"Giulio Zanni and the images of a world in transition" - inteview for Gazzetta di Modena
From Sassuolo to the Balkans: Giulio Zanni and the images of a world in transition
An established author who decided to live in the Balkans. “The camera captures my visions of reality”
Interview by Gabriele Bassanetti for “La Gazzetta di Modena”
From Sassuolo to the Balkans and a non-conventional career. Giulio Zanni, who lives in the Balkans and works for the European Union, is an international awarded photographer and author of books.
What is your photographic path?
I developed passion for photography when I was a child. I started playing with the camera at 12. The attraction increased and I started to go through the books of the giants of Magnum, like Cartier-Bresson etc. My artistic maturity came relatively late and I believe as a consequence of various life experiences. As Ansel Adams said, photography is the sum of the books that one has read, the music that one has listen and the people that one has met.
When did you leave Sassuolo? For how long have you been living in the Balkans and why this choice
After the law degree I studied international relations in Milan. I briefly worked at the European Parliament in Brussels. However, I wanted to be on the field, in conflict zones. So my adventure in Bosnia started few months after the signing of the peace treaty, when the guns were still hot. I remained there for about twenty years, working for various international organizations like UN, OSCE and EU. I also lived in North Macedoni and now in Serbia. I went to the seaside in Yugoslavia with my parents when I was a child. It was representing the different closest to Italy. After Tito’s death, the powder keg exploded. The war was so close and at the same time far from Italy. I am fascinated by the history of a period of my life: the period of terrorism in Italy, socialism in the East, punk, the fall of the Berlin wall…
You are also working for the European Union. How do you combine your work with photography?
It would be too simple to say that one pays for the bills and the other feeds the soul, but it’s not like that. They are two important elements of my life and I draw satisfactions from both of them. Both my education and photography target realities in transitions marked by deep social conflicts.
You prefer black and white and stationary objects. Is it a specific choice of style?
I am not interested in conventional reality, which I believe it’s empty of inherent existence. I consider myself as an artist which uses the camera as a tool to translate his vision into images. I am a fine art photographer, post-production is an important element in my process. I photograph because I don't have to explain. I deliver images to the viewers who are free to react as they like. I prefer architecture and I find buildings to be a perfect basis for my artistic interpretations.
Can you explain the concept of your multi-awarded book “Spomenici and Brutalism”?
The word spomenici means monuments. Monuments built during socialism, to celebrate victories and battles against nazism/fascism, are still present all over the territory of former Yugoslavia and some of the neighboring countries, abandoned and left to the nature mostly by governments in denial of their past. From an architecture point of view, I find these structures extremely fascinating, they look like as they were coming from a different planet. My book is the result of six years of work and weekends spent driving anywhere in-between Ljubljana and Skopje. However, it is not a documentary exercise. I used the monuments as a starting point for personal interpretations and attribute them new artistic identities.
What are the results of which your are most proud of and future plans?
My photographic series received several international awards. The most prestigious are the gold awards in the professional category of the International Photography Awards and of the Prix de la Photographie of Paris. My photography has been an evolution for me. Everything changed, in every moment.
Sassuolo would be a good subject for architectural photography with its abandoned and post-industrial buildings. Did you consider doing a work in your hometown?
Indeed. It’s a project which I ran through in my mind several times.
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