You’ve mentioned that you’ve been taking photographs since you were a child, so you’ve had time to experiment as a photographer. Can you tell us how your current style evolved in your journey as a photographer? Was there a moment in time or it was a more gradual organic process?
I still get excited when I smell film and chemical. It was definitively a gradual process. I have been fascinated with photography since very young. I remember looking over and over at photographic books, which I now collect, mainly of the gigantic Magnum photographers and being so fascinated. I started experimenting but I did not know what I was and how to discover it. I believe in causes and effects and about walking on a path. I could not be what I am today if I did not go through various photographic phases and eventually there will be more to come. I think it’s self-defeating to try to stick with one subject or style. Everything moves, nothing remains the same, whether we like it or not.
You were born and raised in Italy but have lived in the Balkans for the past 25 years. In what ways do the two cultures contribute to your photographic vision?
I think that the artistic vision is a consequence of all our experiences. As Ansel Adams said, my photographs are the product of all the people I met, the books I read, the music I listened, the joys and sufferings I was exposed to etc. My book on spomenici is the prime example of a subject that I would not have been exposed to if I had not lived in the Balkans.
In your Venice series, the long exposures create an intense quality of foreboding stillness. There is such a deep quality of silence that I find myself holding my breath when I look at them. Yet, it is music that inspires you. What was the playlist for this series?
I have a deep interest in spirituality and the series on the iconic churches of Venice is part of it. I have traveled to Abu Dhabi and Istanbul to photograph iconic mosques and I have just completed a brand-new series, Caturmahapratiharya, on temples and stupas from the key places of the life of Buddha Shakyamuni in Nepal and India. When I photographed Venice, I imagined it completely empty, at the time of the plague, in 1400, when people either escaped or took refuge in churches. Yes, silence, but a disturbing silence. The soundtrack is definitively Stigmata Martyr from Bauhaus. In that time, it was believed that those massive epidemics were the manifestation of God’s anger.
Many of the structures that you photograph feel monumental. There is a gravitas in their sculptural forms and in the way they are tethered to the earth. How does black and white support the notions of scale, abstraction and audacity?
Also in photography, there are several clichés to which artists adhere without objective investigation. Abstraction is one of those. Abstraction from what? Reality?! Reality, as we perceive it, is an hallucination, it’s a manifestation of ignorance. Under investigation, we cannot find anything existing from its own side. We can speak of conventional reality, which depends on other causes. Black and white photography is a step towards stripping down the hallucination.
When you create a cityscape series, how do you decide which buildings to include and their position in the panorama?
Usually, those decisions are taken before shooting. Both in the New York and Brussels series, the images were developed in parallel to ensure maximum consistency of style. Otherwise, it would be like furnishing a house and trying to replicate the style in every room. I also believe that the concept of series is another photographic cliché. Why do we have to make all the images of a series look similar, with the same crops, tones etc? It is just conventional aesthetics, perception of reality changes from moment to moment. Why pretending it is different?
You’ve traveled extensively and shot in many countries. Where would you like to go next and why?
I will likely continue to investigate spirituality. There are a couple of south-east Asian countries that are definitively on my agenda.