Interview by Claudia Bigongiari
All images © Iacopo Pasqui
Approaching the launch of his photo book N expected in October 2021 (Now available at Witty Books), we had the pleasure of interviewing Iacopo Pasqui.
Class 1984, from the province of Tuscany, he’s a fine art and documentary photographer. His age and traditional places are element of influence into his research that goes from the personal to the existential. From the relationship between human and nature to the relationship between human and society, and all its related contradictions. The ordinary, people and places are presented within the same suspended and timeless aesthetic.
Iacopo Pasqui already won different prizes, the series N we are discussing here has been featured into many important magazines (Yet Magazine, Phase Magazine, Photoroom) and won the Giovane Fotografia Italiana #7 at Fotografia Europea (Reggio Emilia) in 2018. Now it’s ready to be presented in the form of a photo book which has been curated by the publishing house Witty Books.
Claudia Bigongiari (CB): Hi Iacopo we’re glad to welcome you to Pellicola!
Iacopo Pasqui (IP): Ciao!
(CB): Would you like to share with us one of your first memories related to photography? What made you understand you would be particularly affected by it?
(IP): Hi Claudia, my memory is starting to fail, the earliest thing I remember is an old toy camera, a tourist gadget to be exact. I remember when I used to go to the lake with my parents for holidays and there were small emporiums selling plenty of these coloured plastic cameras. It was a very popular toy in the 80s, but it got a bit lost over time. I found it again in some places I visited recently. It is impossible to forget the wonder of looking through the viewfinder and seeing beautiful photographs of landscapes, monuments and unspoilt nature. It was a magical world for me, coming from the provinces. Looking through that trinket I could go in Rome, at the lake, in the Dolomites or in the Valley of the Temples. They were extraordinary souvenirs, from the contact with which, probably, my unconscious began to draw the road of images. I dream of making an exhibition of them. Replicating these objects with inside photographs of a specific work.
(CB): Your images narrate stories where the relationship man-nature is always one of the protagonists. But also elements from daily routines, small details of what seem randomly found objects. On what your visual research concentrates the most?
(IP): Among the motivations behind my work there is the constant search for the poetics of things and places, investigating the relationship between me, us, and the world around us, perhaps to try to understand it better, to understand humanity and reality better, which are too often impenetrable mysteries.
By ‘things’ I also mean people, gestures, objects, places and non-places, atmospheres, memories, perceptions. And man, today, forges endless links and relationships with people, real or virtual, with places and objects, so that everything is part of us, of life.
We live in an exquisitely materialistic society that tends to dematerialise us, and despite this we continue to buy objects of all kinds; perhaps this is a way of anchoring ourselves to something tangible and of avoiding to feel dematerialised. A kind of resistance.
Anyway, life is hidden in everyday objects, often seemingly insignificant but without which we could not live, or rather, we would live worse. A worn-out bar of soap, for example, is a special object for me, every day it washes away a part of my body, consumes it, takes away layers, somehow takes away life. Every day it removes the smells of a place I have been to or a scene I have experienced. It purifies us, prepares us for future experiences. I look at the soap bar, day after day, and as I watch it wear away, almost at the peak of its fragile and liquid life, it makes me think of the petal of a flower or a small boat ready to leave. It’s just an example, but then I photographed it for real.
(CB): Regarding the series N (2018-2020), it is a critical documentation of dynamics between the Italian province where the same standardised behaviours are always repeated, and its 30 years old inhabitants. Places of the suburbs that seem frozen as if they came from old movies scenes. When did you decide to produce this series, have you been inspired by something in particular?
(IP): This work was born in a moment of great boredom and creative crisis, a bit like what I’m experiencing right now (creative crisis). As a lover of old films I started feeling the more and more need to move towards video, a more complex and complete media, so I spent the 2018 summer going around my city to shoot short videos. I wanted to tell the story of the boredom I was feeling through the time dilation of static, fixed, motionless scenes where nothing happens but I feel a sense of stillness and peace. There was something in that coloured surface of the video camera monitor, a sort of patina of beauty that covered my life in those moments of boredom and mental apathy. I didn’t know it but I was actually starting perhaps my most biographical work. N is in fact composed of colour videos and black and white photographs. The Italian province, which I consider a magical place, doesn’t look so different from the cities and atmospheres I see in certain films by Antonioni or Fellini. The black and white is used to recall dated scenes, almost frozen in time, as you said, but also to show, as if they were X-rays, what is not possible to see from the videos, revealing, in fact, what is hidden behind that surface.
(CB): Also the precarious pose of certain subjects (the card’s pyramid, the handstand kid) contributes creating this atmosphere of suspended time. Which is your relationship with time?
(IP):Yes, it’s true. I have a terrible relationship with time; it harasses me, it oppresses me, it follows me, even it envies me, I do not have a quite relation with time and for this very reason, perhaps, I have always felt that photography belongs to me. In photography, time has no interest to me; on the contrary, it is precisely where the time of an infinite present manifests itself, and it will last for the duration of a negative or digital file.
For the desire to photographically create a sort of parallel reality in which time doesn’t matter, I seek that suspension.
Time is unfair and I would like many things to last forever. And then beauty is timeless and time, in my work, is only a unit of measurement in the evaluation of the exposure ratio.
There are photographs that have very long exposure times, even 15/30 minutes, but you don’t perceive that long time duration when you see the final result, or rather, you can perceive it but you don’t realise how much actual time is enclosed in that frame; how would you define that time? How important, in real, philosophical and conceptual terms, is the whole duration of the photographed scene?
(CB): N comes from the personal unease of living in a place full of contradictions where people want to escape from but also remain stuck with their ‘pre established logics’. Sometimes, declaring your age people expect certain results from you, to reach the standards, the ‘normality’. Thirties represent a sort of deadline to choose what kind of life lives. Did you ever fall into these logics too?
(IP): Of course I’ve fallen into it too, and with all my shoes. I’ve lived thirty years with this nagging. N was born exactly from this, from having to deal with something you can no longer manage and control: the relationship with the place you live, and also the relationship you have with yourself, with what you are and what you love to do. In the end, to quote Antonioni again, the discomfort comes from the impossibility to communicate, an incommunicability between those who have a certain ambition and try to break out of the mould and places they are related to and people who live there. There comes a time when you feel that things have to change and take a different turn. Realising that and reacting was and still is, not easy at all. I have tried to go along with the famous ‘existential’ compromise, but with some reservations.
(CB): We were talking about the black and white images alternated with the short colour videos where again time seems endless, the camera is never approaching too close but remaining on the first appearance, on the surface of beauty. What is beauty for you today? Something that stays only on the surface?
(IP): Beauty is something magical and basically gives meaning to things. It has to be discovered, sought after, it only manifests itself when a series of aspects of our being are in harmony all together. Discovering beauty is an epiphany, and in my opinion, when it happens, a good photograph is born. We often make the mistake of believing that beauty can only be found on the surface, but most of the time it lies in what we cannot see and what we would not define as ‘beautiful’ at the first glance. Beauty can’t always be generalised, the real challenge is to find and discover it in everything that we would never associate with this adjective, at least from its surface. Often one image is not beautiful itself, but the series of photographs are “beautiful”, and together they help us understand and see beauty where distracted eyes would not notice it. I use this adjective but I find it extremely abused and sometimes misused, but in this case it gives a good idea of what I have in mind, it is a word that can contain many meanings and is often used to summarise something that perhaps we cannot express with other words. In the N series there is discomfort but also a lot of beauty, it is the province, it is life, it is us. And videos are nothing but the deceptive hope of capturing beauty from the surface.
CB: The series extends through different media, videos, images and now it will become a book published by Witty. How do you relate them together? Do you consider the book the end of your research?
(IP): Unfortunately, for technical reasons, the videos will not end up in the book. Representing them by printing just a few frames would not fulfil their raison d’être. They are important but they work better in an exhibition with an appropriate installation that alternates images and videos – for example, as it was done in Reggio Emilia. In three of my last four projects, including N, I have included the video element, which I consider as fundamental as the photographs. The need is the one I explained before, answering the first question. They are used differently in each of the three works, in N they are made in a certain way and have their own value to fulfil a precise function, in A and in Der Engel, they have a completely different conception and meaning.
(CB): Finally which is your ideal photo book? And what N couldn’t miss?
(IP): A book into which I could put the videos, but perhaps it would no longer be a book, so there is no such thing as an ideal book. Each book has its own history, its own path and motivations. It is the result of shared visions and its own needs.
(CB): Thank you so much Iacopo! It’s been a pleasure talking with you.