Ines Gennuso: Theatre Sets
Ines Gennuso explores the relationship between documentary and fine art in an exhibition of photographs of theatre sets, as David Pollock discovers
Ines Gennuso: Theatre Sets, Arches, Glasgow, until Mon 19 Jan.
‘I think in a lot of ways, there’s a very fine line between documentary and fine art,’ says photographer Ines Gennuso. ‘So much so that there sometimes isn’t even a line at all.’ The work of the 30-year-old Italian is a case in point. In this exhibition she documents a series of theatre sets from productions staged primarily in Edinburgh and Glasgow over the last 12 months, yet there’s an obvious artistic agenda at work as well.
‘In some ways I’m documenting these sets as they appear, but at the same time I’m making certain decisions about how to present them,’ she says. ‘For example, I use a very long exposure, so they’re much lighter than they would appear to the eye. Obviously the camera still plays a major role in deciding what the image is going to look like, but I select the exposure, the composition and the way that I photograph all the sets in the same way. This repetition starts to enforce a certain idea.’
This is Gennuso’s first substantial solo exhibition since graduating from Napier University with a BA (Hons) in Photography, Film and Imaging in 2006, although the Theatre Sets series has also been displayed at this year’s Singapore International Photography Festival. Among the couple of dozen Scottish theatres and companies which have allowed her access over the last year are Visible Fictions, the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre and the Traverse and Brunton theatres, and she’s keen to express her gratitude to all of them.
Many of the plays Gennuso has photographed have been aimed at children, and this feeds into at least part of her thinking behind the way she recorded them, in locked-off, straight-ahead shots with no cast members or space beyond the set itself in view. ‘Playing with scale interests me, so it was good to photograph small sets like the ones used for puppets, and juxtapose them with images of larger sets,’ she says. ‘Without human dimensions within the photo, it’s hard for the viewer to tell the precise scale of the set.’
Gennuso recalls always having an interest in the theatre, or certainly in the mechanics of it in relation to her own art. ‘My degree project was about artificial light and the way you can use it to create a sense of surreality in a scene,’ she says. ‘So I was interested in working within a medium which uses this, and I thought theatre was the most appropriate one. With the saturation and colour of the light that’s used, and the deep shadows which are created on stage, there is a transformation of the ordinary into the dramatic. In the same way, if you take simple human emotions from the everyday arena to the stage, it becomes more meaningful.’
After working on this series for a year – and gaining an appreciation of the vibrancy of Scottish theatre in the process – Gennuso now feels it’s time to move on from Theatre Sets, although her next project will be rooted in the same world. ‘It will still be about the use of light and the notion of theatricality, but will mainly draw upon the figure of the clown. I’ve come to realise that when you see things on stage, it can be as if you’re seeing things for the first time. I want my work to reinforce this.’