University: London College of Communication
Genre: Fine Art
Artist Statement: Isola formed around the idea of narrating, like in a travel journal, a fictional voyage from an adventurer’s perspective; from approaching an imaginary island to venturing into its core. My journey of twenty-five days through the mediterranean sea, started after a rereading of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s Lighea and Homer’s Odyssey, focusing particularly on Ulysses adventures across the south of Italy. By exploring Sicily, I was allured by the idea of enclosure in the shapes of igneous rocks and cliffs, encompassing the traveller and welcoming him/her to stay. The symbology of the cave, antechamber of a hidden world, is a central theme of my research. The cave here is seen as an intricate space, similar to the one of the human viscera, as well as a place where a reconnection with Mother Earth and our original state of humanity is possible. Concentrating the narrative more on their gestures, rather than their identity, my subjects are faceless islanders, accompanying foreigners through their visit. As fragments of an ended voyage, the objects I have collected, almost become ‘organs’ of the island itself, organic pieces that have been secretly removed from it.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? I think the second and third year at university were both really important in terms of understanding what kind of photographer I would like to become. In these three years I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of photography but I’ve found myself working mostly with medium and large format cameras. I love to slow down the process of taking an image and really feel what I’m doing. I could never be a photojournalist, I would never enjoy it as much.
During my second year I became really interested in book making and the use of text alongside my images. All of this further developed during my last year, when working on my final major project. It was very useful to dedicate myself completely to one single long-term project. This way you can see really clearly how initial ideas develop and work when combined together. When Isola came together, after all the effort I put into it, it was good to see it at our final degree show. I noticed that some people from the photography industry were liking and understanding what I was trying to do with my work.
I think one of the most exciting times at university was when I organised an exhibition called Visitatori in Palermo, Sicily with lots of people from our BA course in London. They all came down to Italy for few days to set up everything and the exhibition came out really well!
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I believe it is fine art photography, but I don’t think it is possible to often categorise an image.
The way in which photography acts is different for every single one of us. I know I like working approaching my subject matter poetically.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I’ve always been interested in themes such as origins, melancholia and homesickness. At the moment I feel like I’ve just started to really understand them and will continue exploring their past and contemporary meanings for a while, before I will feel ready do move to something else.
What other visual or theoretical influences did you have whilst making Isola? Visually Isola is deeply influenced by Ryan Mcginley, Esther Teichmann, Daniel Gustav Cramer and Justine Kurland’s work. Coming across their work at different moment of my studies has been extremely important. In terms of theoretical references, Human Spaces by Otto Friedrich Bollnow constituted a key text during the development of this work. But the most important readings I was looking at are all classical readigns such as the Homer’s Odyssey, Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa’s The Professor and the siren and Rousseau’s The Reveries of the Solitary Walker.
Why did you incorporate both colour and black and white in this body of work? Because I wanted to create this suspended fictional space, I believe some images would have worked better in black and white rather than colour. The black and white images always add a more nostalgic feel. On the other hand, the pictures I’ve shot in colour bring the viewer into a sort of fairytale dimension. I’ve decided to include only those colour images which have a sort of abstractness, or which colours recalled an “another planet” atmosphere.
Can you expand upon what attracted you to making work based around this fictional, utopian-like place? When I was a child my father used to tell me about Ulysses and his adventures in the south of Italy and other tales he used to invent for me. Most of his stories where based on Ferdinandea; a small Sicilian island which raised from the water in 1831 and disappeared again underwater in 1832. Looking at the Sicilian landscape and the myths linked to the southern territory, I’ve decided to try and do sort of the same thing through images. I was also concerned with the idea of impossibility in reality, of finding a perfect place where to live and man incessant seeking for a place to call home. My current condition of instability in being divided in-between to places (London and Palermo) was probably why I’ve decided to focus on this particular theme.
Why did you photograph the objects you collected against a black backdrop, rather than in their original surroundings? I’ve decided to photograph the objects I have collected throughout the making of my work in this particular way because, when you take something out of its original context, you start looking at its evocative power, shifting the focus onto its symbolic value. As fragments of an ended voyage. In Isola, the objects almost become ‘organs’ of the island itself, organic pieces that have been secretly removed from it.
Would you like to develop this work further? If so, how would you do this? Yes I will. At the moment I’m back in Sicily to continue shooting. I would love to include more images of the sea, as well as more still life images. I believe the sea is an important element of this project I should explore further. I’m also already thinking about a second version of the book I’ve recently made, but this will probably take me a longer to do.
Do you have any images showing how you exhibited this work? Unfortunately, I only have a polaroid I took on the last day of the exhibition.
You’ve mentioned that the sea is an important aspect of this work; can you expand on why this is the case? I grew up surrounded by the sea, on an island which is rich of fictional and historical events connected to it. I felt I had to try and do something with it, to elaborate my own way of narrating the mediterranean coast. Sicilian people have always had a mystical relationship with their sea. It was important for me to expand on this.
I see the sea as an uncanny element, hiding unknown portions of Earth, leading to infinite discoveries. In my work, the sea delimitates the scenario I’ve attempted to create, making it ethereal and lost in time and space.
The lighting in many of the images appears quite classical, which gives the location an idyllic quality. Can you talk us through your lighting techniques for this series? For this work I’ve used mainly natural lighting. I prefer to take out as much I can, rather than the opposite, to gain an organic and simple visual language. For the caves interiors and still life's, I’ve worked with light painting, using mainly head torches, the light of an Ipad screen and the led light of my Iphone.
The concept of home is at the forefront of your series; what is home to you, where is home, and why do you think you’ve gravitated towards capturing ideas and ideals of ‘home’, or lack of, in your work? I still don’t know what home is for me. I believe that my situation of being divided in between Italy and the UK for four years made me start question the possibility to actually find a home. The view I have of it is rather romantic. The ideal home is suspended in between memories of a nostalgic past and an idillic future that will never come. What I wanted to do with photography, was try to create an impalpable homely space which at the same time seems to be unhomely, because inexistent.
Can you tell us about your experience of working as a stills photographer on an Italian film? How did you get involved in this? My interest in staged photography lead me to a curiosity for the use of lighting and framed composition in the cinema industry. I’m taking a lot from the current movie production I’m working on and I’m sure it will be useful for my future projects. The part I like the most is working in a large team of people for several weeks. You feel you are part of a family and you continuously take something from all departments. It’s an unstopping wheel of learning. I got involved in this production because I was lucky enough to know the movie directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza very well. They liked my work and they decided to trust me, giving me the possibility to be part of their project. The film is called Sicilian Ghost Story and we finished shooting in November and now the movie is in postproduction.
How do you feel university prepared you for working life, if it has at all? The studies I’ve completed made me a more confident photographer. Although don't think it prepared me well for my working life. At university everything is too academic and conceptual sometimes. I think it is too early to answer this question fully.
What would be your dream photographic project? I’ve already started to think at my next long term project. It will be released in New Zealand and it’s an investigation into a person’s past life. It is very personal and intimate. The realisation of this new idea is my next goal.