How I became a landscape photographer
My journey as a photographer started in front of a geographical atlas.
I spent 25 years looking out a window.
A succession of beautiful sunsets, foggy mornings, and stormy skies.
But I couldn't leave my room, I couldn't testify to the world the emotions that the landscape aroused in me.
It was like I was wasting my time and a part of my life.
But let's rewind the tape.
I don't think I was more than six years old. My favorite book was a 70's Geographical Atlas with a desert on the cover.
My childhood imagination traveled between the virtual places of geographical maps. Mountains, plains, seas, lakes, and cities with their unpronounceable names, such as Reykjavík or Kangchenjunga.
In 1981, at the age of nine, my first experience in the field.
Imagination gave way to reality: a holiday in the Dolomites!
The Pordoi, Sella, and Gardena passes were no longer a number and a symbol on a geographical map, and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, now imposing before my eyes, showed themselves in all their magnificence.
The night before leaving for Val d'Aosta the following year, I couldn't sleep because of the excitement.
The combination of the perennial snow and granite walls of Mont Blanc and Gran Paradiso remained etched in my memory. Printed in my imagination.
How not to make the memory fade? How to fix these sensations indelibly? But above all, how to convey my enthusiasm and my emotional reaction to those who see the world like me?
Words and writing are not enough; they have limits. They tell very well "what things do, but not how things are"1. Reality does not end with a narrative.
Words lack the visual imprint, the visible testimony that captures a portion of reality through an image.
Pictures add more information that words fail to give.
Images and writing are, therefore, complementary. To obtain a "surrogate for a reality", both are needed. (A "surrogate" because photographs and stories are not the equivalent of reality because the point of view of the photographer/storyteller cannot be eliminated)
And here, the need to photograph is revealed in front of me.
Photographing to share.
Photographing for an audience that desires and dreams like me to walk a common path together and try to give direction.
Photographing, through my vision, to arouse in those who look at my images a connection with a feeling, a sense of belonging for those who see the world in a certain way or by evoking a memory or an experience.
Unfortunately, however, the gap between theory and practice is considerable.
In front of a breathtaking landscape, I asked to use my father's film Ferrania, who reluctantly, granted me some shots.
Reluctantly because the film was expensive and was mainly used to immortalize family holidays. A photograph without people was almost inconceivable in those days.
And the photographs that, at the age of 9, I brought home from that experience were not evocative.
I realized I had to go a long way to make myself a photographer capable of conveying emotions.
You may have the talent, but you have to nurture it. What matters is the practice, the mistakes to learn from, and the skills achieved in the field.
Now let's fast forward about 15 years: 1995.
I finished my studies and started working as a salesman in a large-scale retail company. I needed a salary.
On my first day on the job, I swore to myself that from then on, I would fight my way out of there. I had followed the wrong course of study, doing that job was not what I wanted. I was not born to be closed in a room and to carry out a job that is based on a ready-made recipe, on a scheme of compliance and loyalty to the system.
Unfortunately, at the same time, I've never had the courage to jump off the cliff with my eyes closed, and I've always looked for reassurance to make the transition painlessly.
For this reason, I spent 25 years staring out my office window.
I bought the first digital cameras and then a medium format film Hasselblad and I started experimenting:
visits to exhibitions,
and then errors again
and corrections again.
The practice continued incessantly, the skills grew, and above all, some people, those similar to the common vision of the world, those with whom I would like to make the journey, began to identify a feeling, an emotion, a message in my photographs.
It was the signal that my infinite game was beginning to intersect with that of the public I was addressing.
For a couple of years (2010 and 2011), I also tried to compete with external authorities through photographic prizes. Things went very well, far beyond my expectations. But in the end, this experience left me nothing for my practice except two diplomas to hang.
I was looking for more. I didn't care about the result. I just wanted to be able to play and participate in the growth of my photography skills to fulfill my mission, which is to spread emotions, feelings, and ideas and evoke memories and experiences.
Twenty-five years of staring out the window ended on December 31, 2019.
I haven't become a photographer since January 1, 2020, I have always been since I first picked up my father's Ferrania.
Like all of you are when you press your camera's or smartphone's shutter button: “Photographing makes you a photographer.”
The substantial difference is that today, I have much more time to explore places, interpret the seasons, and choose the environmental and light conditions that best suit my gaze. I have more time to practice my process.
I no longer have the frustration of lost opportunities, and I can focus on the wishes and dreams of those who see the world as I see it and try to exercise change and personal growth in them.
Observing photographs and books by the masters to whom I owe everything, such as Michael Kenna, Josef Sudek, Edward Weston, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ansel Adams, Mario Giacomelli, and Franco Fontana, has changed my way of observing the natural and human landscape.
They excited me, and they pushed me to explore a theme, they made me grow, they enriched my person.
Finally, a wish: I hope some of my photographs occupy a small corner of your heart.
This is why I shoot every day.
1 Simona Guerra – Fotografare letteralmente, pages 31-35 - 2021 ©PiktArt