Luca Bortolato is an Italian photographer based in Venice. Dreamy, fairytale like and gentle, he designs his images in an almost minimalistic way. His pictures are real dialogues; they tell silent mysterious stories and they reveal a small part of himself. Fascinated by the power of pictures since always, he investigates his identity through others

I’m a convinced supporter of the idea that we are exactly our pictures. This means that they reflect our intimacies and sensibilities, as litmus paper.

Which is your first photographic memory?
A picture of my dad. It dates back to the 60’s. It portrays him during the military service. It was the first and unique time I saw him without mustaches.

Could you describe yourself with a book, a song and a movie?
“The Count of Monte Cristo” by Dumas.
“Rising” by the heart breaking Lhasa de Sela.
The only boarding school I’ve ever wanted to attend is the Welton Academy in “The dead poets society”.

Which of your pictures would you choose to introduce yourself?
They are three, actually.
Each of them represents an important moment in my path, a sort of turning points:
1. La Consapevolezza / The Awareness (the first picture of the first black and white roll, from which I got more than I had ever expected).
2. Gli Azzurri / The Light Blue Ones (it was the time of colours and suspended places. After a deep research, they would have found me).
3. La lucidità / The Luminescence (all of my last year production. My work has never been so clear to me).

A famous person you would like to portray.
Me.

A famous picture, not yours, you would have liked to take.
If I had done it, it would have not been the same.
I’m a convinced supporter of the idea that we are exactly our pictures. This means that they reflect our intimacies and sensibilities, as litmus paper. As a consequence, it is impossible to recreate an image that already exists in someone else.

Let’s start from your last series “Mericans”. Here, you portray a slice of life in New York, the city that never sleeps, “the apple made of restless metal skyscrapers; the place where flavours and smells of thousands of skins and nationalities mix”, you say. What made you decide to realize it? What is the reason behind the title choice?
“Mericans” differs a lot from the rest of my artistic production.
I was the first one to be surprised about it.
I had never been interested in “Street Photography” (a term too much used, I think).
I travel quite often. However, my camera is never with me, just because I need to live deeply and fully the reality around me.
New York started as a diary of memories from a place where I would have never come back. At least, not in the short time. I started from something that I already knew very well: the concept of identity. I’ve never been interested in faces; they have always been as a mirror to me, where to drown. In those days, New York becomes a reflection where to look at myself.
Since the beginning, I have recognized the tangible sense of solitude and melancholy I was used to, into a city interested in showing exactly its opposite.
It seems that the city could offer thousands of different opportunities to those who live there, to those who try to, and to whom, like me, come from distant places with no intentions to stay there for long.
People were there, as they were repeating to them that at the end, everything would be fine.

We are now thinking about “Alterità”, the series of female portraits you exhibited last summer in Milan. Six big sizes portraits of young, pure women. They are alone and naked in front of the camera. We don’t know who the subjects of these self-timers are, as we cannot see their visages. Their identities are shown just by little, tiny details of their bodies: a tattoo, a couple of moles, the line of their lips. “Alterità” is not just photography, it mixes with performance as well, because all visages of the series have been removed by a precise, net tear. What does this series reveal about yourself and your search for personal identity?
All my artistic path speaks about me.
It is like a draining, extenuating research over the many sides of me. It was a kind of exorcism of the parts of me I love and I cannot accept at the same time. As a result, it has gradually become a sort of “photography of acceptance”; a path dedicated to discover my inner side; a self-analysis made through other people. To me, people have always played the role of filters between reality and me. In “Alterità” I investigate the self-portrait, but by leaving space to the subject to photograph him/herself without me interacting in it.
Later, then, I have taken my identity back with a strong act, a rip, a scream able to underline my action of taking back all that I had missed till then. It was the act of bringing back the picture to my personal icon.

The photograph starts a long time before the moment of holding the camera. We both need time to build a trustful relationship. This happens through words and acts of listening; it happens little by little

Women are often the main protagonists of your art. Your women seem both fragile and strong at the same time. You portray them naked, half-naked, or just through few details of their elegant bodies. By your intimate photographs, they seem to be able to unveil themselves totally. How could you reach this effect?
Just by listening to them.

How do you feel while taking picture? Could you tell us something about the relationship you build with models during the shooting?

The photograph starts a long time before the moment of holding the camera. We both (me as the photograph, and the model) need time to build a trustful relationship. This happens through words and acts of listening; it happens little by little by filtering all our nudities, something even scarier than the act of laying naked in front of a stranger. We are both a medium through which to reach ourselves. It is a dialogue, and it always will be.
We fall in love with our thoughts and our act of dreaming.
At the end, the photograph in itself is just the result of a study based on our difficulties in opening to the others in a sincere and spontaneous way.
Everything starts from my deep love for other people’s inner being.

A wild minimalism permeates your photography. Ethereal places and elegant skinny bodies emerge from blurry horizons where the sky mixes with the sea. The seaside can only be barely seen. Waves keep their methodical movement towards their temporal unicity. All seem permeated by silence and mystery. Spontaneously, your photographs arouse histories in the observer’s mind. How could you get to this final result? Do you follow a precise project while shooting or do you prefer to take photographs naturally?
I’m always looking for synthesis in my images. Everything starts from something extremely full, that gradually undresses. Excesses release. The centrality of the subject determines by itself the importance of the surrounding scene, in so creating by itself a sort of “non-time” inserted into a “non-place”.
While investigating ourselves, we get never to clear closed answers. On the contrary, the research leaves space for imagination and it makes other questions arise. In so doing, my images are the result of a number of questions I usually make to myself. They force me to accept and deny everything again.

I’ve never been interested in faces; they have always been as a mirror to me, where to drown.

Did it ever happened to you when you realize you have not your camera with you and you have just seen something very interesting to shoot?
I have always my phone with me, and I can take pictures with it.

Your next project.
I would like to be able to enter even more in my images. In a physically way, also. I’ve been working from almost one year on a new path, that includes just one single subject and a small amount of photographs, produced little by little. It’s a new, slow way to present myself, searching to stay clear headed.
At the same time, I’ve found again my interest in landscape. However, this time I’m not trying to speak about far unfamiliar places, as in the series “Mericans”. In the contrary, I’m investigating my land, a place so full of tales and familiar aspects that have always been part of my past. Photographs will be created while moving, taken directly from inside my car. The project will be a representation of my reality. I’m conceiving them as “Postcards”.

Your main flaw and quality.
Egocentric and self-centered.

Make a wish.
I wish it was tomorrow already.

Starting with painting and moving on with photography, Debora Barnaba expresses her inner emotions. She experiments through her art, she unveils her inner world, she tells stories made of feelings and thoughts. She speaks gently through photography.

Which is your first photographic memory?
I was a child when I did my first photograph: my family.

After the project “Visioni del vuoto” in Varese I wanted to tell what I feel through my pictures, this sense of emptiness that I find everywhere, because it is in me.

Could you describe yourself with a book, a song and a movie?
Book: “Pictor’s Metamorphoses: and Other Fantasies”, Herman Hesse.
Song: “Primavera”, Einaudi.
Movie: “Anna Karenina”, Joe Wright.
Which of your pictures would you choose to introduce yourself?
I would use my self-portrait.
A famous picture, not yours, you would have liked to take.
I don’t know, I think quite every pictures of Araki and Mapplethorpe!
A famous person you would like to portray.
I don’t know, I don’t like portraits, but I’d like to make some good portraits of people that I know well. I think that the understanding of the subject is important to make a good photo, and a good portrait.
A cold grey sky dominates the urban sceneries of your series “Places”. Tall, massive buildings move high towards the sky, lanes are half occupied, car parks are free, roads reveal the signs of the wheels in the snow. It seems that only a few people are present, as the city slowly empties itself from human lives. Everything is absorbed in a magical atmosphere out of time, “suspended”. Is this created on purpose?
Yes it is! After the project “Visioni del vuoto” in Varese I wanted to tell what I feel through my pictures, this sense of emptiness that I find everywhere, because it is in me. Sadness, with nobody there, and even when there are people they are like in a cage (like in the picture of the MET museum). You can’t escape from this feeling.

Every time I hold my camera I try to communicate the way I see things. Places, the body, everything is important to me. It’s like telling a story, made of feelings and thoughts. It’s my world.

Varese, your hometown, is one of the favorite subjects of your art. You depict your city by filtering it through a subjective, intimate sight. Which is your relationship with it?
With the project “Visioni del vuoto” I wanted to see my city, the “place where I live” in my way. There are a lot of photographic books about the city, but I’ve never seen it as I feel. So, I tried to create an intimate vision, spending one year going through the city, trying as I did for “Places” to tell what I feel. In particular, I feel bad in Varese. I think it’s a mentally closed place, in fact you can see lots of white walls, every place is without communication. You only feel alone, without the possibility to be heard by anyone.
Under your analytic, subtle sight, you reveal aspects of the world that would remain easily invisible, on the contrary. What are you looking for while holding the camera?
Every time I hold my camera I try to communicate the way I see things. Places, the body, everything is important to me. It’s like telling a story, made of feelings and thoughts. It’s my world.
Most of your artistic projects are monochromatic. Human bodies, as well as landscapes, emerge from a feeble vibrant atmosphere, usually dark. Why do you prefer black and white to colours?
I don’t prefer black and white to colours. But colours sometimes are more distracting than black and white. The most important thing for me is what I want to tell. So, I choose the best way for me to describe it. Sometimes are colors, sometimes not.
You are usually the main protagonist of your pictures. Which is your relationship with your body? Which is the part of your body you love more to take picture of?
I think everybody, men and women, has a difficult relationship with his body. Maybe sometimes you feel good, but sometimes not. For me is the same. Sometimes I feel fine in my body, sometimes I feel it distant from who I am.
I don’t have a favorite part to shoot. When I shoot myself the important thing is what I want to say, not what I show. I treat myself as a model, using my body to communicate. I’m not interested in feeling bad or not, my body is my instrument and I try to use it the best way to tell what I want. No matter if it is beautiful or not.
How do you feel when you are alone?
It depends. Sometimes I feel bad, but sometimes good. I spend most of the time alone, so I’m not scared of being alone, but it depends if I’m satisfied with me and my life. As it happens to everybody, I think.
Bearing in mind the way Cristina Nuñez conceives photography and self-portrait specifically, is it possible to speak about your art as a form of auto therapy as well?
I’m not using my projects as auto therapy but I think it could be a good way to feel better with yourself. Also for me it was a good thing for my esteem, but to be art it must go further than this.
You depict entire figures or tiny details of the body and its shadows, dressed or nude. They slowly emerge from a dark background, they fill the framing and they fit it. What does attract your attention while making a picture?
I usually star from an idea, and some images about it. Once in the studio, I try to reproduce what I have in my mind, going further, exploring as much as I can. My attention is attracted in my pictures by what they can express. If they can express my idea, or maybe they astonish me, they’re ok. Otherwise not. But I can use them also as experiment, to reach something even more interesting.

I don’t prefer black and white to colours. But colours sometimes are more distracting than black and white. The most important thing for me is what I want to tell.

In your portraits you depict female bodies, their gentle lines, sinuous curves and invisible inner details. All human intimacies and fragilities are revealed and gathered together under a high esthetic care and elegance of composition. How could you interact so gently and deeply at the same time?
I don’t know. I try to be as deep as I can. But I think in art you express who you are, so maybe it’s only me. And I think it’s easy to be gentle and deep when you love something, and you do it with all of your heart.
What does aesthetic composure mean for you?
I think it’s an important part of the work. Doing art is creating a new world, with new rules. The idea/vision is the world, but aesthetic composure is the rule.
We dare to say you enjoy experimenting with art: starting from painting, moving to photography and video. Which medium do you like the most to express yourself?
I don’t know! Now it’s a long time since I last painted, but I started with it. Now I prefer photography and video, even if sometimes I feel these mediums as limited ones.
Your pictures become cover stories, your subjects become professional models, your images gather delicate emotions together with strength. Which relationship do you build with people you take picture of?
When I shoot myself I try to be open and honest, when I shoot someone else is different. If I shoot for fashion, I try to keep the model inside the project and work with her to have the perfect shot. If I work for my personal projects, I could only shoot people that I love, or with a particular relationship of a deep friendship, and they have to trust me, and I need to feel free to ask them to open themselves.

When I shoot myself I try to be open and honest, when I shoot someone else is different.

Light is the main protagonist of most of your artworks, both in your photography and in video art. Tiny details of human body stare at the camera, they gently move in front of it, in a sort of sinuous silent dance: a nude stomach, the hollow of the neck, an elegant hand, a womb, they become the characters of the alternating game between lights and shadows. What are you investigating with all these “Suspensions”?
Suspensions are always part of my journey, experimenting with the body, with movements in particular. With the video you can see how single parts can move, and it’s really interesting for me to see it. Usually, you don’t think about every single movement of every single part of your body, but I think they are important too. So I want to show them, so people can be surprised by themselves, discovering more about the body: that is ourselves, but it is an unexplored land for most of us.
Your next project.
Always going further with my vision and my experiments. I have some ideas, but every idea is good. I need to understand lots of new things, always.
Your main flaw and quality.
I look for perfection in everything I do, and I try to give my best with love and passion in everything I do.
Make a wish.
I’d like to be a good and interesting artist.

Yana Toyber is an Ukraine-born photographer based in New York. She has been in love with art and photography since always. Under a gentle spontaneous touch, she portrays women, lines and profiles of feminine bodies. In her art, water plays an important role as well, transforming into a sculptural element of her photography.

Which is your first photographic memory?
It’s funny. There is actually a picture of me in my crib staring at a Polaroid. It looked like it was very deep in thought. Since it was documented, I clearly remember that night and the fun photo shoot evening I had with my family.

What made me solidify my career goal to become a photographer was how images always made an impact on me and seemed to burn into my consciousness.

Could you describe yourself with a book, a song and a movie?
This is a very interesting question!
I always think I’m the star in my own movie called Yana. Book, I guess if we are talking fantasy I can relate to the Bene Gesserit Witches in Dune. Song, I can describe myself with two: Everything at once by Lenka, and Lil Kims’ verses in Quiet Storm by Mobb Deep.
Which of your pictures would you choose to introduce yourself?
In my “Sacred” series there is an image of a nude women standing on lava rock back facing the viewer with her arms up as ocean water crashes behind the rocks.
A famous picture, not yours, you would have liked to take.
Tiny in “Streetwise” series by Marry Ellen Mark. She wears a black dress and gloves and a black hat with veil she appears to be hugging her self. Also so many images Guy Bordin took.
A famous person you would like to portray.
I don’t care to portray anyone else.
How did you get close to photography?
I have always loved photography. What made me solidify my career goal to become a photographer was how images always made an impact on me and seemed to burn into my consciousness.
Speaking about “4Sale”, we know it is part of a collaborative experiment you made with other female visual artists. Could you tell us something more about this interesting and unique co-operation? How did you feel while working on it and shooting your fellows?
There was a feeling of constant creativity while doing the project. It was also widely accepted by everyone who came across it. We received a lot of press and I feel we all grew as artists during the project.
“4Sale” collects a number of underwater shots where clear, elegant and sinuous feminine bodies emerge from a dark background. They are in pair, alone, their eyes are closed and visages are often covered by hair. The atmosphere is blurry, out of focus and unclear because of water. What does water mean in your art?
I used water almost as a medium in “4Sale” and other projects as well. Almost like a sculptural element.
The duo water-women is quite frequent in your photography (“Sacred”, “Embrio” and “Rebirth”, just to mention). Where does this conceptual and artistic choice come from?
It feels natural I like the energy. Partnerships are important to me. In my work negative space is often explored and I feel like shooting two subjects in a frame is often a beautiful way to start that exploration.

I’m currently starting work on a Documentary project featuring my transgender friend.

In your spontaneous portraits we perceive a celebration of feminism. Under a gentle touch, you portray women and the lines and profiles of their bodies, in so celebrating their grace. How could you reach this effect?
I guess it’s simply my vision. I honestly do work which comes to me on a subconscious level I believe. I feel like I’m just a messenger.
The same soft and gentle touch could be perceived in the series “Working for a man”, where you describe random episodes of the oldest, but also one of the most dangerous professions in the world: prostitution. These fearless women you portray are catched in between work and waiting, never in the sexual act. Where does your curiosity for this theme come from?
The series is called “Working for THE man”, actually. It’s an American saying about working for a corporation. At the time. I was interested in comparing marriage to prostitution. How depending on men for income is so common for women in this country throughout history. Whether it be in a marriage or as a prostitute. The differences and the similarities. How socioeconomic situations lead women to choose certain careers. The project wasn’t really about acts of sex.
You left your original country many years ago. Do you remember something from Ukraine? Have you ever felt that emotion Germans define with the word Fernweh, meaning the ache for distant places, and feeling homesick for a place we have (almost) never been?
I grew up in a very Russian neighborhood in NY so I felt some connection. There were many of us living there from Ukraine. I was curious about the town I came from and I got to visit family there in 2003. That visit pretty much ended any curiosity I ever had.
Speaking now about New York, the city you are living now into, what can you tell us about its nightlife, habits and culture you have usually shot?
NY nightlife changes very rapidly. It’s fun! And often Status driven as well.
You end your personal description by saying that you live with a monster. That catched our attention even more, we dare to say. What does this mean? Could you tell us something more about it, please?
Hahaha that’s my cat name.
If you had to choose an era, which years would you like to live into? Why?
I like living here right now! It’s a very exciting time and it’s all I really know. Any other time would be a fantasy.
Your next project.
I’m currently starting work on a Documentary project featuring my transgender friend.
Your main flaw and quality.
My main flaw is bossiness. My main quality is love through acceptance.
Make a wish.
I wish for more love, understanding, health, and money!

Enrica De Nicola is an Italian-based contemporary photographer. She expresses her inner self mixing different photographic fields and mediums, from portraits to storytelling. Through her genuine and innocent approach, the artist reveals both herself and her surrounding world.

Which is your first photographic memory?
When I was a child my mother used to take a lot of pictures of mountain landscapes. I have never given so much importance to them, probably because I’ve always associated them to the boring excursions that I was forced to do at that time. Lately, I have started to recover her pictures and to appreciate them, together with the interest for landscapes.

I think that the main aim of a photographer is to tell a story about something ordinary according to his/her personal language, and to make an intimate relation with places and people throughout it.

Could you describe yourself with a book, a song and a movie?
A book: “A lover’s discourse: fragments”, by Roland Barthes; a song: “Het volk”, by Pan American; a movie: “Persona”, by Ingmar Bergman.

A famous person you would like to portray.
Björk.

Your visual approach involves different photographic fields: portrait, fashion, architecture and storytelling. Which of them allows you to express your feelings better?
At the beginning it was portraiture that allows me to fully express myself. Currently, I like to mix the different languages.

Black and white close-ups of children populate your series “Family Dolls”. Young boys and girls are depicted in all their innocence and simplicity. Their eyes speak gently for them, in so revealing their soul. Who are them? Also, we see hands embracing their soft faces. Who do they belong to?

They belong to their parents. The project is built around the conversation between gestures and gazes. I took the idea from some memories of my past: when someone asked me to pose for the camera, I used to react with a kind of intolerance. I felt forced. So, I started to look for children that could re-experience this same feeling. However, this first initial inspiration developed and the series is now focused more on the limits between affection and oppression.

While observing your young portraits, it is easy to be touched by the genuine gaze of your children. It seems that a light veil of sadness covers their visages. Children seem to wonder about something, to quest for something. Did you reach this effect on purpose?

Yes, I tried to. However, children’s attitude played a crucial role in the final result. I chose them carefully according to their behaviour, trying to predict their reactions to the situation, that was a little bit tense. I think they sensed me like an intruder, also because I was really close to them while shooting with a macro ring mounted on the Hasselblad. Moreover, they were very curious about the camera: they seemed to approach directly to it or try to studying something in the lens.

When I was a child my mother used to take a lot of pictures of mountain landscapes. I have never given so much importance to them. Lately, I have started to recover her pictures and to appreciate them.

How do you feel while working with such young people?
I feel comfortable. Everything is very spontaneous with children, although I had to interfere with them to give indications.

Dark, gloomy tones dominate the shots of “Still There”. Here, you become a documentary photographer. You investigate mysterious rural places by portraying simple details of the everyday life of their inhabitants. No human figures appear except for a couple of dull, tired eyes. Everything there seems to be permeated by a strange halo. Why did you choose these places? Which is your relationship with them?

It’s an area very close to my city and overlooked from the body of Garigliano nuclear plant. I’ve always felt attracted by that place, not only for the episodes that involved the river that crosses it, but especially for this strange cohabitation of nature and technology. The nuclear plant has the appearance of a bizarre alien object whose presence covers everything around that.

In “Still There” you observe the surrounding reality through inquiring eyes. No judgments, just observation. On this regard, it comes to our mind Elliot Erwitt’s quote: “Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place”. Do you recognize yourself in it? How does it fit to your art?
Yes, I do recognize myself in it. Indeed, I think that the main aim of a photographer is to tell a story about something ordinary according to his/her personal language, and to make an intimate relation with places and people throughout it. In “Still There” I’ve tried to give a very personal view of the area. However, at first sight the landscape is completely different from the pictures I’ve taken: it is a sunny Mediterranean area. I’ve inverted this appearance shooting only after the sunset and taking advantage of the twilight mood in order to highlight the sensation of a fairy place, because that was the way I perceived the area.

You collect moments of your life in a visual diary. You observe the world through car and plane windows marked by rainy drops. As a consequence, the world around you shapes into blurry, evanescent scenes and it moulds into splashes of colours. What does this project tell about you and the way you perceive reality?
It’s a kind of exercise. A car or plane window acts as just another lens added to the camera lens, surrounding the sensation of different levels of reality. In my “Diary” I observe the multiple way of being of landscapes, and I play with that.

In shooting urban architectures, your compositions are clean rigorous tidy sets. Your bi-dimensional views mainly shape through warm colours and bright light. Space seems to be filled but not lived and it transforms into a set design, where no humans are present. External walls of tall buildings, empty benches and endless rows of windows feel up the scene, leaving just a small space to the sky to emerge. What does “I miss you” mean to you?

The title refers to the absence of any human warmth. I’ve tried to suggest that feeling by playing with the rigor of the space, perfectly organized but not ready to be lived yet, exactly like the set of a cold reality.

Your next project.
I’m not sure about it yet, but I think it will involve a lot of still-lifes.

Your main flaw and quality.
I’m very moody. I’m very methodic.

Make a wish.
To travel more.

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