Journey in Italy. Interview with Gianni Maffi

When did your passion for photography start?

«I had this passion since I was a teenager, then it continued with technical studies, mainly concerned with the design of optical instruments. With regard to these aspects, I attended the Galileo Galilei Institute courses of photography in Milan, and then this passion for photography became a profession».
 
Can you tell us something more about the Alidem’s works?

«Alidem photographs belongs to two different series: Italian Memories is still being finalized, whereas Elaion it is finished and it is a black-and-white work. Besides being my most recent work, Italian Memories has the aim to be a sort of new Journey in Italy, two hundred years after the book by Johann Goethe, and also a continuation, some thirty years later, of the Italian Journey organized by Luigi Ghirri with that group of great photographers who initiated the popular Italian Landscape School. In this series I portray monuments and well-known Italian scenarios, using a very personal technique and distributing the colour in a special way».
 
Is it the case that your techniquehas some conceptual references?

«Yes, the conceptual reference under pinning my works can be seen in my toned down colours. This allows me to express my own vision of Italy at this historical moment. In each shot, infact, I try to emphasise the beauty of our cultural heritage and environment, but at the same time I shade the subjects with a greyness that veils their splendour».
 
So what would be the significance ofthis greyness?

«The grey veil is obtained through a glazing technique. It envelops the subjects, is nothing but the symbol of the period of crisis of values that we are going through at the moment, and a remainder of the wide spread lack of interest in the extraordinary historic, artistic and environmental heritage we have. Often, we do not seem able to appreciate areas that, no doubts, could be considered among the most important in the world».
 
Let's talk about other Alidem’s photos.

«As I said before, the other series is called Elaion, a term derived from classical Greek that means “olivetree”. This is a project I have been working on for a couple of years. I photographed olive trees growing in areas of particular historic and archaeological interest: for instance, some photos were shot in the Valley ofthe Temples in Agrigento, others in Pont du Gard in France (in the vicinity of the Roman aqueduct), and still others at Villa Adriana in Tivoli».
 
Therefore, what were you aiming atin this case?

«In this way, I wanted to investigate the theme of cultural memory within the Mediterranean civilization: the olive tree can be consider its symbol. The complex shapes of these treescan be compared to the struggles of society in pursuing a peaceful and respectful way of life. This is particularly true in this moment, when we can see dramatic fights and blood sheds going on right at out doorstep».

In your photos, the subjects seemalmost to float in the air ...

«It is true, many art critics have found this feature. The feeling of suspension arisen from my images reflects the poetic attitude that I have when I take my photos. When I take a photograph, I am interested in both documenting the reality and interpreting it according to a personal and precise poetic. This feeling of suspension is simply the result of my original way to shoot».
 
Ultimately, it seems that you createstories that don’t already have an end…

«Exactly. Specifically, I reck on that photography has a very specific task: the one to maintain the historical memory of the territory so that we can keep records of changes over time. Forme, photography is a language, a means of expression that differs from all the others because it is directly related to reality».
 
Future projects?

«Right now I am working on a projecton the agricultural district between Milan and Pavia, which will be soon displayed in a newly opened museum dedicated to this kind of themes. In addition, I have been working on another project about the alpine landscape. The title of the series is Sguardo Verticale (Vertical Gaze). It is a series of photos taken from a vertical position, and will cover some mountains in the Alps».