A Whole New Reality: An Interview With Gabriele Rossi
“Every landscape is an open box for memory,” says Italian photographer Gabriele Rossi. He decided to take upon two years photography course in Rome and that’s how it all started. Gabriele always felt a certain need to capture various forms of realities around him and that is why every each of one his landscapes is a unique piece of art. In this interview, Gabriele shares his favorite childhood memories and explains how did those memories influence him as an artist.
Hey, Gabriele! Happy to have you in our magazine! When did you first realized you wanted to pursue photography? What made you fall in love with this art?
After my graduation from High School, I tried to follow an academic path at university, starting to study Science of Communication, but my ideas of an 18 years old guy were very confused; staring at the blackboard, lessons seemed to me boring even doing exams. So, I started a solitary path going very close to what I considered very important for me or better what let me feel alive: music, cinema, literature, art.
My interest in photography happened very slowly, probably because I needed to settle a strong background, I discovered it by chance, trying to understand if an old camera of my father worked. I don’t like to talk about love at first sight because, even now, for me, photography hides something of unsolved, something that we have to frame in form of questions.
What did your beginnings in photography look like? What encouraged you to share your vision of the world with others in this way?
As I just told previously, my beginnings in photography came by chance, and not far from the first time that I kept in my hands a camera. I started a two-year photography course in Rome. I remember the classmates, every one of them were thirsty to know “how — to — become — a — photographer — in — two — years”, while I was really scared to start to follow lessons. After the two Roman years I moved to Milan and here I found a great and fertile place to improve my knowledge in photography and not only, frequenting a Master in photography and visual design.
Rather than saying what encouraged me (honestly I don’t remember), It would be easier for me to speak simply of the present: I really do not think that photography is connected with the, by now, (post-modern) practice of sharing with others, I mean, every one of us that do photography, have a very subjective view of the real world. I think that photography today is living a real moment of crisis because, often, authors feel the need to demonstrate that this medium has to pass through new structures and models to get close to contemporary art: it is a failed statement.
I understand that as a child you would often go to the mountains with your parents. What are some of your favorite childhood memories?
When you don’t go to the mountain, you go to the sea! For sure I remember the summer time at the sea in Terracina, my father’s birthplace. I always remember when my aunt Rossella would bring me and my cousins at the sea by car: to reach the sea we needed to do a downhill that ended with a little uphill slope that makes us jump all over the car. Every one of us is still alive.
Would you say these memories shaped who you are today as an artist since you also enjoy shooting beautiful landscapes?
I would explain this act of sharing memories through the origin of the word landscape (Pak) from its Indo-European root. Pak means to fix, to tie, terms that are really close to the representation; from this root has been created the Latin word pax, that means peace (pace in Italian), and from the same root born the Latin word pagus (which means ‘to plant’), that origin the Italian word “paesaggio”, in English landscape.
So, according to these studies, every landscape is an open box for memory, we can stare in front of our favorite place and feel the sensation of peace because it generates memories carved from the first time we have seen it.
Can you tell us more about the creative process behind your work? What sparks your inspiration the most?
Since I started to take pictures — even not professionally — I felt the need to catch the different forms of realities around me. Gathering pictures in my projects is for me a sneaky door to create a wider archive; an approach that pushes me to always investigate, question, and nurture my process. I take photographs for no other reason than to experience the tension that exists between me and the object.
The act itself of taking pictures is never predeterminate: I always re-negotiate my approach and in the end, the final outcome is what I wanted to do. The topics I’m interested in research and focus are basically architecture and landscape. Particularly I’m interested in understanding how human beings affected these elements and vice-versa.
A reality is a complex and multi-layer issue that always fascinated me. Sometimes I wonder: Is reality what we experience through daily life? How is our imagery shaped from its architecture? Is there a marked edge between these two elements?
What is it about photography that drives you to create over and over again?
When I work on a new body of photographs, I do a very intense research at the beginning. In most of the cases, my photographs come out from reading novels, essays, and archival photography. As I mentioned before concerning my approach, I don’t work for a predetermined outcome.
You took stunning shots of Monte Inferno, a small village in central Italy. Why have you chosen this location specifically?
Most of my photographic works are made not very far from my hometown, Latina, in the center of Italy. The narrative method that I use to depict my birth place is by chapter; previously I worked on the sea coast than on the city of Latina, then again in an Indian community, Sikh religion, that lives in the country not so far from the sea. I always imagined producing a big archive divided by themes, where every chapter could be work alone or be mashed up to tell a multilayered story of this part of Italy.
Monte Inferno is the last and newest chapter; everything started from a crime news that gave me the possibility to create a link between the facts and my interpretation of reality, or rather, to let me investigate on life around a landfill — where for years — Camorra was involved in the illegal traffic of toxic waste and was guilty of the murder of a parish priest that discovered this business.
So, Monte Inferno is a big archive of a precise historical moment, based on sharing four years of life with the inhabitants of Borgo Montello, documenting their life and the place where they live, trying to depict them without any drama setting.
What are you planning on doing next when it comes to working?
Actually, I have some pending ideas for new projects, for sure there is an open path about documenting the area near my hometown; my aim is to produce a photographic archive of my generation as much as I can.
All photographs shown in this article were used by the permission of Gabriele Rossi. If you want to see more of Gabriele’s work, check out her website.