Valentina Quintano

In The Absence of Things


Murmansk (Russia)

The project ‘In The Absence Of Things’ explores life in darkness and the difficulties of true communication between people.

Every year the city of Murmansk (because of its arctic latitude) descends into darkness for forty days; the sun doesn’t even rise above the horizon. These are the ‘Polar Nights’.

This is not a project about Russia, it is a project about being human… and yet the fact that it was shot in Russia does matter.

It was born from an urge to explore darkness. Both the inner human darkness that sits inside each of us in different forms and shapes and moments, and the ‘real’ darkness; the absence of light, the obscurity, the experience of living in a place which is (almost) completely dark for some part of the year.



Early into the project I understood that what really mattered was how the darkness felt, how it slipped under the skin.
There is no story, it is the tale of a feeling because emotions are the unifying element of human kind. They create a bridge over the incommunicability, they allow us to overcome barriers.

The project may seem obscure and schizophrenic in the way images of interiors clash with landscapes, but this reflects the way the people are disconnected from the places, yet also part of them. The anonymity of the subjects and their facelessness was not at first a conscious choice, it happened.

The fragmentary structure of images and text reflects the nature of human existence – we all perceive the world in different ways and because of this, sometimes struggle to communicate our experience, which is influenced by our personal history, our language, our mood, our current context, as well as those of the receiver. Because of the infinite complexity that results from these myriads of factors, our communication is always a continuous process of translations. The lack of a point is somehow the point.

The 2nd part of the project will concentrate on the opposite phenomenon of ‘White Nights’.




Valentina Quintano (b. 1982 in Napoli, Italy), is a photographer who has worked in photojournalism since 2007.

Her work has been featured in some printed and online magazines and newpapers, in three books and in a few joint exhibitions. She has been commended for the Ian Parry Scholarship in 2011 and was among the nominees for the Joop Swart Masterclass 2011.

After having been self-thought and having learnt through assisting, she studied photojournalism in 2009 at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Rhus, and graduated with a distinction from the MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication in December 2010.

She has been working on personal reportage projects since 2007, as well as on commissioned works.


13 thoughts on “Valentina Quintano – In the Absence of Things”

  1. Oh my god, i love it..will be back again and again and again and………….yet again. Because i still need to talk about it but right now i just need to feel it.

    Thank you, Valentina


  2. Love, love, love and love this. So free and open to both the screaming and whispering beauty of life. Extremely personal and most likely many will have a tough time appreciating this work. Subtle…

  3. This one left me feeling a little bit embarrassed. I decided this would be one of the times I would look at the pictures first and read the artist statement afterward. I found the pictures interesting, poetic and intimate and of course I noticed the outdoor shots were all taken in conditions ranging from twilight to dark night. BUT it did not register with me that these were all shot during a winter period with the sun below the horizon 24 hours a day.

    I felt embarrassed because of all the time I have spent in the Arctic night and yet I did not recognize this as such until I read the words. I guess this is because the part of Arctic I am familiar with is so much more wintry looking, severe and harsh. The pictures just looked too warm to be the Arctic. I knew the Barents Sea had a moderating effect on the part of the Arctic, but I did not realize the effect was so strong.

    Oddly enough, global warming could chill that part of the Arctic down dramatically, by shifting the course of the warm currents coming up from the south away to somewhere else.

    An excellent essay, one which I will visit again and ponder a bit more.

  4. Valentina, congratulations on this this powerful set of photographs.
    Like Frostfrog, I first looked without reading the statement. It was powerful the first time through, it is powerful still after a closer look and reading your statement.
    I must say, having read the statement after looking first, I find your statement bang on. I recognize myself here somehow, I can feel the angst, smell the cold air outside and the stale air inside. I will visit this again.

  5. The first image reminds me of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”…

    Many people go through life without a proper understanding of the concept of time. “What is time?” is almost as common a question as “What is life?” to the philosophically-sensitive. Knowing it is the interval between two events (for example, the beginning of one second and the beginning of the next) is sufficient knowing for the earth-bound who have no interest in the sub-atomic.

    Quintano states her interest in exploring the interval of the Polar Night by subdividing it into smaller segments, Newtonian calculus-style, with most images taken at a slow shutter speed. In order to get the exposure value right, or right enough, a smaller f/stop is used resulting in a greater depth of field, smudged and massaged by camera shake from the slow shutter. More depth of field gives us more information; the long shutter obfuscates it. Through technique, artist statement and end result are beautifully aligned; viewing an interval of time gives the stated desire for a “continuous process of translation”.

    This is all rather remarkable; the seamless marriage of intent, technique, and product are all here. I’m not a fan at all of the “fuzzy” photograph, as in most cases I find it to be a gratuitous cheat for rawness and visceral emotion, but in this essay I will temporarily snuff my prejudices. (Ironically, the well-lit interior shots, which I always prefer, don’t seem to belong here.) Quintano has explored an interval of time; by doing so, she has explored time itself.

    This is just too cool!

  6. To me, a long-time veteran of the Arctic night, despite the fact I did not at first recognize this as the Arctic night for the reasons explained, the interior shots fit perfectly. They demonstrate how the expectations people come to accept as normal in lower latitudes can tossed upside down, that common notions of day and night are simply a construct of geographic location on this planet and not at all the set thing we normally view them as. In mid-day, you step out from the light of indoors into dark, then step back in from the outside dark of day into light.

    Sort of. Light being ISO 1600 or higher.

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