The Poetry in the shots By Pino Ninfa
When did you get involved with photography?
«I have been always interested in arts, I like paintings, but since I have never been able to paint properly I thought it was a better idea to focus on photography. When I was a young man, I moved from Catania, my hometown, to Milan where I attended the Scuola Umanitaria. At that point I entered the world of photography engaging with good teachers and a stimulating environment that built my cultural background».
After that, where did your research move?
«My work gradually developed into the musical field to which I dedicated 15-20 years of my life, without neglecting –however - to operate also as a photo reporter. I can confidently say that music still represents my main domain of action; I dedicated to this area most of my effort and I hope I achieved good results».
What are you landmarks?
«Among those photographers I deeply admire there is Luigi Ghirri, especially for what concerns his research on landscape photography. But for me Ghirri does not merely mean landscape photography: he embodies a way of thinking, a way of being a photographer that I whole heartedly agree with. Another photographer who is for me a source of inspiration is Mario Giacomelli, who I consider to be a true artist, unbound by futile fashion trends but rather attached to poetry»
Shall we go back to music and comment on Alidem’s photos? For instance, what about Funk off?
«Funk off is a concert that takes place every year in Vicenza as part of the Jazz Festival. In this photo I wanted to find a language that was engaging for the spectators but at the same time I did not want to associate my style to easy labels nor to stereotypes. Often in this job the shots are taken to realise calendars or books, for this reason it is important to overcome the idea of the simple documentary photography. I am quite fond of this photograph, because I managed to find a particular way that helps the spectators to become part of the event, allowing them to join – as if by magic – the musical action of the musicians».
Still about music Festival: shall we talk about Ramsey Lewis, Umbria Jazz?
«It is series of photos I took to the well-known US pianist, who I really like. In this image I decided to focus my camera on his hands because, besides being quite lively, are extremely wrinkled and this conveys the idea of something experienced. Furthermore, those hands contrast with the piano and, even though they lay on the instrument, they have a very precise structure so that they are undoubtedly alive».
La Fenice is the beautiful theatre in Venice. When did you take this shot?
«In 2010, and by the way all Alidem’s photos are relatively recent. I think this shot is very interesting, especially for the relationship that it creates between the stage where the concert takes place and the concert itself: a presence/absence that leads us to a series of emotions and ideas. The naturalness of an empty stage, unadorned and dimly lit, establishes a relationship with the event, even though it is not taking place at the moment. And then there is the background and the audience that, thank to their movements and to their disposition, enhance the connection between presence/absence before the music starts to play».
Moving from theatre to theatre, we reach the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza.
«This photo could be easily defined as a “still life in theatre”: no human figures are present, only shadows, lights and musical instruments. It is only possible to imagine someone’s presence through the instruments that have been left there and that may be collected in due time: this comparison between “before” and “after” is one of the most fascinating themes for me. Long story short, I believe I managed to create a “waiting time”, an element that is very difficult to reproduce in photography where time is often imprisoned in one click».
«Well, even though it is true that they have been both shot in South Africa, they are in fact very different. Capo di Buonasperanza is a tribute to Mark Rothko’s paintings. It took me a long time to capture this shot, since I had to wait for the right bright light (it has not been obtained through photo editing). I am not interested in photo editing; I am not keen to manipulate the image so to add different stories from those I see with my eyes. It is a personal choice, and I do not want to argue any position on this matter, it depends on one’s point of view».
Where is Soweto exactly?
«Soweto is an urban area in Johannesburg city. It is the biggest township in South Africa and it played a key role in the fight against apartheid. This image is a tribute to Caravaggio, where I poetically explore the sadness of a man who shows that he does not want to surrender to the surrounding abysmal poverty. When I went to Johannesburg to realise this reportage in 2009, the nobility of these people, forced to live in hardship, particularly impressed me. Let us not think about the fact that in the much richer Europe, even though in crisis, it is very hard to find any nobility of character».
You often organise workshops, right?
«Sure. For instance I have just finished one in Bologna. Generally I try to teach how to observe and to understand what photography is, so to create a meaning to one’s work».
What are you working on at the moment?
«I will soon perform at the Festival of Vicenza and it will be linked to a project called Guerra e Pace (War and Peace) in which some Italian photographers have been involved. On display there will be some war reportage images taken in locations that have suffered atrocious conflicts - such as Palestine, Sudan and Ukraine - along with a number of historic photos of the First and Second World War. Meanwhile I will project some pages of very interesting books of the time. It is a multimedia project in collaboration with Jan Lundgren who is a great protagonist of the European jazz scene».