Valerio has a real talent for catching atmospheres and associating colors. His pictures are cinematographic; they look like they are from another time, but you can’t quite identify which one. His series on America takes us on a journey filled with softness, scheming faces, sunshine, neon lights, and sparks our imagination.
Hi Valerio, can you introduce yourself to those who don’t already know you?
Hello, I’m 29 years old, I’m Italian and I live in Paris.
I have a Masters Degree in Law and after working for a while in a corporate law firm, I decided to follow my dream and live as a photographer.
So I studied photography in Paris where I currently live and work.
When did your passion for photography start?
Since I was a kid, I was interested in the way the world looks when it is photographed, which is very different than what we see with our eyes.
I was amazed by how the same object can appear totally different just depending on the light or the point of view.
If I have to pick a precise moment when my passion started, it was one afternoon, about 10 years ago, I was studying sitting at my desk and my attention was captured by the sun light falling on a pencil sharpener.
I had a point and shoot camera and started to take macro pictures of the sharpener and other objects on the desk.
In that moment I had the feeling to create something by means of my eyes and camera.
How did your USA series begin?
The US is also a passion that goes back to when I was a child.
When I was 8 or 9 years old I was already a victim of the so-called “American soft power“.
I loved American movies, comics and music and I was dreaming to travel through this country from big cities to uncontaminated nature.
This passion developed throughout the years, with the discovery of American writers and photographers that went together with my interest towards American history and politics.
I had a first road trip in the US in 2011 and since then I wanted to go back.
This was possible again in 2016 and now I go back every time I can because I can’t get enough of this country.
Did you have a clear idea about where you wanted to go or did you just follow your instinct?
Every time I go, I only book the flights from/to Europe and a car. I have an idea of where I want to go but I don’t know in advance what will precisely be in between the two flights.
For example, at the beginning of a trip which was supposed to be in the South West, I decided to have a detour in the region around Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota.
I was very charmed by those places, their atmosphere and history so that when I got back to Europe I read a lot about them and planned the following trip in the Great Plains.
In general, I try to avoid big cities and stay in small communities.
What subjects attract you and your camera?
I believe the first thing striking my European eyes when travelling in America is the width of the landscape and the sky.
Lately I am more and more interested in people and their stories. Almost all the people I met were very kind and friendly, available to tell me something about themselves and their lives.
This is very interesting to me, especially related to people living in small towns and rural communities.
What do you aim to communicate through your pictures?
Briefly, what I try to transmit is the atmosphere I felt in that place, in the precise moment I pressed the shutter.
I think the important part in a picture is not what the photographer tries to communicate but what the viewer sees when looking at the picture.
This can be completely different, even the opposite than what the photographer wants to communicate. This is so fascinating.
You told me you were using mostly an analog camera. Why this choice?
I think shooting film is a bit like listening to music on vinyl.
I like the result a film camera gives compared to a digital one : the texture, the colours, the grain and, sometimes, even the flaws of the film. Everything is already there as the eyes and the camera saw it: you almost don’t need to retouch a thing.
Furthermore, due to medium format film costs, you have a limited number of pictures you can take. This implies a strict reflection process before taking a picture. Sometimes I find myself looking for the good frame for some minutes and then realize it is not worth to take that picture.
What is there in America that you don’t find in Paris or in Italy?
As I said above, it’s been years since I am interested in the United States and their history, despite the criticisms about the fact that American continent lacks history compared to our old European civilization. (I don’t think this is true in the aspect that the first native settlements in North America go back to about 30,000 years ago).
I am particularly interested in the events and places related to the conquest of the West and its frontier, which I find some how emblematic of the positive and negative aspects of American history.
I also love driving and the US are a great place to do it!
Do you feel like your practice of photography evolved throughout this project?
In a way I would say yes, because at the beginning of the project I was taking more landscape pictures and now I am more and more interested in portraits and people.
Anyway, to answer this question I think I need to let the pictures rest and look at them in a couple or more years.
Do you have more projects on the horizon?
In Paris, I mostly work for corporate and interior design and I would like to make a project out of my regular job one day.
I always take pictures when I go back to Sicily and I think this is a project I will carry on all my life.
For the moment, I want to concentrate and focus on the United States and I am planning the next trip in the Great Plains where I met some kind people available to host me.