“If you want to make interesting photography then you have to be an interesting person.”
Gianpaolo Arena (born 1975) is a contemporary photographer from Italy.
Gianpaolo Arena shares his profession as a photographer with teaching and personal research projects on environmental and social issues.
His interest on architectural representation has driven his attention toward architectural photography, urban landscape, the relationship between the varied identities that belong and characterise places and people.
An influential role of his photographic research evolves on the altered landscape on several companies realities, industrial sites, working places. Editor of “Landscape Stories“, a contemporary photography magazine dedicated to the presentation of stories and photographic work.
Editor of Undercover on Urbanautica. He is one of the curators of the project “CALAMITA/À“, investigation and researches on the Vajont territories.
Interview with Gianpaolo Arena
Gianpaolo, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
After my arrival in Vietnam, everything was new, exciting, meaningful.
For the first three days it was impossible for me to take pictures. I was like paralyzed, but also full of emotion, alive with excitement.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh was like having new eyes. From the words of Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Why did you become a photographer?
Curiosity, absorption, self and academic interest, serendipity.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
It’s a medium that I can express myself with.
Photography, for me, becomes a sensitive way of recognizing the intangible meaning in the world.
It’s a special space for contemplation, thoughts and feelings. A chance to comprehend life.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
There are too many photographers that I admire in different ways.
Walker Evans first of all. Then I like other classic photographers such as Ed Ruscha, Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, William Eggleston, Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, Mitch Epstein, John Gossage, Chris Killip, Michael Schmidt, Larry Sultan, Rineke Dijkstra, Sophie Ristelhueber, Nan Goldin, Kohei Yoshiyuki, Jem Southam, Joachim Brohm…
Your favorite photography quote?
“Understand the nature of the creative act when you dance with life itself – when you form the meaningless world into photographs, then form those photographs into a meaningful world.”
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
“My photographic view is an extension of my personality.”
Sometimes my photos are premeditated by a long process, sometimes it’s just intuition and spontaneity.
In any way my surroundings are a great inspiration. The creative process almost always starts with my own autobiography. My photographic view is an extension of my personality. If you want to make interesting photography then you have to be an interesting person, and that involves observing, studying, learning, reading, daydreaming and being open to different people and new ideas.
It’s a continual learning process.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
Follow your instinct. Work hard. Try, fail, try to fail again.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
I mostly take pictures of territories in a documentary style, in colour.
Research and project based. Often I’m looking for a narrative description. Sometimes more intimate or personal. I don’t necessarily have a creative process. I just love what I do.
I do spend a lot of time editing though. I try to work as simply as possible, but this is always changing. The ideas, aesthetics and concepts change every time.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Soul. Brain. Eyes. Legs. Ideas. Obsessiveness.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
“A good photography must have a strong element of ambiguity.”
Beauty, simplicity, complexity. A good balance of content, colour and form.
A great photo is the one that makes you doubt, that increases questions. A good photography must have a strong element of ambiguity, to be allusive and to hide evidence.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Society, politics and art. Life. Culture. Emotions. Ambiguity, human contradictions.
My consciousness and my unconsciousness. Everything around me: people, places, things.
Personal experience and my memories. My thoughts.
What kind of photography equipment (camera etc.) and photographic supplies do you use?
Analog medium format camera (Hasselblad, Pentax, Fuji, Linhof) and digital reflex (Nikon).
What’s your favorite website about photography?
What photography book would you recommend?
Cuny Jannsen “Macedonia”, Schaden.com, Cologne, 2004.
One of my favourite of the last years. Great portraits and lyrical landscapes. Amazing edit and design.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
Be documented about the past, don’t be scared of the future. Be curious, be open. Pay attention.
Work hard and be passionate about what you do.