Painterly Landscapes: an Interview with Luca Tombolini
How photographer Luca Tombolini paints with light is as if with harmonious brushstrokes dictated by natural formations and pastel colors. In this interview, Tombolini reveals the inklings from his conscious and subconscious psyche into transforming pictures to artworks.
Read our exclusive one-on-one with Luca here in Lomography Magazine.
Hi Luca! Firstly, we’re so glad to have you here in Lomography Magazine. You mainly shoot landscapes. How would you distinguish your style in landscape photography apart from others?
Thanks a lot for having me here. Well, on the technical side I’d say that I shoot large format negatives and drum scan them. This makes a difference for what concerns the look of the picture. I like pastel colors and a pictorial feeling of the image.
On the conceptual side I only shoot during long lone trips through the landscape I decide to dedicate myself to. So after a while spending time in it, everything starts to slow down until a point in which I’m just drifting away looking at the natural cycle of night and day. Only once I’m totally lost in it I start to photograph. Somehow, being born from the same state of mind, this unconscious process is affecting the final result to the point that every image appears to me linked to the other.
Your images seem to all share a sort of theme on surreal patterns and shapes: they are composed in some sort of surrealistic nature. Can you describe us your style?
I’ve never been really thinking about any style or example to follow. The idea of this kind of landscapes came to me rather unconsciously when I began to really ask myself what I wanted to photograph. The answer was there quite clear: these, as you called them, surreal desert places. Why did I imagine it I don’t know, but photographing them is definitely a way to address that question.
On the way of doing this, I started to go back to my high school psychology studies and went back to C.G. Jung. I found his essays a perfect companion for my purpose to the point that at the moment photography is only a part of what I can now consider a little exploration of the Self done in a very naive but truly personal way. To answer the definition of my ‘style’ I’d say is an experiment about how to seek a photographic representation of oneself’s unconscious.
What inspires you in your photography? Whom/what are your creative muses?
There’s a lot of people that I really enjoy but to name the really main ones i’d say Hiroshi Sugimoto and Massimo Vitali.
I love to get lost in Sugimoto’s considerations about Time and Life; philosophy through images, that’s quite a remarkable achievement according to my humble point of view. On the other hand, when I first saw Vitali’s work I felt it struck something inside me and I thought: yes I can do this, there’s something about this kind of photography that belongs to me as well. And that was the start of what i’m trying to do now.
As a photographer, what are your ways in making you sure you grow in your craft?
I think I’ve taken a quite defined search path about landscape and unconscious. I’ve got the feeling that I’m walking in a direction which is close to what my Self might be. So it’s nothing more than continue to do this and accept what will turn out.
What elements do you usually look for when composing photographs?
Purity. Or power. In uncommon light conditions. I like crooked symmetries and weird shapes of nature but there must always be a sort of harmony lying behind. When I look at an image reversed of the ground glass it has to guide me in at first glance; if I just see a mess I give up and move on.
How would you personally define ‘landscape photography’?
I’m always in a bit of confusion when I’m asked where did I take the pictures. Because, yes, that can only be out of curiosity, but in no way when I went to Morocco for instance I wanted to describe anything about that country. So, to summarize: are we photographing for National Geographic or for ourselves? I think, amongst all possible styles an visions, this question is the main cut.
Most of your photos are shot in natural environments. It’s sort of sad that these places are rare now. Do you think your photography can help the natural environment?
Even though I’m not doing landscapes for environmental purposes I think that giving people consciousness about what we are on the verge of losing can help a bit to create an idea of conservation of these places.
Having this said it’s also crucial to know that life on our Earth have been not so peaceful while human kind was not present yet, as it went through a series of several extinction events that shaped what we can see now and the evolution of all the forms of life. This implies in our Earth’s history an ever changing process, most of the times violent and cruel. But yes, this last one is man-made and particularly questionable.
What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming project you’d like to share?
These days I’m working on final scans of my second Moroccan trip, exclusively on sand desert dunes. I think in almost a month it will be ready and it will be a pleasure to share it with you.