Interview by Claudia Bigongiari
All images © Leonardo Taddei
Leonardo Taddei is an Italian photographer born in 1995 in Tuscany. He started as a self taught and then studied photography at the LABA academy in Florence where he now lives and works. With a special bond to nature and its shapes he explores the relationship between the inner and intimate world and the outside and uncontrolled. That makes the photographer feel the weight of a competition between humans and their limits. This bird had flown is his last project where he tells about this in between condition and builds a space where Leonardo gets lost but also finds a new way.
The final form of This bird had flown will be a photo book, thanks to the new Italian project of crowdfunding Selfself book.
Hi Leonardo and a warm welcome from Pellicola!
Hello! Thanks for this opportunity.
Freelance photographer from Tuscany, tell us about your relationship with images, when and how did it start?
I think it is interesting to start with an anecdote from when I was a child that I never had the opportunity to tell. The first camera I saw in my life was a compact one from my parents, it was a Pentax, fully automatic. A cheap point and shoot that for many years was the only camera I interfaced with. I was not allowed to use this camera, mostly my mother or father kept it, and it was up to them to shoot. The reason was that the film, development, and printing were seen by them as an expensive process and each image, however devoid of any artistic ambition, was precious. I think it’s a value that stuck in my head when years later I started taking my pictures.
Your research explores photography in all its facets, with a special attachment to Nature. Where do you feel more comfortable? And what represents a challenge for you?
I am very attached to nature, I see it as a place to return to when it is necessary to detox from myself. In cities, I often think that what happens to me is at the center of the world, that my problems or what moves me are important. Returning to nature, on the other hand, makes me understand that I am small and part of a whole larger than I can conceive. This reassures me. Simply lying on a meadow in silence and watching the sky or walk on the crest of the mountains is cathartic. However, the place where I feel at ease is not always the ideal place to produce, as my life is not only made up of uncontaminated nature but also of relationships and anthropized places. If I had to choose the ideal place where these two needs meet and I feel at home, it is the periphery: the line that delimits the city from the outside world. I like to imagine myself as a border creature straddling these two worlds.
Focusing on your series This bird had flown, comfort is not the sensation behind it, but more a sense of bewilderment into a non-defined dimension, the reflection of a self-lost into the labyrinth of life. When you started the project, what were your feelings and expectations?
In this case, the idea was born a year before starting the project. It was born from the idea of being lost in a labyrinth where no exit can be found. The images I took in that period were heavy, static, I continued to look at them and look at them again, trying, without success, a way out, represented by the completion of the project. While researching about the labyrinth, I came across a poem by Goethe. He said that no man should try himself with gods, because if he gets up and touches the stars with his head, nowhere do the uncertain plants rest, and he is prey to clouds and winds. He was exciting, I felt perfectly described what I was feeling. I realised that I had to let go of the moorings and let myself be carried away by the wind. Remove all unnecessary weight. This was my initial intent, this is why I have removed the colors. Then I have chosen a simple and cheap camera and re-started taking picture from zero.
There are a lot of references inside the series, for example, the title comes from the Beatles song, Norwegian wood, and it translates a situation where someone has gone. Probably your self as a photographer, someone or something else? Do you think this feeling was increased by the historical period of crisis we were/are still living in?
The finished project (as a book) speaks of an unrequited love story seen from two points of view: a man and a woman. They represent two different parts of me that struggle to accept each other, one more rational and one more instinctive. The complex situation we are experiencing has certainly amplified the sensations I felt, also leading to an increase in the need to produce material that represented that moment.
Visually, where did you draw your inspiration? Is there a specific reason why you chose black and white?
The strongest visual inspiration for the project was given to me by Miyazaki’s films. In his films, there are always wind, clouds, and flying vehicles that give his films a note of lightness. I wanted it to be present in my work too. Other sources of inspiration were Borges, Murakami, Truffaut, Chagal, Majakowski, and others. I like to draw mainly from cinema and literature.
As I said before, the reason I chose black and white is that I wanted to lighten from the burdens that I thought were superfluous. Black and white brought me back to the essentiality of the sign, free from the shape of color.
I like the idea of rehabilitation you talked about, and the fact that in your case you represent both the ‘cure’ and the ‘patient’. Did you follow some sort of dosage, or routine to take pictures? Or everything came more casually?
I believe that the appropriate definition is “controlled chaos”. In fact, even if I cannot create a precise routine, I recognise that only with constancy, I can obtain some result. So it’s important to work on it every day, even with zero results. Every day reading, watching movies, being inspired by other photographers, and shooting is important to me to continue to achieve results.
You seem to explore objects through the shadows they create, usually capturing them at the maximum point where their shape is extended (I’m thinking about the post-its on the wall, the domino’s piece, the pair of shoes on the street), as if they stretched to the non-dimension of loss, to the labyrinth. Do you see that too?
Yes absolutely, at first I didn’t do it voluntarily. Extending and decontextualizing the subjects allows me to create many significant bricks which I can construct a discourse with. The fact that they are contextless, suspended in a non-dimension makes them symbolic elements. Then the order, the couplings, and the sequence are done with these symbols to create meaning. Once the images are made, they become like playing cards, which you can exploit and use at the right moment in the realisation of the sequence.
This bird had flown is going to become a photo book thanks to the Selfself project of crowdfunding. Since you developed your images, were you sure the end of the project was a book? What was important for this book to have?
Since I started working on the project, I intended to make a book about it.
A book is an object that everyone can have, and it allows you to create a very close and intimate relationship between the reader and the work. You can see it when you want and as often as you want. It’s like a portable exhibit. I have to thank Selfselfbook for this great opportunity.
What I would like the book to have is the ability to immerse those who will see the book in another dimension. I would like the book to have the ability to distance the user from the rest of the world, to let him leave certainties and get lost in the maze of images. I would also like it to be a warm hug to those who feel or have felt lost at least once in their life.
If this is the project through that you reconnected with photography, what’s up next? Is there something new you want to explore?
I am working on a new project, always in black and white. This is what I can say for now. I am still in the research phase which makes it difficult for me to add more details.
Thank you so much for your time with us Leonardo! We hope you enjoyed it!
Thanks to you! it was a pleasure.