The photograph of a nice thing is not necessarily a nice picture
Exploring the esthetics of the bizarre, the bewildering, the disturbing, the absurd
Black&White or color?
Since all digital cameras usually shoot in color, black&white pertains to the domain of “elaboration” or “post-production”. So, I don’t hesitate to transform a color pic in B&W if I believe it’s worth it in terms of impact, but I don’t feel I’m compelled to think in B&W when I wander the land in search of picture opportunities.
Originality! The question is: how much one is influenced by images one has been exposed to in his life. Humanistic education, years of visiting fine art museums around the world, browsing through the work of the masters of photography… All contribute to making you “click” when you encounter in your crosshair the framing of a possible “hit”.
I’m not sure I know what “original” means in this context. I think one should pursue a sort of balance in terms of framing or color or contrast or… all of the above and, on the other hand, significance, impact, symbolism, storytelling. All this should be tied together by what I call “form“. Given these ingredients, original is the “entrée” that mixes them better, adding maybe a little something else that makes the taste outrageous or, at least, stunning.
What genre better describes my work?
The bottom line is to get pics that fit certain pigeon holes in my archive. I have started this project named “Le Stanze”, for instance, meaning “The Chambers”, in which I mentally sort the pictures I take. When you like a work of art or a photograph, you mentally place it in a particular context that you feel can describe yourself: a room in your lodging, office, or holiday accommodation. I think certain images can qualify you and make you a happier person even when they are placed in the humble rooms of the house, such as the kitchen, the bathroom, the cellar or the garage.
I get pretty close to my subjects, I focus and then shoot. The gear does the rest. Just the subject, eyes, mouth, flesh, a person in his/her “hic et nunc”.
A brief annotation: men are more straightforward to portray than women since the signs of time on a man’s face add-up to his personality. Women, I found out at my expense, are not so eager to exhibit their “signs”.
(On the left, Gillo Dorfles (1910-2018), artist, writer, art critic, at the opening of the show VITRIOL at the Milano Triennale Palace, January 2017.)
The “Street”, which I stretch to include all places marked by a more or less solid presence of strangers. I just go for it, ignoring any etiquette or rule of privacy. I shoot people as they are, mostly unaware of being targetted by my lens, sparing just the subjects in any indecorous position in time and space. There is a great deal of randomness in the way I pursue my targets. It’s often like scattering the crowd without even watching in the viewfinder. On the other hand, there are things that one can’t control, and it’s nice, back to my workstation, to find out how something juicy that I didn’t even suspect to have caught, just jumped into the frame.
On the other hand, what else street photography is other than objectively photographing what happens on the streets?
Obsessed and/or fearful
«Today, photography – and street photography in particular – wrote Sean O’Hagan, photography critic for «The Guardian» – is a contested sphere in which all our collective anxieties converge: terrorism, pedophilia, intrusion, surveillance. We insist on the right to privacy and, simultaneously, snap anything and everyone we see and everything we do – in public and in private – on mobile phones and digital cameras. In one way, then, we are all street photographers now, but we are also the most-photographed and filmed global population ever.»
(Sean O’Hagan, «The Guardian» “Why street photography is facing a moment of truth”. Sunday 18 April 2010).
I subscribe this statement in full.
(Left: On the rooftop of the new laRinascente department store in Rome).
When you say “reportage” you imagine “crime”, “war”, “catastrophe”. The people have a natural captivation with conflict and intense motility, which easily yields to what I call “the market of horror”. There is a less dramatic, more peaceful way to describe the humanity, and it’s in the course of popular gathering as festivals, carnivals, races, parties or religious celebrations, which are at least chances for anthropological research.
(Franciscus Van Haren (NL) Leonie Hendriks (NL) on Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Botticella (1936), arriving on Piazza Duomo, Milano with the 1000 Miglia historic race, May 2018. Nikon D810, 20 mm (20 mm ƒ/1.8) 1/160″ ƒ/8 ISO 180).
As a writer, I like to take pictures with a literary twist or images that remind me of a story: Buzzati’s “The Tartar Steppe”, for example, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” or… Plato.
Left: «“Picture men dwelling in a sort of subterranean cavern with a long entrance open to the light on its entire width. Conceive them as having their legs and necks fettered from childhood, so that they remain in the same spot, able to look forward only, and prevented by the fetters from turning their heads. Picture further the light from a fire burning higher up and at a distance behind them, and between the fire and the prisoners and above them a road along which a low wall has been built, as the exhibitors of puppet-shows have partitions before the men themselves, above which they show the puppets.”»
(Above; Plato, Republic, Book VII; left: Rome, the Vittoriano at sunset).
What I believe photography should be, relating to Art, stems from an absolute discretion and free will as pertaining to subject and purpose, not depending on any esthetics or economics. A high accuracy in the execution of the finished pieces (here is where the craftsmanship part comes handy), and some criteria tieing-up all works together to some aspects that make your pictures (and that’s where the endeavor becomes arduous) recognizable as yours.
Some aspects of what I do can be characterized by groups of photos. One of these is what I call “Magic Realism”, when I try to capture a moment in space-time. In these circumstances, the reality is suspended and produces a dilemma. In those moments, I feel like a fisherman throwing nets with a wider mesh, to capture, not the fish, but the spirit of the fish.
(Right: A skier at the start of the Engadin Skimarathon 2018. Maloja, Switzerland).