Published on Tuesday, November the 16th, 2010.
Why is the landscape photographer interested in the city today?
Since my work on Milanís factories in the 1980s, the guiding principle of my research has always been lead by the idea that the shape of the urban space should represent the shape of human life. Therefore I am always interested in observing those parts of the city that are constantly changing, as if these were the signals of a childís body that grows up: this is an attempt to read the signs of the future within the present times.
Letís talk about your method of work on the city. Is your personal way of dealing with the city mostly guided by naivety or is there a planning behind the scenes?
In my opinion, the photographer can never forget the fl‚neur's aspect that characterizes this process: a person that wonders around different cities by capturing images, armed with the baggage of curiosity. Personally I donít limit myself to that attitude: on the contrary, I force myself to plan and make commitments. The fl‚neur approach remains alive inside me as mere instinct. From my point of view landscape photography implies the ability to combine the two approaches in an intelligent way, namely the flaneur's one and that typical of the fine researcher: itís up to the photographer to know how to weigh them.
Therefore, physical space exploration must be critical for your work ...
The landscape photography that uses the large format camera seeking to relate to the world objectively can be achieved by walking and trying to understand a place through a comprehensive physical perception, which includes the gaze, the body, feet, thoughts and memories. After walking for a long time one can understand what is the exact point from which the image can be taken: only then can you set up the tripod, and start to focus your view on an objective. No wandering with the camera on the eye, as prosthesis that from the eye moves on the continuity of reality; instead, you are interacting with space. Experiencing the space physically makes a difference.
As you changed your approach to the city over time, did you do it in parallel with the change of the contemporary city?
The work of these recent years led me to a compelled consideration: you cannot walk in the street with a Cartier-Bressonís style, taking photos randomly. Itís the complexity of the contemporary city that forces you to make choices. Not only the photographer today is led naturally to direct his gaze towards some phenomenon that most interest him, but heís forced to build an ordered superstructure in preparation for the work that overlay the city centre, always aware of the bias of his point of view.
How do you change your approach to the city depending on the characteristics of the place?
Methodologies for intervention in a city can be very different between from one another, depending on the size and nature of the place. When I have no particular phenomenon to observe, I choose to make a trip within the urban fabric.
For a project made in Naples I took into account the two extremes of the city: choosing to start from the Mostra d'Oltremare, I cruised the city by the sea; then, entering into the old town, I arrived as far as the Centro Direzionale. I then joined A with B, along a linear trajectory. When, instead, I find myself facing a more complex reality, I put on the cityís grid a net of different paths.
How do you compare yourself with traditional models of representation of the city, for example with the panorama genre?
Landscape photographers always had a huge deal with panoramas. In my opinion the two visual approaches, that of the "street-level man" fixing points of view from within the urban fabric, and the contemplative gaze from up above do come together at some point in the knowledge of a city. The two dimensions have become necessary other than complementary for me.
How did your job as a photographer changed with the introduction of digital photography?
I donít make use of digital cameras in my work.
I am not opposed to the use of it, but simply I know very well the technique that I have been using for thirty years, namely that which is based on the use of film. The employment of digital processing techniques is involved in the printing stage, which is when I have the negative in hand. Thanks to these techniques, all colour controls, which back in the old days used to take place in the darkroom, can be now pursued with greater assurance of accuracy and success. It is clear that for many people the introduction of digital techniques opens up the doors to a completely new world.
Don't you feel a bit out of time?
Careful. My way of looking at the world is limited. Often one loses things, but then gains others. After all, you can't have everything ...
by glenda cinquegrana
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