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RAGAMUFFINS - 2009. Digital photographs, 60cm x 80cm.

 

Like shadowy urban vagrants Christophe Canato’s armchairs and sofas sit, orphaned by their human counterparts, in the night-time street light. Left with the cogent marks of habitation, these armchair-orphans remain to carry the stigma of their lived existence, silently bearing the burden of the consumerist, disposable lifestyle they serve and providing a telling vestige of our most intimate and peculiar of behaviours.

As in his previous bodies of work, Canato once again positions us as voyeur; witness to a strangely intimate snapshot that simultaneously fascinates and disturbs. Shooting his subjects in formal portrait-style compositions, there is no ambiguity as to what is intended for us to see. Canato provides a window into the domestic setting, a morbidly intriguing view of the living habits of others. Despite the complete removal of any physical life in the photographs, they are undoubtedly alive: they reek of human habitation. They are portraits of the stain of daily living, documents of a consumerist society. In the cover of night they quietly live on as the melancholic remains of ghosted individuals.

Beautifully shot using long-exposures, there is a strong poeticism to Canato’s work, despite the gritty subjects. It is this duality in the image that fascinates the artist and provides a unique view of what is otherwise familiar, banal even. This fascination reveals itself in his continual return to subjects of juxtaposition. In the case of Ragamuffins, soft upholstered furniture against the harsh urban environment, the private domain of the home brought brazenly into the public realm, and above all, Canato’s remarkable ability to achieve soft colours and warmth in harsh artificial street lighting.

What appears to be a contrived and constructed photograph is in fact a testament to Canato’s skill as a documentary photographer, whose eye for natural composition in everyday arrangements means the photographs actually have little construction involved on the artist’s part. Rather, Canato shoots what he finds, untouched as much as possible. These ordered and seemingly thought-out arrangements of furniture on verges are in fact the work of the people who placed it there, not of the photographer who found them. Such fascinating documents, the pictures are then, of the need to arrange compose and organize, ever inherent in human nature.

Again, what we are left with are the traces of activity, the marks made by previous owners, distilled in the arrangement of cushions and chaise pillows on and around the armchair skeletons. Once more, the ghosts of past inhabitants are unwaveringly present; their imprints remaining not just physically in the seat dips and dirt marks, but also in the composition of the sofas on the verge.

Canato’s Ragamuffins are an enquiry into the social schema of our time, and the sizeable mark left by humans on our lived environment, socially, culturally and materially. Not only this, but the comparisons to homelessness and nomadicism abound, driving home Canato’s continual and ever growing interest in the patterns which repeat themselves in our social structures, through to the consumerist lifestyle, and finally, to the essence of human habitation, the habits of humans.

Claire Krouzecky