ACT News


Emilio Cresciani photographs rubbish as a personal history

Emilio Cresciani vomited three times when he was putting together his latest exhibition, working with soiled baby nappies, rotten eggs and decaying fish carcasses.

Visitors to FACE2FACE need not worry however, the finished result is a sanitised reflection on consumerism and waste, with Cresciani skilfully merging portraits of people with the rubbish they had collected over a week.

"When we think of someone's portrait we traditionally think of their face," Cresciani said.

"But their rubbish is their portrait too, what they've consumed and enjoyed, or not enjoyed that week, these things define us too."

Food waste, plastic packaging, condoms, theatre tickets, soft-drink cans, newspapers … each portrait a reflection of that individual's particular week in time.

Cresciani says many of his subjects, he took 57 portraits in all and 42 are on display at Photoaccess in Manuka, were horrified by the amount of waste they collected in a week.


"When you bag it and put it in the bin you don't think about it," he said.

"When you throw it away it becomes a burden on the environment, this way it was a burden on the individual.

"They had to keep a bag of rubbish, which was smelly, dirty, disgusting, in their house, they had to pay the consequences of their consumer lifestyle."

Many of them have vowed to change their consumer habits.

FACE2FACE by Emilio Cresciani. Photoaccess Manuka

FACE2FACE by Emilio Cresciani. Photoaccess Manuka Photo: Supplied

Cresciani, a freelance photographer who graduated from Sydney College of the Arts in 2012, is interested in the detritus of modern consumer lifestyles. A prior exhibition, Remains of the Day, was shot in waste centres and rubbish dumps around Sydney. His influences include Brazilian artist Vik Muniz who photographed the "pickers" in Jardim Gramacho, one of the world's largest rubbish dumps.

"No matter how poor or rich we are, we always throw things away," he says.

"It's part of life. Sure people might throw away more things than others, different things, but we all throw things away."

Cresciani got his first camera at 16 when his family travelled to Europe.

"I've always been interested in ancient history so to take photographs of those places was where it all started," he said.

"My biggest fascination was the idea that I could record history, a split second caught in a photograph."

And he believes rubbish has its own way of telling our history.

"Archaeologists often look for waste sites to find out more about who really lived there," he says.

"Manuscripts, collected items, can present a biased version of what happened but rubbish is your most private history."

FACE2FACE is on show at the Huw Davies Gallery, Photoaccess, Manuka Arts Centre, until April 23, 2017.