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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Chris Capozziello, Collaboration and the BJP

I have a lovely feature on collaboration in this month's BJP portrait special. Included are interviews with

Arlene Gottfried, 
We are the Youth,
Timothy Archibald,
Klaus Pichler,
Tony Fouhse, 
Anthony Luvera
and Chris Capozziello.

It was hard work but fascinating to talk to all the photographers involved. What came across was a lack of certainty about what they were doing, a refreshing questioning not just of what others do in photography but what they were doing as well. Nothing was clear cut and people were extremely eloquent in making their doubts apparent, whilst also being willing to defend their perspectives and their practice.

Everybody had a different take on collabaration with subjects, but Chris Capozziello's project on his brother Nick crystallized when he realised that it was about his relationship with his brother, about his ideas of kinship and suffering.

Below is the interview with Chris.

Chris Capozziello – the Brother

“I sometimes wonder why God put me on this earth the way I am. It feels like he never answers me, but I never get angry at God because if I didn’t have cerebral palsy I wouldn’t be the person I am.”

So says Nick Capoziello Nick has cerebral palsy and suffers from cramps that can suffer for minutes, hours and sometimes days. His brother Chris is a photojournalist who has photographed Nick’s life for the last 11 years.

“I was brought up a Catholic,” says Capozziello. “I remember being a kid and seeing this huge crucifix in the church during Mass and thinking why is there disease in the world, why is there suffering, why did this happen to Nick?”

Faith and suffering haunt Capozziello’s work with Nick, but it took time for Capozziello to allow his own voice and feelings be heard. “I used to have the pictures in my portfolio but I didn’t include text. I didn’t really want to have that conversation with editors. I didn’t want people to feel pity. I couldn’t know why I was making these pictures.”

“Then I was asked to show work at the Look Between Festival last year. I’d been sharing what Nick had been going through after brain surgery last year with colleagues they said the thing about the story was Nick was my twin. That’s what made the story so powerful.”

Capozziello made a multimedia presentation and suddenly  the response to the project changed dramatically. “What really solidified the project for me was when a woman came up to me after the multimedia presentation. She hugged me and told me she was a twin and how she had suffered as a twin. I asked her what she did and she said that she was an editor at National Geographic. I was amazed that she was in a job where she saw pictures every day but could still be touched.”

 “You can be so close to a story but miss the point of it. The point is that Nick is my twin brother and I’m the healthy one. The change in response came partly because of how much I was willing to disclose. When I was ready to talk, not just about what it is like to have cerebral palsy, but also to introduce Nick and myself as human beings, to say this is my twin brother, and question how and why he was born like this. When I could talk about that, everything changed.”

Suffering is also an essential element of the story. “Often when people look at Nick’s story, they feel turned on by him in a way that makes them care about him, and about our relationship. I think it is because they begin to think about their loved ones who suffer or who have suffered. It creates a connection, a bond of solidarity. My aim is not to raise awareness about cerebral palsy. There are organizations that do that now and they do it well. My aim is to tell an honest story, and share it with others.”

“There’s also an element of hope to the story. Five years ago there was no hope. Now, after the operation, there is. But hope is dangerous. It makes you think that things can better. And things don’t always get better.”

Below is the  slide show made by Chris, The Distance Between Us..

The Distance Between Us from Christopher Capozziello on Vimeo.


Deborah Parkin Photography said...

such a beautiful, sincere project. I have come back several times to just look but couldn't really find the words to comment. I tried to get hold of BJP here but so far unsuccessful - will keep trying though.

colin pantall said...

Thanks Deborah - the thing that struck me about all these projects was people having sudden eureka moments when they realised what their projects were really about - and it always turned out to be some form of relationship.