John A. Savoia
Interview by L. Valena
Please describe what you responded to.
I responded to a poem. I don't read a lot of poetry, and so for me when I do read poetry, and when I'm thinking about responding to it, I tend to look for phrases or parts that particularly give me a visual. My photography is very straight, in a way. I tend to describe things realistically, and so I'm usually trying to think about words or phrases that I can do that with.
What was your first response to this piece?
My first response to the piece was that I really enjoyed it. I didn't even think about how I would respond to it the first time I read it, I just read it a couple times, and it gave me this... it reminded me of the love I've felt in my life, and the love I have for the people in my life. I felt an understanding within me for what might have been the intention of the poem- or what the intention was for me. Then on subsequent re-readings I started thinking about how I might translate an element of that, and that feeling, into an image.
And how did you go about that? What happened next?
I fixated on this phrase that is repeated a couple of times: hands per second, which is both spelled out and abbreviated to hps (kind of like miles per hour or something). I just felt really intrigued by that concept, of this infinite number of hands, able to touch infinitely in such a short amount of time. I could sense the feeling behind that, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to visualize it and not have it come across as slapstick kung fu action. Which would be what I think of hands per second- like a thousand hands per second seems like...
Yeah, a weird martial arts thing. Oh, the deadly Thousand Hands Per Second Strike- and of course in context, this is nothing like that, but that's where my mind would go just reading that in a vacuum.
The sort of thing that someone who has to register their hands with the government would use?
Precisely. That would be the designation on the form. It says 'Hands Per Second' and the person interviewing them has to fill in a number. "Okay, that came in below 70, so that's a Class A hand".
Okay, so you're visualizing hands per second and trying to translate that into this feeling of love. Tell me more about how you bridged those things.
In the end I'm not sure that I did. I tried a few different techniques in the camera to do multiple exposures. What I ended up settling on was shooting a flash off over the course of a long exposure multiple times, moving my own hand every time, and moving the flash. And then I ended up with an image and a feeling that I really enjoyed, but was not what I set out to do. I don't personally think it conveys any warmth or love, but it also did not feel violent. And I guess in the end that was what I was more concerned with- even if it's not going to be lovey, it definitely can't be violent. So I settled for a middle ground with what I made, but sometimes you change and you discover new things as you create work.
What does it say to you now?
I'd say now it speaks to me as I series of... how do I put this into words? An all-encompassing tactility or actuality that is represented by so many hands, so many body parts existing in one moment, being able to be taken in at one glance. It speaks to- maybe not tenderness, but care. So maybe there is some of that love still there.
And how does this relate to the rest of your work, if at all?
It relates somewhat in technique. I often work in multiple colored flashes and my own body, but the content beyond that is a bit of a deviation for me. In the time since I've made this piece, I've been making more work exploring these moments with little individual body parts. My work is primarily self portraiture, usually full body or a larger portion of my body, and so now I've been thinking more about these little individual moments within my body, that are more abstracted, less through the looking glass, and more through a kaleidoscope.
Call Number: Y6PP | Y10VA.saUnti
John Savoia (b. 1986 in Boston, MA) is a fine arts photographer based in Boston. His work explores the idea that everything we create is a form of self portraiture, with a direct focus on personal connections to the body that break down cultural and societal norms of beauty, privilege, and power. He lives with his inspirational wife, and their large cat Tiny Henry in the scenic getaway of Jamaica Plain.