New art book: Laissez-Faire by Italian photographer Cristiano Volk

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New art book: Laissez-Faire by Italian photographer Cristiano Volk
The images were created between 2018 and 2020 and taken around the world in locations that include the United Arab Emirates, the United States, France, Germany, Austria, England, the Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and Croatia. © Cristiano Volk.

NEW YORK, NY.- The visual narrative of the photographs in Italian photographer Cristiano Volk's latest project, Laissez-Faire, shines bright and pops with color and chaotic lines, implying the ever-branching vector points away from oneself. It is beautiful and magical, yet how much of it is missed by the humans that Volk captures within this urban, cultural, and political landscape?

As with any artist adept at their craft, Volk’s palette and structural choices are imbued with context and layers, informing, and helping to cue the content and suggest the cultural and social themes that are also present within the work.

The images were created between 2018 and 2020 and taken around the world in locations that include the United Arab Emirates, the United States, France, Germany, Austria, England, the Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and Croatia.

Volk’s photographs reflect the caught moments of people absorbed in the world of their phones, oblivious to the sparkling, bright, color world around them. Volk presents both the people looking inward, and the structures and colors they would see if they looked outward, interacting by proximity, yet not together.

The title Laissez-Faire means let it go in French, and Volk's inspiration for this came from a metaphor of an invisible hand as it related to human economic behavior created by Scottish political economist Adam Smith. "In this theory, the selfish action of the individual citizen, in the pursuit of his own well-being, is in fact sufficient to guarantee the economic prosperity of the whole society," Volk shares.

Author and artist Eugenie Shinkle contributed the essay for the book, and she expands on how this concept of a self-regulating system translates from theory to modern social constructs and actions.

"...Smith’s doctrine presupposes that such choices are made freely, and that the role of capital is to serve individual and collective needs. Rather than freedom, however, capital – and the commodity forms through which it circulates – has come to distract and intoxicate, to create unfillable desires, and to transform the nature of happiness itself from an existential quality into a transactional one."

While not divided into chapters, the images were made with the following thematic elements in mind that are explored through visual metaphors: transgression, dreams and desires, fiction, transparency of power, dependence on technology, consumerism, and power and control.

Shinkle notes that Volk's exploration of the relationship between human nature and capitalism is revealed as more entangled than in partnership through the vehicle of technology. "It is not just the boundaries between interior and exterior that seem to dissolve in his images, but those that set us apart from the technologies upon which we depend…The electronic life that pulses through the city is nothing more nor less than our own desires projected back at us, holding us spellbound in the most captivating of nightmares."

Cristiano Volk is an Italian photographer living and working in Venice. His project Sinking Stone received the Slideluck Gazebook Jason Fulford Award in 2017, in 2019 and was published by Witty Books and was selected by American Suburb X magazine as one of the best photo books of the year. In 2020 his second book Mélaina Cholé was published by Yoffy Press and awarded by the magazines Internazionale, Photobookstore and Photobook Journal as one of the best photo books of the year. He has won numerous awards, and his recent work Laissez-Faire won the Prix Levallois and was selected among the winners of New Visions of Cortona on The Move, Helsinki Photo Festival, the Images Gibellina, as well as a finalist of the Discovery Awards.

Eugenie Shinkle is a writer and photographer. Her practice includes both visual and written work and reflects interests which have developed over a 20-year period, incorporating a number of different fields bound together by a common theoretical and methodological focus on the haptic and embodied dimensions of our relations with images and image-making technologies. She is co-editor of the online photo book platform c4journal, and also writes widely for a range of publications.

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