The Photographic Dizziness by Mark Cooper
When and where did you take up photography for the first time?
«I was born inthe Lake District, in England, close to the Scottish borders: it is a wonderful place. When I was nine year-old my grandmother gave me my first camera and from that very moment I was so captured by the idea of being able to “freeze” some life moments that I never stopped».
When you were 16 year-old you made your first photo reportages, right?
«Yes, my firstwork was to realise a black and white reportage to present to some magazine as a freelance. This first experience allowed me to visit different areas of the world, such as the Middle East and Northern Africa. Actually, I have done many different jobs in my life, including the delivery guy, but after ten motorcycle accidents due to my reckless driving, I thought it appropriate to find another job».
But not before a short holiday in Italy…
«In 1993 I decided to visit a friend in Italy. I had a return ticket, but I never used it because on the last day I met Anna Maria, who is now my partner, in a local barin Cassinasco. It was love at first sight, and for her I decided to move to Montechiaro d’Aqui, in Piedmont, where I still live and work with her. At the very beginning it was not easy because let alone the fact I could not speak Italian at all, I did not have any interesting work perspectives».
However, you did not lose heart…
«Absolutely not! Thank god, I have been always able to find a way in life. Soon enough I gained interest in aerial photography, and not much later I met my first client. He was a builder in the area who wished to capture the results of his 40 years of activity. So I hired a helicopter and it all began».
This was the way Earthscapes was born, right?
«I have been flying for 15 years above the area where I live, trying to capture the very essence of the landscape from my elevate and direct-downposition. I held various exhibitions around the world, but also several photobooks or photo shots for banks or government agencies. The Earthscapes project embodies my desire to share my passion for geometrical shapes rather than just the landscape. These shapes really seem to have been created by unknown artists rather than by farmers. Therefore, the photos that fall into this series also have a strong visual claim».
How did you manage to take your photos while flying?
«Even though I experimented many different means for flying, the two-seater helicopter with nodoors was the best choice for my work. Strapped in, I would ask the pilot to take off and in just an instant I would face the empty space. It may be weird, but in order to feel comfortable I always need to find myself in a dangerous situation, when I can feel the adrenaline flowing in my veins and the cold wind hitting on my face».
But, if I am not wrong, you moved to safer environments…
«Actually, it was not really a choice: I was forced to take this decision because of an increasing financial issue. The costs for aerial photography are very high and the buyers fewer and fewer. So I decided to stay on the ground and to explore the landscape from within. From macro to micro».
With Elements of the Next Dimension your attention has in fact shifted from the countryside to the city...
«Elements of the Next Dimension was born from a single aim: to get back to my childhood, when I used to play with the colourful shapes of the kaleidoscope. Milan, due to its continuous visual stimuli, was for me the opportunity to feel the same emotions that I felt as a child as I looked through that simple cardboard tube. It is very clear that the rigor of the countryside could not have conveyed the same feelings; “city”, on the other hand, means exploring unknown horizons. For Atom Heart I aimed my camera at ordinary objects that surrounded me so to give them a new life, a new meaning».
What about Urban Jungle?
«Urban Jungle is an evolution of the previous series, in which I tried to focus mainly on the walls full of graffiti, signs and inscriptions which - in my opinion - have a huge communicative power. Both in Urban Jungle in Elements of the Next Dimension I merged many images - sometimes almost thirty - letting them emerge randomly. My works want to ask questions and encourage the viewer to reflect on the meaning of the work itself».
Is there a common thread in your photographic production?
«Common element to all my works is the desire to start a journey in that fabulous story that is life. The loss of my parents at a very young age has led me to develop a very shy nature, because of which I have always had a tendency to hide behind the camera. Therefore, I need my camera to express my feelings. My shots are nothing more than the story of my journey in this long existence. Approaching photography - and here I go back to your first question – for me coincided with a need, an urgency to communicate something that I could not express with my voice. It is no coincidence that I am entirely self-taught».