Chloé Milos Azzopardi, re/enchanted

Interview by Anna Maisonneuve. Photographs by Chloé Milos Azzopardi.


Chloé Milos Azzopardi, re/enchanted


Chloé Milos Azzopardi, re/enchanted

It takes so much energy to have a little hope.

Chloé Milos Azzopardi, re/enchanted

WHEN PHOTOGRAPHER CHLOÉ MILOS AZZOPARDI, born in 1994, isn’t nestled away on Île Saint-Denis, her crescent-shaped island in the Seine River just outside Paris, she can be found in Bristol, Bologna, Cadaqués, Niort, Athens, Crete, Margaux, or elsewhere, at an exhibition of her work, an artistic residency, or a photography festival.
Featured in The New York Times, The British Journal of Photography, Ignant and Fisheye, her work is built around a poetic, militant imagination that invites us to swap darkest despair for wonder, that vital catalyst of fresh possibility.

Château Palmer : Is your interest in photography associated with a specific moment in your childhood, or did it appear later in life?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : Looking back, I think my fascination for it started a long time ago. My mother took photographs for a short while, maybe two years. She kept negatives and silver prints. I must have been 13 when she first showed me some of her photographs. I remember one in particular; it was of a staircase in Montmartre. It was a fairly classic black-and-white photo, but the surface totally absorbed me. I felt like the blacks were water.

Château Palmer : Did you later forget that aesthetic emotion?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : I didn’t realize how important it was. I thought this attraction stemmed from my years at the École des Beaux-arts in Angoulême. I was painting and drawing a lot at the time, and I slowly started using a camera. At first, it was to help me with my drawings, but it became increasingly important.

Château Palmer : When did you buy your first camera?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : When I was 22. I bought a Nikon D810 based on advice from a technician at school. I later discovered that this camera didn’t need an adaptor ring. My grandfather photographed birds with a Nikon film camera, and so did my mother. I ended up with all their old lenses, and I still use them today, even though some of them are a bit faulty.

Château Palmer : When did you really start taking photographs?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : In 2017, during a five-month trip to China as part of a fourth-year Beaux-Arts exchange. At first, I had this fear of being yet another Western tourist taking photos of things she finds a little exotic. But it just so happens that I have very curly hair, and people would stop in the street, put their phones six inches from my face, and take photos of me. I realized that the relationship with images was totally different there. After that, I decided to photograph what I saw, knowing that I was also going to be photographed.

Château Palmer : What are the themes that emerged from all the images you took there?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : Many of them dealt with passive resistance. In China, people often work for more than 60 hours a week. In the urban settings, I looked for examples of opposition to this ultra-productivity. I called it “vegetative,” in reference to the vegetative cycle of plants, which includes a dormant phase in which growth and activity are suspended to let them regenerate.

“It takes so much energy to have a little hope”
Chloé Milos Azzopardi

Château Palmer : In these images, there are clues to one of your later pieces of work, Les formes qu’ils habitent en temps de crise (“The forms they inhabit in times of crisis”). One feature that particularly springs to mind is this resonance between two species, in this case humans and plants, as well as a more political dimension… How did this vast collection come about?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : It involved a lot of trial and error. I put this series together long after I’d started taking photos. It’s divided into several chapters. The first two, Kind of ghosts and Les formes qu’ils habitent en temps de crise, could be described as research. The third part, Ecosystèmes, transformed the series. It’s fiction. I was trying to see beyond the Capitalocene [a concept developed in the 2000s by Swedish ecologist Andreas Malm].

Château Palmer : Do you prefer this term to Anthropocene?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : Yes, by political choice, even though it is not as well known. The term “Anthropocene” is used to describe the geological era the world has been in since the late 19th-century, but it is not accurate. It is mainly the “over-developed,” industrialized countries that are responsible for the current environmental disruption, not humanity as a whole.

Château Palmer : Despite everything, you decided to use fiction as your medium. Why?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : I only work with fiction. I think it comes from my relationship with writing. In this futuristic fiction, I’m trying to imagine what our relationship with other living species might be like, whether plant or animal. I’m looking for new forms of relationships, including companionship and respectful – or even friendly – cohabitation, so long as there is no form of domination.

Château Palmer :
We could also talk about “symbiocene,” to quote Glenn Albrecht, the Australian environmental philosopher who also gave us the word “solastalgia.”

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : I’m very interested in people who think about these issues. Artists, writers, researchers – anyone who tries to imagine a future without devastation. It takes so much energy to have a little hope, to resist defeatism.

Château Palmer : What role does staging play in your photography?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : It’s changed a lot. Before, I used to wander around for ages waiting for something to happen. I could walk for hours without anything happening. When I was working on Ecosystèmes, I started coming up with very clear, bold images beforehand. But there was still an element of chance. I would wait for all the conditions to come together before taking the photograph.

Château Palmer : As a result, is your work rooted in the long-term?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : There’s this temporality of living things that I can’t control, and that means I always work very slowly. Half of my images come from staged scenes and half from elements found on my photographic wanderings. Often the two find a meeting point.

“There’s this temporality of living things that i can’t control”
Chloé Milos Azzopardi
Écosystèmes © Chloé Milos Azzopardi, 2022
Non Technological Devices © Chloé Milos Azzopardi, 2022

Château Palmer : Your adventure at Château Palmer started in 2022 with Paul Cupido, the first photographer at the INSTANTS residency. Where did you meet him?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : We met in 2019 at the Can Serrat art residency in El Bruc in Catalonia. I reconnected with him two years later for A New Nothing, an online project about conversations between two people based on images. When he was chosen for the INSTANTS residency, he invited me to join him. While I was there, he asked me to build things, including a spiral made of vine branches that he made me walk around in for hours [laughs]. That work helped me to reconnect with my installation practice, which I’d totally abandoned. It also led me to my series Non Technological Devices.

Château Palmer : That’s the black-and-white series you are currently working on…

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : We often fantasize about an extremely artificial, virtual future that we will be able to access thanks to highly technological devices that consume a lot of precious metals. But the truth is that we will probably have plundered all our natural resources before we can even make this future a reality. If we can’t experience it, I imagine us like children trying to recreate these coveted objects in the form of composite tools made from gleaned and assembled natural materials. We'd be playing with the symbols of this future we've been longing for.

Non Technological Devices © Chloé Milos Azzopardi, 2022

Château Palmer : You came back to Château Palmer this year for a Carte Blanche residency. What fascinated you the most here?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : The people I met. I felt like I was talking to artists in residence. Very strong personalities, who are big names in their field, but who are also constantly researching with an experimental aspect that reminds me of artistic approaches.

Château Palmer : Which are your favorite images from your time here?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : There’s one of a huge, almost unreal, fuchsia-colored cloud looming over us like a big pink wave. Aesthetically, it’s important to me. There’s also one of a former winegrower turned breeder who is working to reintroduce horses into the vineyards instead of tractors. He’s holding a round mirror behind his back with the vines reflected in it. This photograph encapsulates many things, not least Palmer’s magical atmosphere. The circular shape, which features prominently in the series, refers to a number of things. Here, it evokes how this person’s work influences the vines, and vice versa.

Château Palmer : For our final question, what are your sources of inspiration?

Chloé Milos Azzopardi : They’re very varied. From Andy Goldsworthy, one of the pioneers of Land art, to the American-Cuban artist Ana Mendieta, to the Belgian artist Francis Alÿs, who creates incredible performances. There’s Chris Marker, for my relationship with fiction and his ability to create masterpieces with very limited budgets. Then there’s the Greek photographer Yorgos Yatromanolakis who did a completely mind-bending night series. Thanks to him, I realized that I could rekindle my curiosity about terrestrial life while also feeling like I was discovering other forms of life.

Interview by Anna Maisonneuve. Photographs by Chloé Milos Azzopardi.

Chloé Milos Azzopardi

Chloé Milos Azzopardi is a visual artist who lives and works on an island on the outskirts of Paris. In her own words, she entered the world of photography with Ecosystèmes. Her work has won a number of awards, including the Nouvelles Écritures de la Photographie Environnementale Prize, awarded in 2022 by the La Gacilly Photo Festival…