This month Phom is kicking off #phomtakeover: a young photographer is going to take over our Instagram account for a week each month so that we can live with them for the time being, see through their eyes and – once more – deepen our analysis in the photographer’s work and all its facets, including the relationship with social media.
Phom has always kept an attentive eye on young photographers and talented authors – people where we’d see the future of photography, both nationally and internationally. So we want to support them and talk with them. They will use our account as they please – to present a completed work or a work-in-progress, or simply share personal shots and moments.
We’re starting with Gaia Squarci this month.
Gaia Squarci is a photographer and video-maker based and working in New York, where she’s a contributor for Prospekt agency.
Raised in Milan, she studied History of Art in Bologna and photojournalism at the International Center of Photography (ICP). In 2014 she attended the Eddie Adams Workshop and she landed a place in the final of the Joop Swart masterclass. In 2015 her works were exhibited within reGerenation3 (a collective about new prospectives of photography) at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne.
Her clients include The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, VICE, The Guardian, Newsweek and L'Oeil de le Photographie. Her work has been exhibited in the United States, Italy, France, Switzerland, Mexico, Ireland and China.
We’ve asked her a few questions about her work.
1. “Broken Screen” is one of your most peculiar works, where you opted for black and white. A sense of empathy and willingness to participate to the different perception of those who can’t see emerges from it. What does it mean to recount blindness through a visual means like photography?
My interest in blindness originated from photography, actually. I realized to what extent my life is profoundly imbued with images, and how much they influence the rules of the world I live in, as well as interpersonal relationships. Those who don’t have the chance to receive and exchange visual stimuli are still subjected to the social dynamics connected to images. As I started shooting for this project it took me some time to find the right way to carry it on. Rather than attempting to “explain” a few moments of the lives of blind people through photographs, I aimed at leading those who can see to identify themselves in their situation, ask themselves how they would react – and how their identity in the world of images would be effected by the loss of eyesight.
2. You’ve resorted to video-making also for various works related to fashion and performances – and with a different approach to the documentary one you usually use, too. Could you tell us about it?
Fashion and performance occasions have become a parallel channel for me to work on, and in the past they’ve happened to lead the way to wider stories. I believe that the world of photography and documentary video-making often risks to become self-referential, so I try my best to absorb as many new creative stimuli from different sources as possible. Directing videos on assignment makes me very comfortable and it stimulates me a lot. Obviously, when working on assignment, I have less liberty in terms of communicating my vision exactly, but I still try to shoot in a way that the talk with the client may develop during the editing phase. This way I’ll avoid failing him completely, while still trying to push forward my personal choices with regard to style or content. They’re extremely heterogenous works compared to the documentary ones, but the person behind the camera is the same.
3. Your Instagram account features a number of personal images as well as shots from your works. What’s your approach with social media? To what extent (and how) do you exploit them for your work?
My approach with social media is quite dualistic. On a personal level, they amuse me. I try not to take them too seriously and, despite the fact they are an ubiquitous means of communication, I’ve tried to give them limited room in my everyday life. However, I’m also surprised at the influence they have on a mass level, and it does scare me sometimes. While I’m aware of the impact that social media have gained in my field of work, as I browse through diary images to alternate with shots from photographic projects, I’m always mindful of the fact that most viewers belong to my field of work.
4. Do you happen to use pictures taken with your smartphone for professional projects?
Rarely, but it does happen. I usually opt for my smartphone instead of my camera only under particular circumstances, which are linked to either the positioning of the framing (which would be harder to do with a traditional camera), or the potential risk of being recognized as a professional photographic in given situations. I’m not against the use of smartphones to take photos at all, and perhaps I haven’t committed enough to learning to use them at their best. Still, also considering the fact that I love to shoot at night, I keep preferring the speed, precision and wide range of choices that the camera offers.
You can follow her from January 18 to 24 on our Instagram account @instaphom. Enjoy the journey with Gaia!
Interview by Gabriele Magazzù