Dal lavoro "MiRelLa" - 01
Dal lavoro "MiRelLa" - 02
Dal lavoro "MiRelLa" - 03
Dal lavoro "MiRelLa" - 04
Dal lavoro "MiRelLa" - 05
Dal lavoro "MiRelLa" - 06
Photos from the work “MiRelLa”.
Fausto Podavini is a Roman photographer. In his hometown he is an extremely active member of the WSP collective. Upon completing technical college, he moves on to photography first and reportage later. His personal path has led him to take photographs of both his home-country and the four continents. “MiRelLa” is his latest work. Its profound intimacy and alertness have granted him plenty of clamor and international acknowledgement. We at Phom have interviewed him.
Let’s start off with “MiRelLa” - your latest work where you tell of the love story between a woman and her husband who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Could you describe the emotional impact and the difficulties (the technical ones, too) you had to face whilst working on this story?
First things first, thank you for this interview. I assume we are starting from the easiest matters then, eh!
As of now, "MiRelLa" is the most challenging photographic project I’ve ever embarked on. The challenge wasn’t limited to the emotional impact of the story. It reached the technical side of it, too. It wasn't easy working on a single project that took place inside one single flat for years.
“MiRelLa” is a project I have lived through quite personally, hence the overall emotional impact was undoubtedly extremely high.
Could you tell us about your relationship with narration? - ranging from how you build your stories to the primal importance of editing (as in the process of selecting images).
Whenever you embark on a mid-to-long term project it’s vital to reason in terms of narration. Having said that, I don’t think I am actually building stories. “To build something” sounds like an artificial activity to me! When it comes to stories, I try to live them through to the fullest by diving into them - I really try and grasp the most characterising emotions of what I am experiencing. My aim is to truly empathise with the people or the location I’m in contact with - to the maximum extent possible. It’s not merely a question of describing what I’m throwing myself into.
In order to pursue this, photographs alone won’t prove sufficient. They must be supported by a well-conducted editing that will leave an indelible footprint of what one intends to communicate. That is to say, editing does play a fundamental role in any given photographic project.
How essential is post-production in “MiRelLa”? How do you feel about this phase of the photographic project in general?
“MiRelLa” first received acknowledgement as it was still a work-in-progress, when no post-production had been applied to it yet. It features the same type of post-production I would have used shooting it on film and developing it in a darkroom (essentially, closed blacks and high contrast).
As for my relationship with post-production, it’s quite a peaceful one. I won’t let it effect me. Rather, it will always be me who commands it and keeps the ranks tight!
In some of your photographs figures are pushed towards the margins or put in “irregular” perspectives. In turn, this seems to suggest unexpected dynamics within the framing and ultimately in the very story you’re telling. Could you tell us something about that?
You said it all!
Honestly, I can’t provide a proper explanation. That’s just the way they turn out. It’s more about free spontaneity rather than rigid pre-determination. I love making compositions by utilising margins - although that does not always prove quite effective.
As for the rest, I will experiment as much as I can by researching alternative methods.
I think composition is one of the few tools a photographer has if he/she tries and go beyond what simply manifests before his/her eyes.
You feel very attached to a work you realised in the Roman environment, about the relationship between disabled people and sports. Could you tell us about it?
It was one of my first “serious” photographic project. I intended to narrate the somewhat hidden and untold reality of small associations for disabled youngsters. It was a difficult work, but such a rewarding and beautiful humane experience, too.
In “Ukli Bula” you photographed the ceremony of the Bull’s Jump performed by the Hamers, an Ethiopian community. What does it mean to photograph a ceremony based on cultural codes that are different to ours? What sort of retribution did you try to achieve from it?
When it comes to works like “Ukli Bula” you have to employ all the photographic experience you’ve gained. The Bull’s Jump ceremony lasts just a few hours and you must be able to foresee what will happen and which focal points you’ll have to capture - and you must be well-prepared in order to do this. You must have knowledge of what you’re going to witness and experience. You can’t afford being presumptuous towards a rite that is founded on different cultural codes. Hence you must restrain yourself and document the rite for what it is, and try to make its authentic atmosphere shine through. That’s exactly the goal: try to make the rite’s feel show through your photographs.
The problem with these rites is that tourism is inevitably killing them, given the serious thread posed by turning them into a freak-show for a circus. I experienced Ukli Bula twice in the course of two different years. Both times I asked my guide to attend an authentic, intimate ceremony with no tourists. Whilst that’s what happened the first time, I can’t honestly say the same as for the second time around. There were hordes of tourists lined up on imaginary theatre rows and they would live that experience through the lens of their smartphones and cameras.
We have been following your online fundraising for releasing a book out of this project. You raised €13,329 in a mere 37 days - thus surpassing your initial aim by approximately €1,600. Could you tell us about this incredible crowdfunding experience and how you resolved to it in the first place?
The crowd-funding for releasing the book was an incredible success! I wasn’t really expecting it. Let’s be frank: the idea of collecting €11,700 in approximately 37 days (with donations between €1 and €400) was a crazy one! It implied gathering an enormous crowd of people. However, it turned out an immense success and it brought along an incredible outcome: “MiRelLa” became everybody’s project.
What I felt most emotional about was being able to involve not only professionals from the world of photography, but common people who don’t follow this art, too - people who wanted to partecipate no matter what, because they had experienced a similar situation or they are unfortunately putting up with one right now. This showed me how widespread Alzheimer’s is and to what enormous extent people still tend to keep it “hidden” and live it privately.
You have won manifold prizes - the latest being the First Prize “Daily Life” by World Press Photo with “MiRelLa”. What impact did they have on your career?
Well, a prize like the one by World Press provides you with great visibility and all that follows with it. It was also the means to spread “MiRelLa” worldwide to the largest audience possible.
What is your relationship with videos and multimedia? Have you ever made or are you planning on any? How do they relate to your manner of narrating through images?
It’s an interesting medium. It’s a good way to present your work. I released a video for “MiRelLa”, which is played during the book presentations or workshops. I'm currently developing a video about work in reformatories. However, my multimedia are much more “photographic” than proper videos.
We know that you are part of WSP in Rome. Could you tell us how it works and what role you play in it?
WSP is a collective of 5 photographers that has established itself quite a great deal in the Roman circuit by now. I was the last one to enter it. WSP aims at talking about the full spectrum of photography, with a focus on reportage. In addition to exhibitions, meetings with the photographers and book presentations there is a primary plan for formation. It ranges from basic courses to advanced reportage courses on a yearly and three-monthly basis, to photo-editing and photoshop classes. I’m mostly involved in the formation aspect of the collective, aside from the yearly advanced reportage course. However, everyone does everything, really.
Could you tell us about the difficult balance between managing personal projects and those released on assignment? What margins of liberty does the photographer have in the Italian scenario?
I don’t think it’s fair to talk about a “difficult balance”. One chooses their personal projects, to which they commit with time, energies and financial resources. One will decide on their schedule and the level of in-depth analysis to comply with. On the other hand, assignments require different timetables and general approaches. As for the liberty of expression, I think it is out there.
What will your next project be, upon publishing the “MiRelLa” book?
Firstly, I want to present the book in as many places as possible! My next project is to finish the projects I’ve already started!
Out of curiosity… could you tell us about the story behind the title of this work?
It’s all written down in the book! If I told you here, I would spoil the reading of the book! Jokes aside, it’s connected to musical keys…. that’s all I can reveal now!
Are there any photographers (past or contemporary ones) you feel closest to in terms of approaches and visions?
I grew up studying the photographs of contemporary photographers who still fascinate me now, such as Nachtwey, Koudelka, Kratochvil, Pellegrin, Zizola and Turetta.
Who are you going to pass the baton to and why?
Giovanni Cocco, because his outlook on photography is very similar to mine. Sensibility and emotion come first!
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