Interview by Claudia Bigongiari
All Images © Alessandro Truffa
Since the beginning of his studies, Alessandro Truffa (1996, Turin) has been combining the interest of making images with their correspondence within the editorial form. The book is the final result of a process where photographs are one possible language into a multidisciplinary field. He starts from identity, memory and traditions to dig into historical and anthropological themes.
Truffa’s books and works have been presented nationally and internationally in exhibitions and fairs such as Sprint, Polycopies, and Enter Enter. In 2021 he participated in the Archivio Atena’s residency and in 2022 he was selected as Fresh Eye Talent and his project Fuoco contro Fuoco was published with Giostre Edizioni. In 2023 he graduated from the ISIA of Urbino.
The sphere that Alessandro Truffa analyses through his recent practice, extends toward an ecosystem where both human and non human relate together. In a research that gives value to vulnerabilities and fragilities of every species, human action plays the worst role: it is the ‘evil’ against nature and its smaller inhabitants. Alessandro Truffa’s The perfect bee uses one of the smallest perspectives, the bee’s. He started the project in 2022 inside a university research center studying how bees and pollinators behave and are affected by a human invasive intervention, that is intensive monocultures, the use of pesticides, and climate change.
Every living being is exposed to issues of both internal-natural and external-artificial origin, any new possible relationship within the ecosystem is obscured from human supremacy.Alessandro Truffa bases his production in between the scientific documentation and a more contemporary practice that uses archival materials and existing images. He works within a multidisciplinary and projectual idea of photography that becomes a laboratory in which to experiment, study and create complexity. This is where the practice of the Italian photographer finds a contact with the thematics of our Open Call. The multilayer of visual studies and their many possible extensions make the world of Alessandro Truffa and his perspectives worthy to be experienced.
Claudia Bigongiari (CB): Hello Alessandro, welcome to this section dedicated to the shortlisted authors from the Open Call. First of all, congratulations for being selected with your project and thank you for participating!
Tell us something about yourself and your work. Did you always know that photography would become your path? Did you inherit this passion from someone?
Alessandro Truffa (AT): Hello everyone! When I think about my beginnings with photography, it is always difficult for me to find a key moment or a figure who transmitted this passion to me. Certainly, the interest for images is something that has always belonged to me and that concerns a way I approach the world and try to know it by fragments. All these things led me, in 2019, to begin my education in photography at the ISIA in Urbino, where I had the opportunity to combine my interest in this medium with the book form as restitution. This combination has definitely enriched and shaped my practice, giving me the chance to create my first projects that, in time, have become editorial publications.
(CB): Although you are very young (born in 1996), you have already won several awards for your photographic research. What are your expectations in the field of photography, and which themes do you find most significant to explore and share?
(AT): My first projects were based on an interest in issues related to ritual practices and their relationship with memory and history. Recently, I have also begun to open up my research to the theme of the relationship between humans and their ecosystem. In general I am interested in themes connected with healing and vulnerability that concern both the human and the non-human, such as in Fire against Fire, in which I focused on the origin of a ritual to heal Herpes Zoster, or in The perfect bee wherethe idea is to reflect on the vulnerability of this species. I believe that an author has responsibilities and that a project should always be considered in relation to its historical time and context, its specificities and criticalities. I think that this is always the starting point behind the necessity and urgency of a work. Photography today is an interesting medium for its ability to bridge and create connections between different disciplinary fields, and this is its strength, since knowledge always comes from complexity, from the confrontation between a plurality of voices and gazes.
(CB): Regarding the project you submitted The perfect bee, analysing a disease affecting bees, when did you start it and why did you feel the urgency to talk about the theme? The relationship between man and the general “bad” or, like here, the ecosystem threatened by factors such as human behavior, are aspects present in your research. Which is your position?
(AT): I started this project almost a year ago because I was interested in exploring the issue of bees’ risks and vulnerability in relation to human responsibility and behavior. When you consider the question of ‘evil’, several systemic causes have to be identified, and the main ones are the reduction of biodiversity due to intensive monocultures, the use of pesticides, climate change, but also parasites of natural origin such as Varroa. If on one hand an invasive human intervention exists, on the other there is an inherent fragility to nature itself. The central issue is the empowerment of human action in relation to the fragilities and specificities of an ecosystem and its inhabitants. For me it is always interesting and necessary to question the subjectivity of plants and animals, to look to new possible relationships with them, since every living being thinks, acts and produces changes in space. Therefore, we need to recover a dimension of symbiotic coexistence with the nonhuman.
(CB): As much as in Fuoco contro fuoco, where the story you were telling was related to your native village’s traditions and beliefs, is there in this new research something connected to your personal life? Something that involves you from the inside?
(AT): Fire against Fire is a work that comes from a personal fascination for an alternative medicine practice that I discovered was made by a healer who, as you rightly say, lives in my hometown. What I aimed to reflect on through that work, besides the ritual and its homeopathic nature, was the gaps that, inevitably, occur in every process of transmission of knowledge. For this reason, part of the work was based on visual storytelling of images that belong(ed) to different fields, such as science, nature and religion, in the indistinct whole of which the origin of the ritual itself is hidden. This last work, instead, came about as a result of my involvement as a photographer in a university research center on the study of bees and pollinators. It was certainly a stimulating experience and from which also arose the personal need to confront this topic, visually exploring the relationships with these species and the possible connections between photography and science. Visual documentation, after all, is also a pretext for accessing spaces and realities that we are interested in learning about, but which would normally be inaccessible, such as a scientific laboratory or the house of a healer.
(CB): Your usual approach is interdisciplinary, in that it often blends together images, suggestions, and scientific documentation. In this project, examples of this approach are video frames in which bee behavior is recorded, or video game-like images in which the protagonist is the beekeeper. Can you explain the different levels used in this research and how you chose to relate them?
(AT): Both languages address the theme of bee vulnerability through the filter of scientific resources. The photographs of bees are taken from laboratory experiments and come from the archive of the Research Center which studies pesticides’ effects on the relational behavior and motor skills of bees. The frames, on the other hand, come from software that, among other uses, can calculate the damage that Varroa, a dangerous pest, produces in a hive. While in the former case the science highlights the responsibility of human action in the ecosystem, in the latter it is used to calculate an element of fragility inherent in nature. Personally I am very interested in the use of the screenshot and the retrieval of archival materials, I think these are very contemporary practices that can interact effectively with direct photography. In general, this way of working with multiple layers reflects my idea of photography as an ideal medium to create complexity, to make my view of reality interact with different materials, building comparisons and dialogues. It is also an attempt to overcome what might be a specific limitation of the medium: an overly personal and subjective vision of the photographer.
(CB): Looking to the future, where the prospects are not so promising, how do you see your relationship with nature, always visible in your projects, evolve?
(AT): I live in a city that is progressively cementing all green areas and parks, so I think it will definitely be an urgent issue to face and for which to activate spaces of awareness. In this regard, there is a text that I really love, How Forests Think: Towards an Anthropology Beyond the Human by Eduardo Khon, a Canadian anthropologist, in which he states that “learning again to think with forests is the first step to “greening” our ethical behaviors”. What I find fascinating about his proposal is how the relational question is seen as the basis for a concrete policy shift that can produce a change in Western thinking, regarding laws and public interventions. Certainly, we are living with a deep gap toward connection with nature and its laws, and we urgently need to strive for a more harmonious kind of living. Through my work obviously, what I am interested in is not to propose solutions or merely report critical issues, but to look for ways to visually explore these relational spaces.
(CB): Moving around an idea of photography that is no longer just a transposition of reality but an extension in a suspended dimension of many possibilities, which direction do you choose to take as a visual artist?
(AT): As you rightly say, photography is no longer an objective or truthful transposition of reality and probably it never has been. Today, more than ever, I think this use of the medium is destined to end with the increasing role A.I. is assuming. To produce a photorealistic image it is no longer necessary that a certain scene takes place in front of a photographer’s digital or analog film, it is enough to run a request to an algorithm to get it in a few seconds. Confronting the social dimension of photography as evidence of the real is, however, still very interesting, especially because our culture is founded on the necessity of “seeing to believe”. When the truth of the image becomes a personal truth we are really confronted with ourselves and our willingness to believe, or not, in something. Within my practice I use photography to explore the liminal space between reality and the imaginary, exploiting the inherent ambiguity of the medium and working with the possibilities of confusion and openness to the fantastic that the image produces.
(CB): The open call was looking for projects not necessarily completed. In which phase do you consider The perfect bee to be? Usually your series ends in the form of a photo book, will this also be the case?
(AT): The book is an instrument that fascinates me for many reasons. For example, the possibilities that it offers for organising materials and transposing the work to paper. The project is open to possible new developments so the book is an output still distant now. However, I would also like to experiment with other ways and opportunities that photography offers, such as exhibition design and curatorial practice.
(CB): Pellicola Magazine and Mucho Mas! selected your work to spark an encounter and a discussion on transformation, not only of the image but also related to its extension into space. What are your expectations related to the encounter?
(AT): I am always thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss with artists and curators who work daily in the world of photography and visual arts, because I am convinced that a good project is not only the result of the work of a single person, but that it is enriched through constructive dialogue. I think that confrontation is a fundamental part of project practice itself.