Elena Vaninetti (E.V.). How did you start this project, are you passionate of archeology?
E.V. Seems that in the last years always more lens based artists are playing with illusion between real and fake images using a mockumentary approach, do you think that in somehow we are tired of our reality? We feel the need to speak of real issues but escaping from the reality limits?
A.R. I don't think we are so much tired of reality, I think there's a huge demand still for "authentic" imagery and photographs that capture things more-or-less as the eyes see them: photojournalistic images and indeed the steady and overwhelming stream of live still and video images from people's daily lives served up by social media platforms. I do think that perhaps this has generated a countervailing interest within contemporary fine-art photography circles in images that explore realms outside the quotidian - abstraction, archival work, digitally generated and self-referential images that explore the nature of images themselves; how they are traded, what they mean collectively and separately, and how the medium is uniquely situated to comment on post-modern society.
E.V. At the end of the book there is a chapter dedicated to archeological and field photographers, a sort of tribute to those figures. Can you tell me more about?
A.R. The first iteration of the Joint Photographic Survey book was much smaller and contained less text and images and was limited to an edition of 100 that I had self-published. I sold the books largely through my website and word-of-mouth and I also shipped them out myself to those who'd placed orders online. I became very curious about the folks who found this limited-edition book and were interested in it, some were university professors. A couple of years after I'd sold out of all the self-published variety, Conveyor Editions approached me about publishing an expanded version of the book with more images, text and an essay. I immediately thought of reaching out to some of the academics who'd purchased my little book and was delighted when Benjamin Anderson, an art history professor from Cornell University wrote me back to tell me he'd like to contribute some writing. Dr. Anderson's contribution really bowled me over - instead of simply writing a comment on the work that I'd done in the book, he wanted to add to and expand the narrative I'd created. His essay in the back of the back acts a very poetic type of training manual for the photographers of the Joint Photographic Survey. In it, he makes reference to some of the real historic figures, like Anthony Ashley-Cooper the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, who helped shape popular conceptions about the Levant in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The essay also makes some insightful and romantic commentary on the intangible and ephemeral aspects of the photographic medium - it's probably my favorite part of the book.