Greenland © Steve Giovinco

Steve Giovinco’s portfolio Darkland was chosen as a work of merit in the 2020 Rfotfolio Selections by Jennifer Schlesinger.
We are pleased to share his work on Rfotofolio.

Would you please tell us about yourself?

For the past thirty years, I have been a professional artist based in New York. My focus is photographing environmental transformations at night.

Initially, I often used myself and my partner as diaristic subjects, exploring personal and psychological moments of daily life. Later, I began making trips to remote locations to Canada, the U.S., France and Greenland where I started my long exposure night photography. 

Where did you get your photographic training?

I earned an MFA from Yale School of Art in 1989. But there were other seminal events that lead up to attending graduate school. 

One was years earlier, when during the first night of starting a semester abroad program in Rome, a new friend and I went for a walk. Although we had no money, no map, knew little Italian and just landed in an unknown city, this turned into a compelling all-night adventure. I now see this as important “visual research” into mysterious and eerie night landscape environments, and became the impetus for much of my creative work since.

I was also always drawn to film and literature, and considered being a director or writer, but one summer afternoon, I picked up my mothers old Nikon camera, which led me to photography.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

Mrs. Muno, a teacher in high school, who amazingly taught an electronic music and film class, led me to the start my creative process.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.

Work by Diane Arbus’ work (including ‘Xmas Tree in a Living Room, Levittown’), Robert Frank, Brassai, and the paintings of Frederich Church are things that I go back to. Although not an image per se, I am continually drawn to the imagery of Italian director Michalangelo Antonioni’s film ‘L’eclisse.’

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?

During my first visit to the artist residency Yaddo, I wasn’t quite sure what direction I was heading towards. Being surrounded by woods, ponds and trails, I worked at night making landscape photographs. Because of the extreme darkness, I was unable to see through the camera’s viewfinder, so instead, I stood beside the tripod and composed the images intuitively. One of the photographs I made was of a tree with an unseen streetlamp behind it that created an eerie glow. I think this image was one that helped crystalize my interest in capturing changes in landscapes.

Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.

Darkland is a fine art photography project tracing environmental changes in Greenland. Informed by changing climate and culture, I photograph the Arctic landscape at night, focusing both on the rapidly receding glaciers as well as sites of cultural shifts in remote Inuit settlements. The goal is to visualize transformation. Dramatic glacial ice movements will be captured during hours-long photographs at night; additional photos are of settlements, the arctic rivers due to melting, and other primordial landscapes.

Beyond documentation, however, these photographs crystallize a feeling of inexorable change taking place in the primordial landscape of the arctic. As the raw land is exposed through the melting ice as if a cultural truth is being unearthed–I feel there is a link between environment and culture. Just as Inuit life seems to be quietly abandoned, so too is the present day ice melt mostly unseen. In both cases, there is a feeling of tragedy among the force of nature being played out in a desolate place. I want to capture the immensity of the space and photograph this feeling of loss, discovery and change.

What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?

Making the work. Standing on the edge of the ice sheet in Greenland at 2 a.m. witnessing the vast Northern Lights was stunning, making the hair on the back of my neck stand up; these are the moments I strive for.

How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?

Sometimes when this happens, I find myself being engrossed in research. If I’m heading to a new location but am uncertain of what to focus on or am stuck on what to do next, I get inspired by conducting detailed investigation of the place. I then use Google Earth to discover interesting features that could translate into possible photographic sites. 

That is partially how I started my Greenland project. Since I photographed in Newfoundland, Canada, for several years, I was looking to expand the night landscapes to new regions. When looking at Google Earth, I saw that lying directly east of Maritime Canada was Greenland. I looked up and down the coast and noticed that there was one spot where a glacier was in hiking distance from an international airport–Narsarsuaq. This became a launching point for the arctic landscapes.

What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?

Besides my camera, tripod, and other equipment, Photoshop is one essential tool that helps to finalize my vision of the photograph as a printed object. Because of the low light and extremely long exposures, I sometimes need to make many dozens of color corrections, sharpening and masking to make the image be what I envisioned.

Greenland © Steve Giovinco

Is there something in photography that you would  like to try in the future?

I might be interested in drone photography as a way to access images in extremely remote arctic locations.

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

As I have shifted to environmentally focused projects over the last years, much of what I see around me becomes filtered through the lens, so to speak, of natural transformations. If there is a devastating climate-related flood, news of joining the Paris Climate Accord, or a change in bird migration due to warming, I see these as tangentially or directly relating to my work, and could be a subject/source that informs an upcoming project.

How has the pandemic influenced your work methods ? Or has it?

Besides postponing a travel grant to Greenland in 2020, the pandemic has not really changed my working methods. If anything, it’s given me time to reflect and plan my next steps.

Greenland © Steve Giovinco

What’s on the horizon?

I will return to Greenland, this time, to the extremely remote Eastern part in late Summer, 2021. The resulting photos from this and the initial trip will be compiled into a book.

To learn more about the work of Steve Giovinco please visit his site by clicking on his name.


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