In between

2009-2010 | C-Print | 45 x 60 cm

Street Capture

Text by Elke Krasny

It is my intention to position this essay on the photographs by Daniele Ansidei around the conceptualization of the ambiguous and difficult to translate word that nonetheless in itself represents the reality of this particular street. „Capture“ has an array of meanings, which, in their varying semantic nuances, all encapsulate the act of holding on to something: catching, grasping, seizing, taking captive, taking up, but also enticing, as in “capture one’s imagination” or bestowing a more permanent form as in “capture a likeness in a photo”.

It is precisely within this „in between“ of catching, holding and enticing that Daniele Ansidei’s positions his exploratory photography. The fascination, which I harbor for the inherent difficulty in the translation of the word, is associated with the fascination for the difficulties that present themselves, when taking up the act of capturing the image of a street through photography. “Capture” on the one hand connotes the physicality of retaining, the martial, the colonizing and the violent, the transgressing. Something is arrested, something is seized. Photography must confront this history and logic of violent capture with each shot. “Capture” also encompasses a visual side, that of the visual “likeness”. Historically, photography as a technological, image-producing process, was trusted to resemble what was; that the inherent image captured, constitutes reality in its greatest likeness. (Only later would the medium of photography discover the plethora of possibilities to reconstitute – diverging from its original logic and responsibility – its intrinsic reality by re-touching, manipulating, reassembling, finishing and photoshopping…) Aside from the two discussed concepts of the physical and the visual, “Capture” develops a third facet, that of the mental. The significance of this meaning of “capture” rests in the captivation of the imaginary, the binding, the grasping and the occupation but also the development of a mental picture.

Exercising these three ontologies of “capture”, the physical, visual and mental, for his work on “street capture”, one comprehends the distinction of Daniele Ansidei’s photography. In this work, a particular street in Vienna, Ottakringerstraße, was “captured”. Moving into the physique of the street, his visualization appeals to the forces of imagination. In multiple layers, the physical, visual and mental intensifies in the night-images he created of Ottakringerstraße. The physical is characterized by the constructed and infrastructural space of the street itself. Even more so, it’s the people, their bodies, and their cars that shape, mould, traverse and inhabit the urban, nocturnal streetscape. The visual represents how these physical elements of the street can be caught in an image – isolated from the entirety of the nocturnal space – to bear witness as singular dispositions of presence in the early 21st century. The mental component is perhaps, the most challenging. This street has a reputation; it has a light and a dark presence – in both a literal and figurative understanding.

During the day, the street is a multiethnic shopping street, at night, a party zone imbued with concepts of glamour and the automobile, of bodies, fashions, styles and gender roles set into scene in the limelight. As Antonia Dika writes in her book „Balkanmeile 24 Stunden Ottakringerstraße. Lokale Identitäten und globale Transformationsprozesse. Ein Reiseführer aus Wien“, in which Daniele Ansidei’s photographs are published, the street is a party mile. The street is often, falsely as Dika points out, described as a party mile for the „ex-Jugoslav community.“ Since such a homogeneous group does not exist, it is actually a „Turbo-Folk-Community“ that is partying there. For them, Ottakringerstraße is likely the principal party location in Austria. From here, in the party mile of the Turbo-Folk-Community in Vienna, Daniele Ansidei’s nocturnal photographs take their departure. They are physically from this locale, were created and captured here through nights’ work. Their visual capture creates images of this locale, which spring from here, react on but also exit the locale. They become part of the image-production of a certain time, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, of a certain photographic genre, of photography that comes from the street, from the city. They were captured in, but are not only captured through the street, that is, they come from, but become more than the street. Commencing their aesthetically independent identity, the intimate human moments from this specific street remain, yet these images are not just defined by them. They transcend the moment of “Capture” to comprehend and release diverse imaginaries and imaginations. “Presence” is the quality they will transport into the future, as testimonies from a contemporary, globalized street that is marred by the struggles and possibilities of cohabitation in the circumstances of globalized times. Last but not least, this conflict demands an image production that through its aesthetic reproduction of likeness is not entrapped by a typified reproduction of exclusion and “othering”. But instead is capable, through the negotiation of the image, to captivate the imagination to the extent that alternative images of the Presence become possible, and through this alternate view of the new relationships between individuals on this street enable a grander consideration of the changes to relationships in lieu of globalization.

In „Mutations. Perspectives on Photography”, Saskia Sassen writes about the role of photography in globalization processes within the miles of the city - exactly the field, from which Ansidei’s nocturnal city photographs originate: from an exemplary street in the globalized context of a middle-European city. „There is a kind of photography that gives us assemblages of presence. Presence is a complex condition that goes beyond the material, the visible. (…) Presence is made.”

Here we are back to the „in-between“. To grasp the relationship between the material and the visual, what I have called the relationship between the physical and the visual in describing “capture”, is to point to the most challenging, the mental, to the imaginaries that capture the mental picture (“Vorstellung”). There, in the mental picture, Presence is created. Sassen expands her argument how Presence is created over the urban space to arrive in the “global street”- a street encompassing precisely the complexities that Daniele Ansidei confronted in this work.

„I immediately think of a city which we might think of as a vast amplification of this possibility. Notwithstanding the enormity of its immobile physical structures, what marks the urban is the continuous slides and shifts – of meaning, of perspective, of materiality. Every person, every street, every window is a different vector into it all. The effect is that of a recovery of presence. And for me, this experience of recovering presence is at the core of urbanity understood as a more global event than our western European notion of the urbanity of the piazza. It is more the urbanity of the global street.”

In his work “In Between 2010 – 2011”, Daniele Ansidei has provided an essential contribution to photographic creation by showcasing the visual Presence of precisely such a “global street” and how it can capture the power of the mental picture.

Translation from German by Nora Gatewood

The quotes from Antonia Dika and Saskia Sassen are extracted from:

Antonia Dika, Barbara Jeitler, Elke Krasny, Amila Sirbegovic (Hg.): Balkanmeile. 24 Stunden Ottakringer Straße. Lokale Identitäten und globale Transformationsprozesse. Ein Reiseführer aus Wien, Verlag Turia + Kant 2011

Saskia Sassen: Strategic Geographies. The Challenge of their Visualization, in: Chantal Pontbriand (Ed.): Mutations. Perspectives on Photography, Paris Photo Steidl, 2011