Please meet Camille Carbonaro, photographer, publisher and founder of Macaronibook and the Art Book Fair EATMYPAPER. Ahead of her exhibition at Fotofabrik Bln-Bxl in Berlin, we spoke to Camille about her current photographic projects and her experience in independent publishing.
Hi Camille! Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you arrive at where you are now?
I’m from a small town in the south of France, near Marseille. As a child, I’ve always used photography to collect memories. I left my hometown when I was 18 because I needed to meet new people and to see the real life. I first studied Applied Arts and took an internship with Baudouin (www.baudouin.fr) in Paris where I learned about Press Photography. After that, I studied theoretical Photography in Paris and in Brussels at the ESA Septantecinq.
Besides making pictures I also do sewing and embroidery on prints. I collect objects, archival images and have a passion for binding. In my practice, I mix found footage, pictures, texts and graphics intervention. It’s a kind of visual archeology, somewhere between reality, fiction, and memory. Books are for me the perfect platform to show my work. My relationship with the book format started while I was studying at Septantecinq discovered a collection of books by former students. I understood that I didn’t have to choose between photographs or books. I could combine both.
in 2016, you founded Macaronibook, an independent publishing house for photobooks and zines. How did the idea to set up your own publishing platform come about?
The first idea was to find a new identity for my own photo books. “Macaroni” is a very important word in the movie “Me and you and everyone we know”. I made my first book in 2014, with a project about my father’s life. I was not my idea to sell it, but it came to my mind after a visit to the Independent Book Fair Tenderete in Valencia. I was there with friends from the collective Jean Guichon Editeur and I presented a project called “Mouni Mouni”, a fanzine about my grandmother with photographs, texts, and archival images. To make this zine was for me a liberating experience as I could work without the judgment and pressure you have to deal with in Art School. To publish my own books without restrictions and also on a short budget became for me a militant action against the big publishing houses and the artistic elite. Self-publishing is a big alternative community where people can express themselves freely. So, since 2016 I’ve been publishing my own projects. This year I am planning to expand the project and publish the works of two artists, Lysiane Ambrosino and Alex Gd.
How do you select the artists you work with at Macaroni? Are you looking for works that somehow relate to your own practice?
Lysiane Ambrosino is a friend of mine, a great artist working with textile design in Bruxelles. For her publication, we want to mix different techniques such as embroidery, photography and archival images around the subject of landscape. Alex and I met a few months ago to discuss the workshops I do with EATMYPAPER. Just by chance, I found out about his work on collective and individual identities using screenshots, archival images, and documents.
I don’t produce at a fast pace, and my choices are intuitive; I go for the subjects and approaches I find particularly interesting such as photography, embroidery, and the archive. I want to keep an open editorial concept, yet to focus on photographic practices in a broad sense.
What is that about the book format that you find so fascinating? What does it offer you, as an artist, that other platforms don’t?
Books are intimate, surprising, multi-layered objects. I learned how to make books at the Fine Art Academy of Saint Gilles in Brussels from passionate teachers. The book-making process calms me down while forcing me to be meticulous. For me, it is a way to show my projects not as a portfolio but as an art object in itself. You can take a book in your hands. There is something material and eternal about it. I can’t have this experience with new media or with virtual objects. The Internet is impalpable and ephemeral.
Walls scare me and I’m not comfortable with the exhibition process. I always think of walls as I think of books, and that is actually a very interesting comparison. How does one exhibit a book? This question came to my mind during a workshop we did with EATMYPAPER at the Antwerp FotoMuseum in March 2017 during the Photobook Week.
You have mentioned EATMYPAPER, another project of yours, quite a few times now. Can you tell us a bit more about that and your involvement with the self-publishing community?
In November 2015, I exhibited my project “Pomaks” and the dummy of my photobook in an art gallery in Brussels. The idea was to host meetings and projections during the month of the exhibition. There I also organized a small book fair about self-publishing and bookbinding with artists and collectives. Four months later, Vincen Beeckman, photographer and program coordinator at Recyclart, an Art Center in Brussels-Chapelle station, invited me to organize an event in this venue. Vincen wanted to call it: “Pirates’s garage: EATMYPAPER”, and the idea was to be a counterpart to the classic, elitist art book fair. There is a big publishing community in Brussels and events such as “Culture Maison” and the “Wiels Book Fair”, but photography and fanzines didn’t’ have a proper platform yet. We wanted to establish a dialogue between different media in self- publishing and show the works that were not in a large commercial production. Now EATMYPAPER is an independent book fair, a pop-up bookshop and a series of workshops about fanzines and art books. Many of my friends help me organize it and my boyfriend (member of Belgian independent publishing house Jean Guichon Editeur) runs a zine workshop during the fair. The self-publishing community in Belgium is huge. But EATMYPAPER is different because we are an itinerant platform and we try to reach a very diverse audience and don’t belong only to one group.
You also recently did a residency at Fotofabrik in Berlin. Can you tell us a bit more about the project you developed there?
At the beginning, I wanted to work with the Turkish community in Berlin. The loneliness and difficulties to meet people in this big city made me want to discuss the idea of being a foreigner. Ultimately, I was also a foreigner in the city. Then I asked myself, what is a foreigner? Who is a foreigner? What is the current notion of immigration?
I actually started to work on this topic in 2014 while in Bulgaria. There I’ve documented the life of a Muslim community called POMAKS living in the Rhodopes mountains. This population is officially considered Bulgarian since the times of the Ottoman Empire yet they’re treated like foreigners due to their religion and traditions.
So, in Berlin, I developed a project called Immigration, violence of the soul, in which I mix embroidery, collage, photography, and interviews to re-define the notion of being a foreigner and the reconstruction of the self once inserted in a new territory. At the moment I’m working on the book and the exhibition design, which will open on November 9th at Fotofabrik. This is a lovely Berlin art space where Belgian and German artists meet and exhibit together. The concept is simple: two walls and two artists. I will show with Katrin Streicher and have already made a few book dummies for this project. I think Artistic Residencies are very important for the development and the creative process of an artist.
Now we have touched a topic I find particularly interesting: the creative process. How does your creative process look like? Where do you find inspiration? And how do you know when a work is finished?
I’m a very curious person and that’s the starting point of all my projects. I like to listen to people and hear the stories about their lives. Fiction, reality, poetry, and memory are at the core my work. Identities, communities, and self-construction are also recurrent themes in my projects. Photography and storytelling allow me to create different scenarios and to build my research on social change. I’m also a very sensitive person and the news have a deep impact on me; topics like racism, immigration, dictatorship, and the horrible capitalist’s government. All that influences my work. I usually find inspiration in movies, online, in books, exhibitions, and in the work of artists like Sophie Calle. I met a woman two years ago and she told me about a movie called “La nostalgia de la luz”, by Patricio Guzmán. The story draws a parallel between the dictatorship in Chile and the astronomy in the Atacama’s desert. It’s a beautiful idea of the collective memory.
I’m a photographer but I don’t conceive every project through practical photography. My projects are visual combinations, a bit like a visual archaeology exploring the modification and the interpretation of images. In my research, I try to find the harmony between the paper and the picture and the book-object is at the heart of my process, but not a definite position. Are there any finished projects? I don’t think so. I like to say “my book is still a dummy”.
Last but not least, what future plans are you working on? What are you looking forward to at the moment?
I currently try to work on my personality disorder, namely my three main projects: EATMYPAPER, Macaronibook and my photographic practice. I always tell myself “You’re not schizophrenic. Everything’s ok.”, but it is not easy. Yet, this mess in my head helped me to be selected for “Residence 1+2” in 2018 in Toulouse with the photographers Dorothée Smith and Heriman Avy, and to work together with the Program Director Philippe Guionie. It’s a new and very interesting residency based on the exchange between three photographers. About EATMYPAPER, I’m working on the expansion. I want to collaborate with artists, collectives and art spaces around the world. I want to meet like-minded people who share the same ethics and militant desires. The most important thing is “do not to sell your soul to the devil!”
Info to exhibition “Exil”, with works by Camille Carbonaro and Katrin Streichner:
Opening: Thursday, November 9th, 2017 at 6.30 pm
Exhibition from November 10th until December 12th, 2017
Finissage: Sunday, December 10th, 2017 at 4.00 pm
All Rights Reserved. © Camille Carbonaro