First published: Summer 2000
Mario del Curto achieved the compelling intimacy and intensity of his photographs through an involvement with his subjects described by Michel Thevoz as 'existential photography'.
Eschewing passive voyeurism or manipulative choreography, del Curto genuinely wanted to understand and befriend these artists, some of whom are antisocial and guarded; all of whom are eccentric. His interest encouraged them to project themselves authentically and spontaneously within the contexts that relate symbiotically to their work. The photographer's implied presence creates a dialogue into which we can inscribe ourselves, affording a deeper sense of empathy and understanding of these fascinating individuals.
Like many Art Brut artists Stanislaw Zagajewski's home in a small terraced house in Wloclawek, an economically depressed city in Poland, is densely cluttered. Found in a basket at the door of St. Barbara's church in Warsaw in 1929 he was placed in an orphanage until the age of 16.
After drifting between jobs he came to Wloclawek where the museum authorities helped him secure the status of an artist, entitling him to housing and a small pension under the ancien regime. In his stronger days he combed work sites by night for good quality clay. Several times a month he took his creations to a factory to be fired by a sympathetic worker who would occasionally slip a piece into the kiln.
Although hundreds of pieces stashed around the house have crumbled away, Zagajewski remains philosophical – believing that his most monumental creation, composed of over 50 individual pieces, is yet to be born.