Ethereal – extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world

It has always been my intention to create work that at first glance will draw people to it through its illusionary content; that it will beguile and bemuse. It is when a person is draw in, the meaning behind the work will be made clear, giving it power beyond its ability to captivate.

Much of my work is described by others as ethereal. It’s a good word to use; I use it myself. But sometimes I have wondered if, particularly with my Harena Now project work, the message behind my camera-less images will be lost if they do not intrigue beyond a ‘delicate’ aesthetic.

© Josie Purcell. Harena Now. 2017

This week I have been pointed to the work of Lucia Pizzani, a Venezuelan artist currently based in London. She has had a show Broader Implications at London’s Photofusion that shared two bodies of work about issues affecting her home country.

Inventario Personal” (Personal Inventory), was described as using the cyanotype process to create a mural of images of non-existent or hard to find health and hygiene items, while “Cesta Basica” (Basic Food Basket) used photograms to show the minimal products a family needs to survive for a month based on an “economic concept well known in developing countries”.

© Lucia Pizzani. Inventario personal, cyanotype mural.
© Lucia Pizzani. Cesta Básica Photogram Series. 
(Exhibition and opening photographs by Patrick Doods).

But it is the words of art historian and curator Rodrigo Orrantia in describing the exhibition that strike a chord with me. He comments: “For “Cesta Basica”, Pizzani takes the findings of the many experiments in Inventario Personal and distils them to create a series of images that are delicate and ethereal but also precise and solemn. It is perhaps these qualities that make the underlying political message of this work that much stronger.”

It is that final sentence that gives me additional conviction that my way of working is the right way.

Not having any great knowledge of Venezuela or its current political situation, Pizzani’s work has led me to discover more. The plight of everyday people in her home country is disturbing and saddening.

According to the first report I found via the internet today, a 62-year-old would be going hungry if not for a “monthly food bag, worth 10,000 bolivares ($2.25)”, which “includes rice, milk, pasta, beans and a few other items“.

It is the value of creating photographic work that raises the profile of a dire situation that is of most import to me; yet it does not have to be ‘in your face’ to do so.

But Pizzani did invite five photojournalists from Venezuela to show their work alongside hers. I am unclear as to whether or not she also felt that perhaps on its own the story she was telling would not be clear enough without a more documentary approach.

In an interview with Orrantia she explains this as being more in tune with the essence of Photofusion and its relationship to photo-documentary work. She says, “It would also give a different kind of contrast to this work, pairing something that you normally would not see together, work that is more formal with images that you would only perhaps see in a newspaper or magazine.”

Pizzani has found an alternative means to gain more focus, and I hope, as I do with Harena Now, that her work helps to spark conversations about issues that are close to her heart.



Orrantia, Rodrigo. 2017. ‘Broader Implications’. Available at: [accessed October 22, 2017]

Photofusion. Available at: [accessed October 20]

Pozzebon, Stefano and Gillespie, Patrick. 2017. ‘Venezuelans are losing weight amid food shortages, skyrocketing prices’. Available at: [accessed October 22, 2017]

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