Interview Francesco Gioia
Can you tell us about your background and how you became interested in photography?
My parents encouraged my creativity from an early age and I became interested in photography around the age of 20 when I started working for a friend of my father’s at a photojournalism agency in Florence. I was entrusted with a priceless historical archive of more than 3 million images (captured between 1944 and the early 1990s by founder Giulio Torrini), including some of the most incredible photographs of Florence of the 1950s and 1960s. Shortly after that, I moved to London, and it was here, in its bustling streets, that I really taught myself photography.
Your work draws inspiration from various art movements, including Bauhaus and
Dadaism. How do these movements influence your artistic vision and creative process?
The key Dadaist artists who have inspired me the most are definitely Hugo Ball, Man Ray, Hans (Jean) Arp, and Hannah Höch. Although my photographs rarely lean towards a satirical and absurd attitude against forms of authority, the aesthetics of many of their works have always fascinated me, such as the way the elements are merged in Hannah Höch's piece "Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany," a unique and very stimulating work. The Bauhaus movement and its geometric, angular, and abstract design has always resonated with me. Speaking of my formation, figures such as Gyorgy Kepes, László Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Florence Henri, Grete Stern, and Walter Peterhans have been the counterparts to my street photography role models, from which I draw the most.
The visual framework of my work is a combination of different styles and genres, capable of sudden excursions of tone, and many of these aesthetic turns often contaminate my way of doing street photography. I also love taking pictures of industrial architecture, particularly steel structures that conform, if not imitate, the aesthetics of Constructivism and Precisionism.
How do you choose your subjects and locations for your photographs?
For my personal work, I never choose the subjects or locations of my photographs. Everything is left to chance, and I photograph whatever catches my attention and imagination when I go out, and wherever I go, I never know what I will find. The unknown plays a fundamental role, and if I knew what I would be shooting the next day, I would probably lose the desire to photograph. Only when I work on commission or for assignments do I know what I will be facing, but even then, I always try to experiment and go beyond the instructions I have been given. I keep them in mind, but try to infuse my personal vision as much as possible.
What’s your favorite lens(es)?
If I had to choose one I would probably go with the 50mm. It’s the most versatile and suits my needs more than any other lens.
How has your artistic vision and style evolved over time?
When I started, I had a very limited idea of what I wanted to do, and like everything else over time, my vision has become more refined. However, despite this, I don't think I have a specific artistic vision. I am primarily guided by instinct and I hate having preconceived formulas or methods to achieve results, whatever they may be. Part of the art that I love the most is the one that breaks away from technicalities and liberates itself, the one without schemes or labels, the one that often seeks to move through the rejection of rules and so-called conventions. I also find that when there is too much awareness, it's difficult for something great to come out, except for exceptions. Often, the key lies in unconsciousness, in spontaneity. When there is too much theory, everything stops working a little, you'll notice. There should always be a balance between instinct, research, and theory. In my opinion, too much theory in art is bad because when there is too much theory, you tend to lose something. Often, I see photographers who fill their photographs with too much verbosity and saturate them with concepts and explanations that end up eating the rest. Often, when I look at the great cinematic works, the most beautiful paintings, the most important photography books, or the most innovative music albums, the composer often has no idea of the masterpiece they are creating. Almost never is the author the best critic of themselves. Therefore, in my opinion, the best products are those that are a bit more unaware of the result they are seeking, those made a bit more by inner will rather than by a cerebral and ambitious search to represent their art. The best one is the less self-referential.
Can you walk us through your creative process, from conceptualizing an idea to
executing the final images?
Most of my photographs arise instinctively. I am fascinated by the unknown, by images whose meaning is obscure and multiple. Sometimes I photograph without thinking about anything in particular. Most of the time, I look for things that mirror my feelings at that moment. Overall the thought process is emotional, just expressing. Everything I shoot, whether street photography, still life, landscape, or whatever, doesn't matter. It's what I'm trying to communicate at the time, and it's pretty arbitrary and emotional.
My creative process changes every time so I never make plans. The majority of the works nowadays are concept-driven but I don’t work that way. There is no particular theme or theory. I don't like explaining what I do as I feel it takes away from the experience. I want the message to be found and created by the individual viewer. The struggle that I have with concept-driven work is that essentially part of me wants to do that but I find that photography most often works best when the viewer has a lot of space for his own considerations and Interpretations.
Your photographs often feature a sense of movement or dynamism, how do you create that effect in your compositions?
I enjoy experimenting with various elements such as length, width, direction, and size when working with data. Additionally, I like to print out my work and apply different techniques, such as using layers or reflections, which can result in a more dynamic composition.
How do you use color to draw the viewer's eye to certain elements in your photographs, and how does this impact the overall composition? Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your choice of colours?
The main inspiration of how I use colour comes from my emotional state. There's nothing I can say about color and its use that you couldn't find in any book. Colour is a mysterious and enigmatic force that defies explanation and every time I find myself talking about color, its use or its characteristics, I struggle. I can't explain how I do certain things, I'm not trying to be enigmatic or elusive, they are unconscious things that probably I don't even fully understand myself. I don't presume to know how to explain how to communicate something through color or how to use it to make a composition more electrifying. The only thing I can say is that everyone should find their own way to express themselves through color and see what it means to them, I find it to be a very personal discussion. Ultimately, I take a photograph and I use colour the same way I live a dream, which is fascinating as long as it remains mysterious and allusive and risks becoming bland when explained.
Can you talk about any particular photographs or projects that hold a special significance to you? What is the most powerful picture you ever took?
There are a lot of pictures that hold a special significance for me but recently I took a photo in London of this man looking at a painting in the window of a shop and everything makes sense in that shot. The light, his shadow, his awkward and curious posture as he contemplates the magnificence of the painting in front of him, the moment itself is special. I took it on my 32nd birthday. It's a photograph that also speaks a lot about the loneliness I felt in that city and the alienation that anyone feels in the big cities of the world and how an apparently insignificant moment like stopping to look at a painting can represent a small glimpse into a fragile moment of a person that would otherwise go unnoticed.
What is the most important to you in what you do?
Being respectful towards others and following my own vision.
How did you make the image below?
I took this image by playing around with mirrors and reflections in the water. It’s about experimenting and thinking outside the box.