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The Art and History of Whiteknights: 7 – Salvo Toscano

Salvo Toscano writes:

© Salvo Toscano

I have always been interested in looking at the space where we live and how it defines us and interact with us. How it contributes to our sense of belonging and being. It describes and defines a place in our mind, or gives us clues about the history of the place or the people, maybe makes us curious about it.

By looking at the space I aim to observe how it may reflects or holds emotions: photographing the space is a way for me to capture my experience of being and seeing and interpreting those emotions.

I was very delighted to be invited to contribute to this publication celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Whiteknights Studio Trail. I have been living in Reading sine 2001, found out and visited the WST artists for the first time in 2005 and joined in 2010. It is an event that brings local people together and a great way to explore the area. A good feature of the WST is that all happens within an area that can be easily walked through, the streets really come to life during those weekends. Every weekend I had several hundreds people visiting me and I always found fascinating to observe them while watching, scrutinising, absorbing my work. It was a pleasure during the past years to engage with visitors to my exhibitions and discussing, answering questions or just chatting, sometimes discovering common connections or small unknown facts.  Always grateful to visitors for appreciating my work and the purchases: glad to know that there are some walls and shelves in Reading with my work on display.

As a photographer one of the reoccurring questions was about my processes and equipment.  Nearly all my personal work is currently shot on film and occasionally I process black and white prints in a traditional darkroom. For me it is not a matter of better or worse, rather just enjoyment in using and responding to a vision or aesthetic, that I feel reflects a specific idea or project. I occasionally find helpful constraining an idea to a certain format or technical limitations, it contributes to harnessing how I want to express something. Other times I run totally free and combine different formats as if they were different elements of a band covering different bits of a music score.

The image selected for this publication is from a set of images I shot around the Whiteknights Campus Lake. The lake is one of those semi-hidden gems in Reading. Though we’re in an urban area, once you step in that part of the campus you are taken somewhere that feels quite rural. This dichotomy between urban and bucolic probably inspired me. I aimed to not look for extraordinary images but for a depiction of somewhere that is mundane and reachable: a space that is visible but concealed as well. By using a slow shutter approach I sought to capture a feeling, a perception of a place how it would not be normally visible to us. For a brief moment it is taken outside its real context. I decided to use a black and white film to emphasize the mood of a semi-real scenery and perceived nostalgia for a place that, as a matter of fact, is very real and present.

For this work I decided to go for my Hasselblad camera, a medium format film camera, and compose within the square frame that the camera produces. Medium format film is a type of film wider than the 35mm that most people are familiar with. With this camera it produces images of 6x6cm on the negatives. The emulsion being on a bigger surface, it generates a different looking image and finish compared to a 35mm frame. An advantage of this camera is that allows me to explore at the same time different approaches, say, in both black and white and colour, as the film is kept in a magazine that can be swapped with another one with a different film, during the same shoot. Below are the image in the book and some of those that “did not make it” .

You can keep track of me on Instagram at @salvo_ts and @salvo_toscano_photographer

Website www.salvotoscanophotography.com

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In a normal year, we always look forward to the annual Whiteknights Studio Trail, where our local artists and craftspeople open their houses. This is the trail’s 20th year, and in a joint venture with the Whiteknights Studio Trail, Two Rivers Press is delighted to publish a beautiful celebratory book, The Art and History of Whiteknights, which features 28 artworks all inspired by the Whiteknights area of Reading. The featured artists have all exhibited on the trail over the years, and in the unfortunate absence of the trail itself in 2020 (it will be back in 2021!) we hope that this book will remind you of the wealth of creative talent in our locality, as well as inspiring you to reflect more deeply on the history and roots of this special part of town.