“These are observations on love, our faces showing the maps and journeys in our lives on our search for love. Are we searching for ourselves, or attracting an opposite? I cannot answer. It is a feeling that we did not know existed until it arrived”. John Curno 2014
Essay by Martyn Windsor
An original British photographer in the sense of his approach and depth of work, for Curno, time is the key element to photography and in the understanding of life; using a mere momentary glimpse to gain a far-reaching gaze across an extended moment; reflective, therapeutic. Taking a retrospective look back through Curno’s images one can see that the photographs have evolved from the 1970s; developing new positions as the decades progressed. There is always a story with each and every image, if you care to find them. The questioning and answers in a realistic way both show and ask us for our emotions. These recurring allegorical themes carry through the decades and manifest themselves in hidden corners of his work – whether it is an igneous crag, or the time lines on a face.
This latter variation has only recently found itself the subject of Curno’s work, previously dealing almost exclusively with the ephemeral, and traces of their presence in landscapes. In The World is Not the Same there is a direct and immediately challenging departure in subject matter for the viewer from landscape into portraiture; though this change in subject matter may not be as abrupt as it first seems.
Indeed, Curno’s latest work pushes the concept of landscape further than any previous endeavours as we are shown people as emotional landscapes. In much the same way we see the erosion, pollution or simple topology of a conventional landscape, Curno shows us people as physical products of their surroundings, and most profoundly, their love and lives with one another. Upon the faces it is easy to empathise or imagine the relational influence each figure has had upon the other, and also the duration for which those forces have been exerted. These images make clear the fragility and power emotion casts on the mind and body. Yet there is always a sense of tension between the preserved situation and the future of the couples. The rudimentary questions of who, what, when, where and why all immediately leap out upon the viewer’s consciousness and Curno keeps them guessing. It is artistic interaction at its simplest and best.
Much like his earlier landscapes, Curno documents swiftly and takes his images with the intention of capturing a spontaneous truth. In doing so, and creating a portfolio of these images, he is able to set forth on an investigation of these truths, namely: what is it which drives humans together. Curno’s vision sees people more than independent biological units with an aim to pro-create, reproduce and continue, and it is by the observation of the relationships, emotional tensions and small idiosyncrasies that such a view is made justifiable. The images speak of the mystery of attraction and the spirit of the subject and the presence of the place. This is an investigation that seeks to isolate the subjects from the wider context of their biological, financial, political, ethnographical, sexual dispositions in order to literally focus in on their relationship. The result is a harmonious set of images that show the full range of human relations and attractions.
This work is only designed to be an observation of these relationships and tries to question the cameras ability to document this kind of implicit dialogue between the two people, despite their origin or gender. It is not only a personal view and narrative intertwined but the very themes to Johns work is reflective of his thoughts at the time of its creation. As the sitters themselves can endorse; Curno won’t tell you exactly what love is, but he wants you to show him.