Mara Palena on the Floating Piers and Travel Photography
The Floating Piers was a years-long installation that once graced Iseo Lake in Italy. As dismantling of the site-specific installation commences, photographer Mara Palena recalls her visit to the Piers and discuss some of her inklings on traveling and photography.
Here’s our exclusive one-on-one with Mara Palena herself.
Hi Mara, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, describe to us your visit at the Floating Piers. When was it? Was it love at first sight?
Hello! Thank you for having me! It was July 2016. I was very fascinated by all the phenomenon that became in such a short time, there were very long queues and lots of people every day of the event. One of the subjects that I love to explore in my photography is mass tourism, It was very natural for me to document this event, it was like a holiday destination for everyone that was there and I was very surprised by this.
The pier is already closed to the public and dismantling the installation began in 2011. Share us your favorite spot to photograph there.
I’ve read that Christo and Jeanne-Claude began conceptualizing of The Floating Piers in 1970, I’ve read they started the project in 2014. My favorite spot was where the food truck was, you could see the orange and the blue far away and it was beautiful.
What did people usually do as they walked down the floating surface?
People who visited are very tourist-like, they were taking selfies, sunbathing, putting cream on, lots of people had colorful parasols. It was like a festival that’s why I guess it was the perfect stage for me.
As a photographer, what drew you to the place?
That event has been covered by the press in different ways, I felt I wanted to explore more and document the event having the people as subjects and not the just the piers. I think the people were part of the installation in a unique and grotesque way.
If there was a memory during the visit you surely would not forget, what would it be, why?
I don’t think I have one single memory, it was the overall experience that was very interesting. I remember the ferry was always packed so all the people with a boat started to offer the service from one coast to another, that was very funny, in this way you can imagine how crazy the lake was during those days, there were food trucks on one side in the town where people were having drinks and food … I was very surprised how everyone enjoyed this installation.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Whom are your muses?
I would say anything, precisely movies for light, atmosphere, and characters, photography for general research, paintings for poses, philosophy for concepts and magazines for layouts. My brother is a director, I’ve always watch so many movies since I was a kid, some of my muses are definitely Wong Kar-Wai, Gregg Araki, David Lynch and I have to say, Xavier Dolan, for my generation, he is absolutely amazing.
If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, who would it be?
There are so many photographers that I admire like Mark Cohen, Raymond Depardon, Daidō Moriyama, Claude Nori, Nan Golding … the list could go on for hours.
I don’t think I could choose one, I wouldn’t put my body of work close to any of them right now, I think any collaboration would be interesting to see with another photographer/director or artist that works on similar themes and has a similar aesthetic … but If you really want me to say a name, I would probably say Dennis Morris while he was shooting Sex Pistols!
If you could go to any place in the universe right now and photograph it, where would that exactly be?
This is a difficult one … I am not sure. Maybe Iceland, I really want to plan a trip there soon. I guess I am more fascinated by people in my work, it’s always more a mix of banal and intimate scenes of life. I would love to shoot a movie documenting a group of teenagers and their culture, but that could be anywhere! Let’s say Japan, it’s actually one of the street photography projects I am working on right now, I would probably come back there straight away and keep working on it.
Describe to us — what’s a day in the life of Mara Palena?
I have this idea in mind, of this girl that wakes up early, get a cup of coffee goes to her atelier and work on her photography all day; but the reality is, days are hectic, they are too short to finish work and it’s quite hard to schedule free-lance jobs and personal projects. Let’s say I wake up, the first thing I get is an American coffee, I put some music on and I check my emails. My favorite day is the day I have to work on my layouts, so I start printing, editing and making collage … before I realize it’s already the end of the day and I will have dinner at home and I will watch a movie.
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you’re keen to work on?
I spend my downtime listening to music and watching/re-watching movies but I am trying to spend more time in nature lately, going outdoors is something I couldn’t do in London but now that I am working in Milan too it’s something that I can enjoy more.
I am working on many different projects, I will have an exhibition in Milan next week called 1915–1999 that is about the city of Milan. Currently, I am working on my street photography project I’ve shot in Japan and at the same time, I have few on-going projects like “Oikeiosis” that it’s been an on-going project since I’ve started my practice.