Interview by Michela Coslovich
All Images © Giulia Vanelli
Giulia Vanelli (b. 1996) is a photographer based in Tuscany, Italy. She spent a period of schooling at Stephen F. Austin University, Texas and in 2019, she received a BA in Photography from the Free Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy, where she also taught. In 2020, she was selected for an artistic residency at Fabrica, the Benetton Group’s experimental communication center. Her artistic research always starts from personal experiences and in her work she blends documentary narratives with intimate approaches.
Michela Coslovich (MC): Hello Giulia and welcome to Pellicola Magazine. Can you tell us about your artistic journey and how you approached the photographic medium?
Giulia Vanelli (GV): Hi Michela, thank you. I was attracted to the photographic medium when I was very young. During family trips I started taking my first photographs. I didn’t want to limit myself to photographing my parents in front of a monument or a landscape, but I wanted to fix everything that caught my attention. Film, developing and printing had high costs so I was somewhat held back by my parents. At the age of eleven I received my first digital camera as a gift, so I started taking all the pictures I could see. Once I finished high school, I already had a clear idea of what to do. I started studying Photography at the Free Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, where I graduated in 2019 and where I later taught for four years.
(MC): What are the main themes you prefer to address within your personal projects?
(GV): So far in my projects I have explored themes such as identity and personal growth but also memory and ties in relation to the territory. Other themes that I find interesting are those of travel, time and dreams, which somehow tie in with the others already mentioned. These are broad topics with endless possible interpretations and I would like to continue to investigate them in the future.
(MC): Hidden behind an autobiographical derivation, very often your projects are an objective and detached mirror of common realities. In this sense, how does your artistic research develop?
(GV): My artistic research always starts from personal experiences. Through an evocative and never documentary language, however, I try to translate them into universal dynamics. Almost always the images are rich in symbols that serve as a causal link between visible and invisible things, between the known and the unknown. Inside the suspended spaces and situations of the photographs lives the possibility of a new perspective. I like it when people can ask questions or recognize themselves in my experience through an interpretation of my visual narrative.
(MC): Can you tell us more about the matrix of your project “The Ugly Duckling”?
(GV): “The Ugly Duckling” explores the difficult process of stepping out of one’s comfort zone. The title refers to the fairy tale of the ugly duckling from which the syndrome of the same name is derived. It is a mental mechanism that conditions self-perception and leads to feeling inadequate to one’s own or others’ expectations and consequently standing still when it is time to put oneself out there. I believe the project is the result of the need to visualize and analyze this human condition in an objective and detached way, to become a spectator of my own experience and thus become aware of it. The project came about spontaneously. I had a collection of images taken at different times and places as a stream of consciousness. During the editing phase I realized that there was a connection between most of them and began to make them dialogue.
(MC): Do you think photography should be a useful medium for personal development?
(GV): If we understand exercise as the repetition of a series of acts for the purpose of developing or enhancing some faculty or skill, I would say that is not a definition in which I find myself. Rather, I would say that I understand photography as a method of inquiry, as a language and as a natural extension of the eyes where personal development is not the end but a consequence, a side effect.
(MC): What are your major sources of inspiration, photographic and otherwise?
(GV): My greatest source of inspiration is experience in its etymological meaning, that is, direct knowledge, personally acquired through observation, use or practice of a certain sphere of reality. I do not often stop to think about what artistic and photographic references inspire my work, but I am sure there are many unconscious ones. These include the metaphysics and paintings of Giorgio De Chirico, with whom I share the intent to investigate the complex relationships between things, capturing the most enigmatic and hidden aspects of reality. In Photography, the imagery of Luigi Ghirri has undoubtedly contributed to broadening my gaze. The study of forms, minimalism, pure and simple landscapes composed of few elements are a fundamental part of my research.
(MC): Do you have any future project ideas that you would like to share with us?
(GV): For the past few years, I have been working on my project “The Season” whose photographs are set in a small seaside town where I spent all the summers of my life. The near future involves the publication of this work, which came into being in the form of a book, in collaboration with a publisher I hold in high esteem, but for superstition’s sake I won’t make spoilers.
(MC): Thank you Giulia for sharing your thoughts with us.
(GV): Thank you!