“I would love to raise questions or to make people dream. Not so easy, with all the images we are exposed to.”
Arianna Sanesi (born in 1976) is a contemporary photographer from Italy. She has a huge passion for image making and says that “photography is my life”.
For Arianna Sanesi photography is a means of visual storytelling. She believes that there has to be a meaning to what she’s photographing. Otherwise photography would be reduced to a “sterile exercise”. In this interview Arianna Sanesi talks about her series called “Dispersal”.
Interview with Arianna Sanesi
Arianna, one of your most recent series is called “Dispersal”. What is it about?
It takes the start from the traces a wolf “in dispersal” (meaning: a wolf who leaves or is forced to leave the pack and wanders to find a new place to settle) left behind: I followed the GPS tracking and met the people who met him. But then it transformed into something different.
After you’d made up your mind on the subject, how did you decide on the question of how to resolve it photographically,so that form would match content?
There was a lot of trial and error. The tutor gave me just one rule: follow some path, so that you have a fil rouge. At school we had the possibility to develop and scan color film, so I decided to give medium format a serious try. But I wasn’t conceptualizing much, to be honest.
The project is not only made up of images, but comes in a box – it’s not only a visual, but also tangible experience. What’s the idea behind that?
When I started to show the pictures to my colleagues and to Soren Patger, the tutor, they all agreed there was a good deal of mystery. They used the concept of “mystery case” a lot, and it occurred to me to build something resembling to those “cold case” file boxes we see in TV series.
What reaction do you like to provoke in people who look at your images?
I would love to raise questions or to make people dream. Not so easy, with all the images we are exposed to.
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 with “Dispersal” and if so what did you learn during the project?
I really had no clue on what I was doing when I started, but I also felt excited and empowered by the time and focus I had decided to give myself with the project. It was the final project for school and it was the only thing I had (and wanted) to do in two months’ time. Yes, I had expectations. All I’ve learnt, I learnt it about myself. How much I love the woods and solitude, how much I can endure walking and carrying weight, how it can all come together if you pursue what you love. I think it’s been serendipitous.
You refuse to “reduce photography to a sterile exercise”. There has to be a meaning, a story you “fiercely” want to tell. What makes you want to tell a story?
“There must be a connection with me, with my fears or longings.”
It maybe sound self-centered and it probably is, but I won’t lie: there must be a connection with me, with my fears or longings. This is not something I invented myself, it was one of the teachers I had at DMJX, Anders Petersen, who very much underlined the strength that can derive from connecting with them.
Susan Sontag once said “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”. How has photography changed the way you look at the world and what have you learnt about yourself?
“I am capable of incredible stubbornness, and endurance. I can bear and enjoy solitude.”
While photography pretty much pervades my whole existence, I am really happy that I am able to prescind from the camera sometime and enjoy life without it. But I can’t deny it is my life and that I have given up many things so far to keep working on it. So this is what I learnt about myself: I am capable of incredible stubbornness, and endurance. I can bear and enjoy solitude. It also taught me a couple of things on empathy (mine and my friends’).
Every photographer is going through different stages in his formation. Which “landmarks” do you recall that have marked you and brought you to the place where you are today as a photographer?
- Being an assistant for TPW (workshops) and getting in contact with photographers and a whole world I knew nothing about.
- Enrolling in CFP Bauer in Milan, not much for the school but for the network I started to build there: some of my fellow students are still my best friends.
- Working at the desk of a photojournalist agency: so much fun but also understanding I was never gonna shoot news.
- Being Scianna’s assistant.
- Having Jodi Bieber as a teacher at ISSP, and ISSP itself.
- The Danish School of Media and Journalism.
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: What’s the thing you can’t really stand in photography?
A: Epigones. Having muses and mentors is fine-and I probably look like 100 else photographers myself- but being visually honest and look for one’s voice is really fundamental. At least try.