Interview for LensWork Extended n.135 April 2018
Brook Jensen. Giulio is a real thrill to be able to talk with you - even if we are talking via skype and you are in Macedonia. This is one of the great things about photography - is that it allows to connect with one another across all these distances, time zones, cultures etc. We are all together in this thing that we call photography. We have actually two projects that we are publishing: one is called “Spomenici” and a portfolio of architecture titled “Cityscapes”. But first, what is spomenici?
Giulio Zanni. In former Yugoslavia languages spomenici means monuments. They are spread all over the territory. I have been living in this region for 20 years, so for me it was a natural subject to pick up. Most of these monuments are abandoned now, for different reasons: political reasons, denial of the past, and lack of funds. It’s a pity because in the past they played a social role. My photographs are not a political statement, but as a fine art photographer I find spomenici an extraordinary basis of departure for abstraction. Mine is not a documentary exercise.
BJ. What was your motivating for photographing them?
GZ. I find them extremely fascinating and for been built in the 1960s and 70s they were very futuristic. Some say that they belong to the brutalist architecture [concrete] but I think that, architecturally, they have more a life of their own.
BJ. A lot of touristic snapshots of these monuments exist already but you have developed your own style…
GZ. The basics of my photography are long exposures and black and white, which represent a further step away from reality. I also love the mid grey tones, so I try to avoid pitch black shadows and bright highlights. Also, I like to include a human presence in my images, which is not the main subject and you have to look carefully to spot it.
BJ. In your introduction you had a fascinating quote from Ansel Adams who said: “you don’t make a photograph just with a camera, but you bring to the act of photography all pictures you have seen, the books you’ve read, the music you’ve heard the people you’ve loved…” I can see that this is very much a personal interpretation, These photographs don’t look like the world, they look like what you want them to look like, which is a function of your life.
GZ. I want to trigger emotions and feelings. You can see in my photographs what you want to see. When it comes to spomenici I am a sort of adopted child of this region. For me the quote of Ansel Adams fits perfectly.
BJ. I think it is also very interesting that you make a point out of the scale of these structures. Some of these are much larger than they might appear to us in the photographs, and some of them are much smaller, but your style brought hem together so they feel as a unified project even though they are different sizes from several different countries built in different decades.
GZ. Usually, series in fine art photography have the same style, like the same crop etc. However, each spomenik speaks to me in a different way, so that’s not always true for my series. Some of the images are square, some are panorama etc…Each of them has its own soul.
BJ. You used very long exposures to photograph these things that have no movements or whatsoever. What happens is that all the things around them move - the clouds, the trees - and that gives them a sense of stillness.
GZ. Long exposure for me is a further step toward abstraction. But also, technically, a long exposure gives me a softer light on the subject, especially when shooting in the middle of the day.
BJ. Let’s move on and talk about your architectural project, which is quite fascinating and for which you won several awards.
GZ. Yes, the Venice series has become quite famous and I am also very proud of the Brussels series. Actually, the Brussels series came out of an accident. I went to Brussels for business and I had a day to spare for which I planned to rent a car and go to photograph nuclear power plants in a couple of locations in Belgium. However, once I got to the airport I realized that I left my driving license in Skopje. So here I am in Brussels, with a day to spare - all set photographically with plenty of preparatory work done in advance - but without a car to get there. After some time spent in despair and a couple of Belgian beers, I was walking back to my hotel when I passed by one of these amazing buildings. I jumped on internet and made some research and, this is how the Brussels series was born. In each of the frame I included a presence, which is taken from the museum of socialist statutes in Sofia. Most of my visions are influenced by music. I needed to recreate the atmosphere and the emotion that I felt when I walked by these buildings on my way to the hotel in the evening.
BJ. So what is this composite panorama about?
GZ. I will work on a file for several days, and in the meantime, my mood will change. The result is that, if working on a series, the subsequent photograph is never going to be same of the previous one in term of feelings and emotions that I am trying to reproduce. Therefore, it’s going to be an artificial exercise, like furnishing a house and try to match the style of each room. Instead, what I did here, was to work on all the files at the same time in order to ensure maximum consistency. It has been quite an effort to work on seven images at the same time, but what you see as the final product is not just for presentation purposes. The images don’t stand individually; rather, together they are the final product.
BJ. When we saw the panorama of these buildings the visual energy just hit me: the result is very strong, very emotional, really terrific.
GZ. I am using this approach more and more.
BJ. This is a new way of seeing and presentation that is very exciting. I am sure that our readers will be inspired. Thank you, Giulio!
Keywords: blackandwhite, brussels, brutalism, bruxelles, cityscapes, fineartphotography, giuliozanni, interview, jugoslavija, lenswork, magazine, monuments, spomenici, venice, yugoslavia
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