Portraits - Interview with Alessandro Pellican

How and when did you take up photography?

«I discovered photography in the Seventies, when I was around eighteen year-old. At that time, I did not know what “taking a photograph” really meant, even though I soon found out that photography was the most immediate way to represent reality. I see our world as a sort of “accidental” theatre. I have always worked on my own. I started with landscape photography and then I turned to photographing historical artifacts (I have a degree in Medieval History). I have never used professional models, and I have never joined a photography club. I decided to ignore any pre-existing professional or conceptual framework. In later years, I got into portrait photography and therefore I went through a long period of study. At the beginning, I just tried to capture ordinary dailylife scenes; then, I spent two years photographing statues in order to improve my technique. At the same time, I learnt how to manage artificial lighting, but I eventually decided to dismiss it in favour of a basic flash light (which is the flash integrated in the camera). I must have consumed hundreds of rolls…»

Do you still work with an analogue camera?

«No. On the contrary, I really appreciated the shift from analogue to digital photography. I have always being a very impatient person, I never liked waiting for a photo to be printed out. I also worked with a Polaroid camera in the past, but the results were not satisfactory. Right now I only work with digital cameras, although I prefer not to use heavy photo editing techniques».

Can you speak about the photographs selected by Alidem?

«They are all part of the series Ritratti (Portraits). The challenge of L’inverosimile Pamela (The Unbelievable Pamela) was to achieve a good balance between the strong chiaroscuro and the warm presence of the human body - otherwise it would have just been a cold graphic performance. The whole composition is centred on the girl and her eye gaze. Dejan is my prototype, an anachronistic classical canon that follows a body of formal rules. Even though the quotation is humorous, the focus remains on the pain and the sorrow conveyed by the subject. On the contrary, Franco - the subject of Franco il Vincente (Franco the Winner) - embodies the idea of victory; he is waiting to disclose a memory that is not his own. L’implicito Alberto (The Implicit Albert) forced himself to take up a typical military posture - “at attention”. I made him look like a soldier-anarchist, static, funny and resolute at the same time. Bianca Maria shows a woman, vaguely Flemish, who seems not to be interested in establishing an eye contact with the viewer».

Così è l’intensità. Il passare del tempo e il male che fa (Such is intensity. Time passing by and how this hurts). Quite an unusual title…

«Yes, the title is bewildering. It is not meant to be descriptive, but to stress the surreal atmosphere of the photograph. It is more like a rebus puzzle».

What do you seek to capture in your portraits?

«In all my subjects I try to highlight a tone of seriousness, which is also the greatest obstacle one has to overcome when getting to know the human mind. I do not look for the truth, I rather focus on how human faces always express great intensity, no matter what they are doing: either lying or joking or pursuing a blissful inspiration. However, all those faces also tell something of me, as each of them reflects a shade of my personality».

What is your technique?

«I work with various cameras - all the latest models are similar to each other - but I always choose lens that really suit macro photography. Coming to lighting, I often disregard traditional light sources. I prefer to get the right atmosphere from the very beginning of a shooting. For me, a standard flash light on a dark background is already enough to highlight a perfect shade on a face».

Do you have any future plan?

«This year I will be exhibiting in a very special venue in Trieste, but I cannot reveal more details for now. In general, I will carry on my work on portrait photography and my artistic research».