Q: Hello Marco. First of all, let me welcome you to Pellicola!
Visiting your personal web site, I can see you are keen on discovery and new experiences that lead you to travel the world. Do you plan your journey with the intention of exploring the territory without considering any geographical or political limits? Or are you rather looking for specific situations that bring you to certain countries, more than others?
I always try to combine business with pleasure. In their embryonic stage my projects start with an external stimulus: an article I have read, a documentary I have seen. So I form a central idea of what strikes me most, consult books and do research. My pleasure trips are mainly to see interesting places; they can attract me both as a tourist and as a photographer.
Q: Do you believe that photography is the most suitable medium for documenting your investigation?
At the moment photography is the way in which I express myself best. I would like to add some video elements or field recordings to the work I exhibit, but these are paths that I haven’t yet explored.
Q: At a very young age you moved from Italy to England and settled in London. Living far from your place of birth, did you find a more fertile and challenging ground for your skills in your country of adoption? And did you discover your passion for photography before or after moving?
I moved to London more or less 12 years after finishing my university studies. For a long time I had had a continuing interest in photography, but only marginally. Then, one day, I bought a digital camera from a friend, and this was a new departure. I became gradually more and more passionate, discovering and appreciating the potential of professional equipment.
Q: All your projects focus on foreign lands and worlds that are quite distant from each other. If you were to present these works together in an exhibition, would you find a common theme that informs them?
Yes. My main interest is to present a place through its basic humanity. I have a preference for a compositional style and, using my cumbersome medium format camera, I often use architectural views as backgrounds, while portraying the inhabitants of the place.
Q: Concerning Land of Plenty, how many times did you travel to Qatar to assemble the illustrative material? Your photo shoots express the idea of a continuous metamorphosis in a timeless space. The avant-garde organization of the urban geography showing us a marked distance between the setting and a much more cautious and resistant evolution of the population’s approach to modernity. I think the image of the crack in the wall is a good example of this. What personal feelings do you want to capture in your photographs?
Land of Plenty developed organically as the result of a series of business trips to Qatar. I went there five times in one year, documenting only the last three. Before taking photographs I needed to talk to the locals to get a more precise profile of the place. As regards the crack in the wall, you are spot on. I took the photo without really noticing it; but later, when selecting the shots for the project, the damaged wall revealed a deeper meaning of contradiction.
Can you say something about The Zone? Your photographic repertoire speaks of an incredible sense of suspension, in which the architecture really stands out. The abandoned buildings look like monuments in a cemetery in a no man’s land. While getting ready for your trip to Chernobyl, what story did you have in mind?
I did not expect much from Chernobyl; the place is, of course, exceptional! I was worried about being in a tourist playground, and that is why I chose to go there on the 31st December. I am still considering to add The Zone to The Granary project, because this second trip to the Ukraine, a year and a half later, provided a wider vision, and saves it from the “disaster porn” genre…
Q: Marco, one last question. What artists are as sources of inspiration to you, also coming from other artistic fields?
I draw a lot from social documentaries and investigative journalism. For example, “The Act of Killing” by Joshua Oppenheimer is one of the most impressive documentaries I have ever seen. The cineaste creates a strong feeling of unease: war criminals are filmed reperforming the crimes they have never been condemned for.
Another inspiration is “An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus” by Rob Hornstra. It is an interesting photo book that collects years of travels in the Caucasus made by the photographer and a writer.
I must also mention Richard Mosse with his project based on the Congo. He works with infrared film that completely transforms the settings, creating abstract landscapes and giving another meaning to the fighters’ portraits.
Thank you very much Marco. We hope you enjoyed sharing your experience with us and our readers!
Interview by Costanza Francesconi
Images © Marco Barbieri