Q: Hi Chiara and welcome to Pellicola! Italian photographer based in Vancouver, Canada, your work explores raw and remote natural landscapes. Is the distance from your native country related to your photographic research? Do you ever think to come back in Italy one day photographing the Italian landscape?
Thank you so much! I guess you could say that yes, I am attracted to places that are the polar opposite of what Italy and Europe are all about. Especially towards the beginning of my photography journey I was craving a connection with pure wilderness and lack of human presence. I felt in a way like I needed to believe I was the only person exploring a long lost planet. That experience is extremely hard to recreate in Italy, where the landscapes tend to be over-built and avoiding people is an exercise of patience.
Having said that, there are locations in Italy where I’d like to shoot in the future, it would be quite a good challenge for me. We’ll see what happens.
Q: All your projects are focused on isolated spaces and specific time conditions where everything seems suspended inside a different dimension of reality, your personal dimension. Which is the best combination of time and space to influence your feelings?
The easiest way for me to convey my feelings is through isolation. I need space to create and lots of it. I need to feel the biggest contrast between what I am experiencing right in the moment and the usual, ordinary city life I used to lead. The less noise the better, whether is practical or visual noise.
Q: Photography has always suffered controversies about the representation of the truth. Do you believe this medium makes your pictures even more dreamy and unfamiliar? Using both analog and digital cameras, is there one you prefer or can you tell us what do you like about combining the two?
I feel that, photography in the context of art can take liberties that other types of photography, say, photojournalism cannot. It doesn’t have to be real or grounded in some sort of universal truth, as long as it speaks to the soul of the artist and provokes feelings in the viewer.
I started out as a digital photographer, I liked to be able to manipulate colours easily and the instant feedback I would get from my photos. Now I am gradually shifting to film because the colours are a bit better, creamier. It feels painterly without trying and I love that. Falling in love with the small imperfections of analog photography has become a welcome habit, one that I can’t live without.
Q: Considering now Moon Kingdom shot in the Bolivian and Chilean Altiplano, those places appear timeless and desolate but they also suggest a strong presence. Is it possible that as your feelings are influenced by the nature, landscapes are modified by your passage? How long did you spend there to realise the series?
My goal with Moon Kingdom was to illustrate the connection between wild and desolate nature and my psyche and feelings. There is a lot going through your head when you find yourself alone in such a majestic, surreal place and the aim in my art is to try to capture a little bit of that magic. In terms of practical signs of passage I try to apply no trace rules as much as possible, I would hate to leave my mark behind on such a pristine landscape.
I spent a month around the Chilean and Bolivian Altiplano to create the series and would say I could have easily spent a lifetime there as the connection with the land and the area was incredibly strong.
Q: Inside the uninhabited landscape of Moon Kingdom you insert some elements of human transit and religious rituals. I am thinking about the two ‘animita’ (little temples) with the names Yayo and Patricia. Tell us what caught your attention.
It felt as if traces of human presence were there briefly and slowly faded. I am intrigued by that, human presence that for once isn’t aggressive or trying to conquer the land, it’s more fleeting. I am not used to think of humans like that, guests on the land. But that’s what we are in a way so I guess that’s what attracted me to the animitas. They are gentle signs of our passing.
Q: Moon Kingdom has become the based series of your book Desert Portraits. How this idea came up and where did you draw inspiration to create it? How important is the realisation of a book today where everything is digitally visible?
I wasn’t planning to turn Moon Kingdom into a book from the start, only after, when my editor approached me about the possibility of creating a book based on one of my series, I thought about it.
Even if the series wasn’t created with a book in mind from the start, it was very suitable as I had so much material to chose from. Curating and editing the images, narrowing them down and making sure the message wasn’t diluted in any way has been a very interesting process.
Photography is a very manual job and it is beautiful to see that ultimately translate into something tangible. Flipping through pages of a photo book is an incredible experience, it brings you closer to the artist and their vision. Books are awesome and irreplaceable.
Here you can find the link to the book
Q: What is next? Can you give us any anticipations about your future projects?
I just released my latest body of work, She moves while earth sleeps. It’s an evolution of what I started with Moon Kingdom. I am still trying to capture my feelings related to nature, however this time I am also the subject, which was daunting at first and took a while to get used to.
This series is still open and I am planning to keep shooting material for it in the upcoming months.
Q: Thank you very much Chiara for sharing your time with us and our readers. Just a last question: what would you suggest to young photographers with the dream of living with their art? What motivated you the most when you started your career?
You are very welcome! This is something I constantly tell myself: if your dream keeps you alive, feeds you in moments of darkness and it’s quite literally the reason you breathe, you have to make room for it. Keep it alive and just keep shooting! Even if you are at loss and make zero money from it. Don’t try to turn it into a profession if that generates more anxiety than pleasure. I know it’s hard but don’t compromise on your art, for easy money, it might feel right at first but it will backfire.
Just enjoy it, become better at your craft and showcase your work, keep hustling. Opportunity will come knocking before you think.
Interview by Claudia Bigongiari
Images © Chiara Zonca