The Great Capture
Prestige Singapore|November 2020
Anthropologist and photographer MARGOT ERRANTE tells Jing Zhang how her work helped her to find stillness, and two decades in China made her unafraid of the dark. She also talks about her return to Italy.
Jing Zhang

Under the dramatic light, you make out bodily shapes, buildings, spaces and the blurring of lines between them. A visual conjuring of emptiness and occupation – all in black and white. Lake Como-born photographer Margot Errante takes a well-trained anthropological eye to her work – this year it’s been the creation of meditative diptychs titled The Corporeal City, shot during a pandemic lockdown around her hometown.

“While it’s not a project about the pandemic,” Errante says, there’s a sense of emptiness that’s reflective of the times. But as someone who worked as an early-rising travel photographer and lived through Sars in China, “neither empty cities nor this kind of situation was completely new for me”.

It was a good time, though, “to observe the city and to reflect on the environment we’ve built for ourselves to live in… analogous of exterior and inner space”. There’s exploration between the body and space, each a container for our inner and outer worlds that are nevertheless “intimately interconnected”. Shadows and high contrast lend dramatic expression to each picture. The curve of spine and shoulders appears next to deserted streets, winding roads and sweeping archways.

If Errante’s own explanations recall Eastern philosophy, this is no accident. She first practised Taoist meditation at Baiyun Temple in Beijing more than a decade ago. Upon her return to Italy, after 20 years in China and Hong Kong, the broad Taoist ethos of losing yourself and banishing your ego has been an important personal journey for the artist.

“As a photographer, your work is your story. My photography is my biography,” says Errante from her home, overlooking the famous north Italian lake. The Como mountains are misty during the winter, just like when I last visited her and snow had started to fall.

There’s no mistaking the romance of the region, which today features heavily in her work. For example, the Transitions series documents the summer of 2017 in Como and charts her feelings of return – partly driven by motherhood – after 20 years in Asia.

Errante expresses an inner world in colours, movement and light. A red dress, full of Asian symbolism, is brought into frames of travel and fragmentation in Myselves (2017) and Metamorphosis (2017). Then there’s symmetry, symbolism and subject.

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