Q&A: Melissa Catanese — Voyagers (The Ice Plant)


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? Care less (in a Buddhist sense). What will baffle future generations about our day and age?
Climate change deniers and perhaps also Punxsutawney Phil. Are you aware of any conspiracies? Too many to mention. What is it that interests you about photography? It’s ambiguity and emotive potential. What is the worst thing about city life? Garbage and noise pollution. What part of the planet would you like to explore? Sicily and the Aeolian Islands. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? Karma. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Geology. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? The scene from the hospital where I was tested for Covid-19. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Working the oven at my dad’s pizzeria. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. There is no one photo, but I have always been fascinated by early expedition photos like Herbert Ponting’s ice grotto in Antarctica. How often do you take other people’s advice? More often than I used to. Describe a personal hell. A space full of crowded people all talking at once. Which living person do you most admire? My mother and my partner Ed. On what occasion do you lie? To keep the peace. What was the last crime you witnessed? Voter suppression and profiteering. What is the best way to educate yourself?
To always be a student. What is the next book you want to read? Trick Mirror. Ultimate camera? Wishing for a full-frame Fuji. Most used camera? iPhone. What object do you want? The perfect rock. What object do you need? A doorstop. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? An information dump, an endless distraction. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? No. Describe a cheap thrill. Eavesdropping on strangers. Pick a historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. Back further than 100 years to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Are impulses more important than consequences? No. Which talent would you most like to have? The gift of gab. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Today’s aspirations while sheltering in place with Ed and our cat Tuxedo Troy: cooking salmon and farro salad, organizing my 2020 archive, collaging from the Uline catalog, practicing Italian on Duolingo, reading The Power, watching The Color of Space, followed by I am Maru on Youtube.

Where do our minds go when we read books, magazines, and letters? Do we seek an escape, a portal to another world? A secret, a truth, a pleasant distraction? Voyagers, edited by Melissa Catanese (author of Dive Dark Dream Slow), consists almost entirely of anonymous black & white snapshots of people in various postures of reading — in living rooms, on beds, at the beach, eating breakfast. We can’t see what these readers are thinking, but Catanese occasionally breaks the hypnotic typological rhythm to reveal a new photographic element — a pyramid, a starry night, sunlight glowing through a window — giving us brief glimpses of the readers’ potential narrative journeys. A wordless book with the size and feel of a vintage paperback found at a flea market, Voyagers reminds us of the power and intimacy of our relationship to ‘reading devices,’ and evokes an exotic nostalgia for our recent pre-digital culture. As with Catanese’s prior books, the images were judiciously selected from the collection of Peter J. Cohen, a celebrated trove of more than 20,000 vernacular photographs from the early- to mid-twentieth century.
Melissa Catanese lives in Pittsburgh, PA and is the founder of Spaces Corners, an artist-run bookshop and project space. For some years she has been editing from a vast collection of over 20,000 photographs belonging to collector Peter J. Cohen, and is the author of Dive Dark Dream Slow (2012), Dangerous Women (2013), and Hells Hollow Fallen Monarch (2015). Her work has been included in the Mulhouse Biennial of Photography, NoFound Photo Fair in Paris, and at institutions including Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco and Aperture Foundation in New York. Catanese has recently served as the Georgette and Richard Koopman Distinguished Chair at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, as visiting lecturer at the University of Texas in Austin, and as faculty at the Image Text initiative at Ithaca College in New York.

More about Peter J. Cohen and his collection >Here<.

To see more of Melissa Catanese’s work visit — melissacatanese.com / Instagram / The Ice Plant / Spaces and Corners