Ian Dewei, aka Ian Mo, is a colleague of mine and a friend I met in 2019 in that beautiful adventure in China, in Shenzhen. He is a very good photographer and has recently made a book where he portrays glimpses of the city where I live, Milan.
Precisely for this last volume, he asked me for a small introduction, where to express “your concept of photography, your way of seeing and understanding it”. A super question. Let’s face the challenge and respond.
My relationship with photography is growing exponentially. All the passions are obviously in the making, but among all the photography has slowly crept in, without being really aware of it if not recently. Like everyone, from an early age I was photographed, I was overwhelmed by the images and used cameras without any problems. But at a certain point something changed, or rather when behind such an automatic gesture, reflections and intentions gradually went alongside.
photography and cinema
If we remove the obvious need to document and share, and instead consider photography from an artistic point of view, my first relationship with it in this sense was born through cinema. I have loved watching films for as long as I can remember, and some films have enchanted me, glued to the screen. More and more I realized that it was photography that influenced me a lot, that single frames could excite or amaze me, kidnap me in a few seconds. For some years I started collecting screenshots, admiring them, exhuming them from the computer folders where I had saved them. Their compositions were perfect, harmonious, I could have watched them for hours.
photography & representation
The second approach to photography was much more difficult, as it required my active participation and no longer a spectator role. In fact, at the Faculty of Architecture where I graduated in 2013, in addition to the production of drawings, models and reports, a key role was also constituted by images.
In workshops presentations, we were often called to exhibit our project or to critically describe existing places. It became necessary to collect a few selected shots, with which to tell the problems of a place with extreme synthesis and clarity; the merits of an idea; the essence of a landscape.
It was more difficult and different than I expected. I no longer had to pick up a camera at random, shoot in bursts: it was extremely unproductive and I could not communicate effectively. I needed to adopt a critical method, select what to say and how, think about it. It was a struggle, but I can say that my first rudiments of photography were born in those years, learning from my colleagues, tripping over my mistakes.
photography & travels
More or less in the same years that I started traveling more, and used photography as a tool for university studies, I combined business with pleasure. What I was learning, I also applied it to leisure travels.
While visiting cities I have never seen before, I tried to reserve a little more time for taking care of the shots, I made an effort to carefully portray a place, an architecture; I reduced the space dedicated to documentation “to remember” to try to feel what I was doing. And Milan was also part of these first experiments.
Upon returning, in the joy of sharing the shots with friends, I applied a second filter: I further selected from the number of photos taken, so that those who saw them could perceive what I liked, what I thought, what my point of view was.
It was starting to be fun. The compositional and aesthetic principles absorbed over the years (between the study of art, architecture and pure composition) came out suddenly: I applied them, I played with them, I liked to calibrate volumes and shapes that stood out inside of the shot. Without being aware of the success it had among the volumes of theory, I applied the law of 2/3 on several of my photos.
In short, it was like having found a missing link in my favorite passions and my interest increased more and more. Interest but also self-criticism: out of myriads of photos taken I was really satisfied with very few.
photography: technique & theory
To communicate my ideas to clients, my work requires the production of renderings, photorealistic images of projects not yet realized. It’s like taking photos of a virtual environment.
When, on the other hand, I follow a construction site and the work is finished, to document it you need good quality photos that can summarize the quality of the project.
For these reasons, in addition to aesthetic and compositional concepts, at a certain point I had to take the third step towards photography: take up guides and books and start studying.
Studying technical books on the adjustment of parameters such as exposure and shutter speed, following technical guides on the practical use of a camera, embracing theoretical books like the one by Luigi Ghirri of which I wrote some time ago and books on the history of photography.
Apparently a less enthusiastic approach, but which actually allowed me to understand exponentially more in less time, to improve the quality of my shots, as well as to further enrich myself as a person and as a professional. It was like taking photography to a whole other level.
The road is still long, there are still many photographers that I have yet to know, not to mention the technical abyss that still needs to be bridged, but I feel I am at the beginning of a really beautiful new path.
I believe that all this text of mine wants to express a commonly accepted concept, despite the fact that to express it I have resorted to a personal chronological report: photography is a universal language, which can be accessed from several doors. It is a technical and artistic means of expression at the same time, and can be used at very different levels. It can tell, report, entertain, communicate, improve, embellish, invite, select, document, grasp, invite, surprise, excite.
Each of us can build a completely personal relationship with it. Even admiring the work of others, it is an adventure worth starting.