Scarti
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin: Scarti, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Trolley Books

 

You’ve successfully been working together as a team for many years. Normally photography is a rather solitary profession; at least the actual image making part. What advantage do you see in creating projects together?

It is not the moment of making an image that defines our work necessarily; it encompasses a lot more than that.

How powerful are images still these days in your opinion bearing in mind the abundance of visual imagery we are exposed to in today’s society? In other words: What do you think is important to stand out with one’s work and get noticed?

“Context is still important.”

We drown daily in images. But context is still important.

That’s why we still make books.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges documentary photography is faced with? And what are the most important changes recently in that area?

Everything needs challenging to become better, adapt and survive, innovate. It should be embraced, whatever it is.

What project are you currently working on?

We are looking for knitters.

 

More information about Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin “Scarti”

“Scarti” by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (2013) Published by Trolley Books; 64 pages; 28 color illustrations.

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