“I think that a photograph must tell a story. The story contains a message, a concept, fully interpretable by those watching the photograph. But also a reaction of ‘Wow, cool’ is well accepted.”
Francesco Margaroli (born 1982) is a contemporary photographer from Italy. He’s currently based in Genova, Italy. Francesco Margaroli is self-taught when it comes to photography.
“I can define myself as an empathy photographer.”
Interview with Francesco Margaroli
Why did you become a photographer?
There was a time when I needed something personal: I found photography (or maybe photography found me).
What was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
I think (and hope) that the most memorable and enthusiastic moment is yet to come.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is the medium I choose that helps me to interpret reality. Reality sucks? Then photography helps me to escape, to transmit, to represent.
Is there anything in particular that you want to say with your pictures? And in other words: What is it at all that a photograph can say?
I think that a photograph must tell a story. The story contains a message, a concept, fully interpretable by those watching the photograph. But also a reaction of “Wow, cool” is well accepted.
In your most recent project “Nowhere” you deal with the feeling of estrangement. How did you come up with that idea?
You walk down the street and you feel a sensation of asynchrony. You are in a fun fair unstaging ad you feel this estrangement, although you are in the middle of the town. This is the right moment to build a project.
What’s the idea behind the project?
The subtitle is “Places that don’t exist when they exist”. I tried to mix the feeling of estrangement with the “charm” of these places: urban, familiar places that, however, contain disturbing elements. I think it’s not a definitive project.
Can you tell a little bit about the process of shooting the images for that project?
I shot with a medium format camera, a Mamiya 645 (the world is better looking through a medium format camera viewfinder!). I needed the analogic taste; then I scan the films and put them to digital post production to achieve the final result: I’m not a purist, I like mixing medias.
At the beginning of each project one often has some kind of idea in mind as to what the result could be like. Sometimes that changes along the way and the result is quite different. Was that the case and if so what did you learn during the project?
Each project in my mind almost never corresponds to the final result. I believe in evolution and continuous inputs during the creation of the project. I knew that the fun fair was moving, creating that surreal sensation in the middle of the town; I came back there during different moments of the day looking for the frontal composition I needed. The development and scan of the film makes it more curious and exciting and the post-production was indispensable to achieve that specific results : the town I saw but I didn’t feel must become ethereal. What I learnt is that the haste is an enemy of some projects, they need time to be born and grow.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
I believe in continuous search, so I constantly research inspiration. A few names: the cool contemporary artist Lauren Marsolier, Gregory Crewdson, the new topographics and William Eggleston.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
“Meglio ladro che fotografo” (better thief than a photographer)
The title of a book by a strange and anarchist italian photographer: “Meglio ladro che fotografo” (better thief than a photographer). It reminds me the contradictory aspect of photography and reminds me to ask myself questions.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
The word “creative” is overused, I prefer the word “create”, it sounds more like construction. I don’t think I’m mature enough to have developed a photographic language. The word for my creative process is: chaotic. Lots of ideas floating in mind, lots of ideas written in a notebook. Then there is a moment when an idea, time and realization are aligned: that’s that perfect moment when something is born.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic language?
An extreme and dispassionate honesty to yourself and belief in a constant search.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually? What kind of post-production do you do?
Different media bring different results: the first choice is which media I need to achieve that result. The concept and the message are strong, they last and don’t pass, but I don’t underestimate the aesthetic. Aesthetic is great, is the impact, must fill the eyes. Post-production is only a tool (a great tool) to build the image you have in mind: sometimes it’s a five minutes work, sometimes you lose diopters.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
An insane curiosity, constant search, look around at 360 degrees.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Photography is an artistic form that can take inspiration from different disciplines: painting, illustration, performing art. A few days ago I was holding a book about paintings by Hopper: the lighting, the position of bodies, the feeling transmitted. How can’t this be inspirational?
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Digital is useful and sometimes necessary, but I love film. so, I have a Canon digital reflex, a lovely Mamiya 645 and an always-with-me Olympus Xa. Then an Eura, an OM-1, a MJU II, a…
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Internet is a jungle. Internet is THE jungle. There are many valid sites, but if you talk about photography only, the (last)? sites I really appreciate are Agonistica, Ignant and C-41 Magazine.
What photography book would you recommend?
Photography books are awesome! I recommend “The Photograph as Contemporary Art (World of Art)” by Charlotte Cotton, which allows the interpretation of photography as an artistic medium in a world hyper-saturated by images. And the last book I was treated to given: “Genesis” by Sebastiao Salgado. Just watch. And enjoy.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a photographer?
Good luck and be strong. Find the path that allows you to be unique.
Last but not least, let’s switch roles: Which question would you have liked to be asked in this interview about your work that I didn’t ask? Please feel free to add it – as well as the answer.
Q: How do you relax during a work (and after an interview in English)?
A: With tea and cookies, of course!