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Interview for Taxidia, The Kathimerini - June 2021, EN version




Tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from / what did you study and where / where do you live / are you a full time photographer / what sort of photographic projects interest you the most?

I am an Italian photographer and after five years in London I have recently relocated to Venice.

After a Master in Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion, in the past years I have worked as a creative producer for fashion and advertising, while developing a documentary oriented photography portfolio and focusing on long term series and personal projects.

The pandemic has of course changed many plans but - together with the move - it has given me the chance to finally commit to photography completely and work as a photographer full time.

Because of a deep interest in the everyday, my work often focuses on personal stories and on the connection people share with objects at home or at work. I love documenting artisans, craftsmen and artists, with a keen eye for fashion and design, while still devoting time to personal projects connected to my own history, family and homeland.


What is the idea behind the project ‘’Scenario’’? When did you start the project/when are you planning on finishing it? Are you planning an exhibition/publication/book after finishing it?

Scenario is a series that was born long before it got its title, the first picture being from 2015. Only a couple of years ago though I managed to put a finger on what I was collecting, and spent time on an edit of previous shots while actively looking for specific atmospheres when travelling around Italy.

Living abroad and getting back to my country for summer holidays I slowly started noticing a peculiar duality in the way I looked at places, on one side being used to the colours, places and traditions typical of my country; on the other looking at it as a Londoner on holiday, and therefore getting captured by the summer bliss many locations radiate.

The idea behind the project slowly became to capture this blissful atmosphere through light and colour while diverting at the same time the viewer’s attention to the mundane and frivolous.

I would definitely love to put together an exhibition or a book and I have a collection of exhibition designs and inspirations I keep for the future: I know how I’ll print the images, what supports I’ll use, what promotional material I’d like to print for the guests. I don’t know if it will be soon, but it’s pretty much in my head already!



Which places of Italy did you visit for implementing ‘’Scenario’’ ? Why did you choose those places?

The series includes pictures taken in Venice, Rome, Palermo, Modica, Cefalù, Cortina, Florence and Salento. I never visit places purposely for Scenario, as the project is intended as an ongoing visual investigation, a series of observations like the ones a traveller would write down on a notebook while on the go, with no pressure to collect an exact number of pictures or a specific shot in a certain location. As I said I now have an idea of the type of atmosphere I want to capture, rather than what exactly I want in a shot.



     



Why did you choose the name ‘’Scenario’’? Is tourism in Italy a ‘’scenario’’ of a play tourists and locals play in?

Scenario is a word that conveniently makes sense both in Italian and in English. It has the theatrical meaning of set but also means “a specific possibility”, “an outline” or “a plot”. As the series generally does not include very recognisable landmarks and uses tight crops and flatted perspective the idea is to capture anonymous characters and objects as bi-dimensional theatrical set elements, conveying images that could portray every tourist and none, sometimes every city and none.


What is the role people play in your photographs? Are they protagonists or secondary characters?

For this series there is an interest in the scene as a whole, there is rarely one defined subject and if there is one it’s rarely recognisable. People actually become part of the scenario, part of something almost picturesque. I think it happened to many of us to find ourselves in the middle of a famous piazza in Italy and take part in the well know tourist performance of pictures-taking, guide-reading and Insta-stories-making. This is why people in Scenario just blend in with the landscape and are not one specific person or another, just actors that perform a type.


In your website you describe Scenario as: ‘’an ongoing project investigating tourism in Italy’’. So, how would you describe tourism in Italy? Is it a good or a bad thing? Does the tourism industry ‘’gives’’ more to Italy than what it ‘’takes’’ from the country or vice versa?  

The aspect of tourism that I try to capture in Scenario is the beautiful but flat tourism of vintage postcards, which is the type of beauty that foreign tourists very often expect from Italy, and that Italians put on show and deliver to them. It’s often not meant with malice, but uses visual codes that immediately conjure up images of Italy. The project is therefore an exercise in vision. Living abroad and talking with many foreign friends and colleagues, I learned how to understand this gaze, which is at the same time virginal and saturated with stereotypical images that lead tourists to expect a certain ‘Italianness’. On the other hand, like all my work, Scenario deals with visual archaeology, a reconciliation with landscapes and atmospheres that belong to me, but from which I have moved away and that I therefore also often experience as a tourist.  

Is tourism good or bad for Italy is a question that resonates very differently today than it did one year ago: many areas of Italy have relied on tourism heavily for decades and had to realise the hard way through the pandemic that it can’t be the only resource for a territory and certainly many historical cities can’t sustain mass-tourism for long.


Which is the most common stereotype linked with Italy’s tourism? (is it at all true?)

I think the image of “Dolce Vita” is the thing that is most commonly taken around the world and misused. It has become the way anything done in Italy in summer is referred to, be it an aperitivo in town, a dip in Cinque Terre, a spaghetti ai frutti di mare dinner on the coast of Sicily. It’s the trademark of the “Italian summer bliss” even though the direct connection with the movie the term is taken from is questionable.


Does the word ‘’authenticity’’ makes sense to you? Are the words ‘’authenticity’’ and ‘’tourism’’ compatible? Is there such a thing as ‘’authentic tourism’’?

There is, I think, a mass-tourism (visit Venice, Florence and Rome in three days and try to stop in Pisa on the go for a picture with the Leaning Tower) - and a slow tourism. Slow tourism for me means taking the time to try and understand a place, its nature, its people and its way of living.

“Authentic” is very often a misused term, a marketing term used by bespoke tours and luxury travel companies to convey the idea that they are giving their customers the real deal. Of course there is a way to travel in an authentic way, but it’s probably the one that does not use this word ever when describing what it is.


Tell us a bit about the techniques you use in ‘’Scenario’’: are the images photographs or collages? What type of equipment do you use?

All the pictures in Scenario have been shot on film with my beloved Nikon FM2. It has literally travelled around the globe with me, to Australia and back. Originally a gift from my partner, who kindly re-gifted it to me after my first one broke four years ago.

Shooting on film goes hand in hand with my idea of visual investigation for the project: taking the time to shoot slowly, one picture at the time, curating carefully each frame.

Funnily enough, many people think that Il Ciolo - one of the pictures from the series that got the biggest success being exhibited in London and Arles and sold as a limited edition print - was shot with a drone because of its eagle eye point of view. In reality it was taken from a bridge in Salento, called Il Ciolo, from which local kids compete trying to dive in the shallow water without hitting the cliffs. It’s a much more interesting story than a drone!



How did vintage illustrated postcards and tourist boards advertising posters ‘’contribute’’ to the project?

I got inspired by these postcards and posters mainly because of their use of colour and flattened perspective. This last feature in particular was also the one that helped me translate the idea of theatrical set elements as the subjects and landscape are often tied together by the graphic style, as if the characters, the boat in the distance, and the maritime pines along the promenade were on the same level, cut out and pasted.


What is, in your opinion, the destination the most devastated from tourism in Italy?


I don’t know well enough every destination in Italy to say, but living in Venice I care deeply about the way the island will welcome tourists once international travel resume. In the past years tourism had reached unbearable levels, with many residents not being able to go in certain areas of the city centre at all because of the congestion created by visiting groups coming in in the morning and leaving in the evening. This type of tourism doesn’t give anything back to the city itself.


I have arrived here right in the middle of the first lockdown and seeing it completely empty was at the same time an incredible luxury and extremely worrying. As a resident I started realising how many shop closed and how little there was for people living here once souvenir shops, galleries and restaurants were out of the equation. There must be a shift in perspective, it’s imperative to find a balance between welcoming visitors and allowing residents to live peacefully in their city and to thrive in it through new businesses and new opportunities that allow young people to stay in town after their studies.


Which is your favourite destination in Italy (a place you really enjoy going)? Why?

I am always amazed by Sicily, where my dad is from. I grew up in the north of Italy and visited my relatives every couple of years when I was a kid, while always listening to my dad’s stories about his childhood in Palermo. The region has for me a magical aura made of my dad’s memories, my own idealised heritage and the incredible atmospheres the island has to offer. I got the chance to travel around the island in 2019 to work on my personal project Familiar: Archivio Affettivo Siciliano and it was an incredibly special experience to try and tie together this idealised version of Sicily I built as a child with actual places and people.


Few people know the term ‘’emotional archaeology’’. Could you explain to us what is it? How do you use emotional archaeology in your work?

The phrase started resonating with my practice whilst writing about the projects I have worked on in the past two years: every time, some notion of digging, uprooting or diving came out, and it finally translated in my mind into a very personal form of emotion archaeology through visuals. Exploring my hometown, my childhood friends, the way we are growing up close or far away from home, my Sicilian heritage, I realised all these elements generate a continuously expanding archive of life experiences. Like in archaeology, my work studies, documents and interprets material culture, personal artefacts, and then questions the emotional connection people have to the objects that surround them, their power in telling a story.