Leo Fabrizio examines his subjects with an ethnologist's eye. Using a camera obscure in colour, his distinctive images use striking formal means to explore contemporary behavior.
Metallica – a topographical map drawn in cut-out metal pieces – is the first link in this ongoing exploration of "constructed" landscapes. The Bunkers series presents images of military bunkers camouflaged in the Swiss landscape: disguised architectural features masking the entrances to passageways classified as of strategic importance for the protection of Swiss national territory. The bunkers emanations of a political reality, photographed using the conventions of the picture postcard.
Photographed in Asia, the Dreamworld series documents the incoherencies that result when a society's vernacular culture, its identity and complexity, are supplanted by an imported model. In the Bangkok suburbs, expanses of bungalows cater to the collective myth of the detached, private home, while dilapidated dwellings are backed by huge advertising hoardings – a portrait of a composite city.
As Paul Cottin, curator of exhibitions at Gallery Hermes Bern, observes: "beyond purely aesthetic questions, this work contributes to debate over the need to preserve human societies and the natural world in which they evolve."
Leo Fabrizio se définit comme photographe des paysages qu’il nomme « archétypal». Et « Archetypal Landscape » est un parcours fragmentaire dans une œuvre documentaire qui se nourrit de son enracinement et de l’ailleurs, dans un esprit d’altérité. Sa démarche, celle d’un observateur qui se veut lucide, a pour objet d’enregistrer la « fabrication » du paysage par nos sociétés humaines. Certains aspects de son travail s’apparentent à celui de l’ethnologue, avec une attention particulière à produire des images d’une grande qualité formelle réalisées à la chambre photographique et en couleurs.
Mais il ne faudrait cependant pas se laisser absorber par une certaine qualité « spectaculaire » des images de Leo Fabrizio. C’est dans la mise en perspective de son travail qu’on perçoit la radicalité de son propos. Le travail de Leo Fabrizio sur le paysage contribue, au-delà des questions esthétiques, a s’interroger sur la préservation de la diversité des sociétés humaines et du monde naturel dans lequel ces sociétés évoluent.
What do photographers tell us who transcend what is directly shown in their pictures? 'Archetypal Landscape' is a work in progress, an extensive body of photographs on which Leo Fabrizio has been working for ten years. Fabrizio is looking for what could be described as some kind of universal visual language which transcends cultures, languages and religions. The aspect that the photographer is, time and again, interested in is the pair of opposites: constructed versus natural. The central question for him is what place conjures up ideas of an utopia.
If in the past landscapes were places of utopia in his opinion, they are increasingly replaced by the cities themselves which are now actual city landscapes attracting hopes for a better life. This is especially clear in his city portrayal of Hong Kong by night. The gaze wanders from the highest point of the city down to the nightly sea of high-rise buildings. In that sense, Hong Kong is archetypal: it was not only built as a city but, with its skyline, also with the purpose of functioning as a ‘designed' image. Another work illustrates Fabrizio's interest in dreamed-up places: somewhere in the periphery of Bangkok, huge billboards with 'Dreamworld' written on them tower above humble fishing huts – an advertisement for new middle-class residential developments (published in the illustrated book 'Dreamworld', 2010).
Before that he used to take pictures of bunkers in the Swiss countryside, adopting a similarly typological approach – what all his photographic works have in common is his fascination with a 'fabricated' landscape. If only little room is given to nature in his city representations of Hong Kong and Chicago, he does, in other photographs, occasionally show a waterfall in the middle of a tropical landscape which seems pristine and devoid of human presence. But here too we are probably dealing with an image which we always 'fabricate' in our head first before the photographer then actually finds it somewhere in reality. Already a winner in 2002 and 2003, Leo Fabrizio is awarded a prize for the third time for his consistent photographic work.
Peter Stohler, Swiss Design Award 2011