Stefano de Luigi Interview04/04/2012
Stefano De Luigi is a documentary photographer based in Milan, Italy. He is a regular contributor to magazines like Stern, Paris Match, Time, The New Yorker and EyeMazing. He is also a member of the VII Photo Agency that houses archives of some of the worlds finest photojournalists. The works of De Luigi investigate and capture the complexities of life through a series of projects that give the viewer an alternate perspective on global issues. He is probably best know for his long term projects like Pornoland (awarded the Marco Bastianelli Prize, 2005) and Blanco a project exploring blindness across the Globe, published by Trolley in 2010 and produced in conjunction with OMS Vision 2020 and the 2007 W.E Smith Fellowship. Here at Post New we were lucky enough to interview De Luigi and learn more about his life and work.
Jack Smylie: What is it about photography that drew you to it in the first place?
Stefano de Luigi: I’ve always been drawn by a sense of outcasting or marginality as a general condition of life, in that way I think I can feel at home anywhere just with my cameras. It is my language in this world, the bridge with others.
JS: Your photographs often document the human condition - something that is very hard to stage. Your lense, however, captures this very well. Does it come down to a matter of composition?
SDL: I don't think so, or at least it is not just a question of composing. Photography is a matter of "right moments". I know this because I’ve been dealing with photography for a long time.
I know for instance how to highlight some moments and how to associate the colours and the light more appropriately to generate an emotion or repulsion in the observer; but it still remains a question of what you are able to "see" or not. I mean the moment which has moved you to shoot is of course a question of subjectivity.
JS: What are the vital elements for you when composing a photograph?
SDL: Emotion is the first step, then comes a harmony that I feel which is not defined and last what I call an "open situation" that is not telling you all the story but has this power to evocate a situation leaving the choice of multiple interpretations.
JS: Your work investigates different worlds which are often unknown, unnoticed, or even ignored by mainstream society. Do you tend to research these worlds before you enter them, or do you go in blind, submerging yourself in the journey?
SDL: As I said in the beginning probably there is a strong empathy between these worlds and me. I feel as an outcast as some of these worlds are. Generally I don't make a lot of searching before, I prefer to discover along the walk. I am fascinated by these worlds so I think it has been easier for me to be accepted.
JS: The environment, and your subjects’ immediate surroundings play an important role in how your primary subjects are perceived. Sometimes the environment is the subject. Do you look for inspiration in your surroundings?
SDL: Yes the environment is important in those subjects which I want to talk a lot about, the ones at the centre of my research. You can understand a lot from a person just by observing his/her house. The surroundings play a dramatic role in the description of a determinate feeling sometimes. Order/disorder can talk about feeling as well.
But I think in the end in my picture the human is the real centre of my research, the surrounding environment will be used to better describe a feeling, an atmosphere of a human action.
JS: I always feel an awareness when looking at your photographs that a lot is happening outside of the frame, beyond what the viewer can actually see. Is this a deliberate mechanism you use? Are you aware of it at the time?
SDL: Definitely yes, I think it is easy to get some truth but truth has many angles, real life is a long greyscale. I prefer to use doubts to go forward, I prefer questions to answers. So in that case I believe all my work (the most important projects I have done) are shaped around appearances that are not exactly the reality.
Cinema, television, fashion and pornography work on a second level of perception because you don't know if what you are watching is all there is to be seen or if there is more outside the frame.
JS: What influences or inspires you outside of photography?
SDL: I was greatly inspired by surrealist painters, cinema and literature.
JS: What are your goals for 2012? Do you have any upcoming projects?
SDL: I am working on a project linked to ancient literature and modern technologies.
// Stefano is speaking at Semi-Permanent, taking place in Auckland on May 18-19. www.semipermanent.co.nz