Interview with Barbara Zanon
BIFA 2021 Winner, 1st Place, Professional Fine Art category, “Filling The Void”
Q: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you discover your love for photography?
I graduated from classical high school and then enrolled in the university of chemistry. Towards the end of my studies, I accidentally picked up a camera… and I haven’t left it since. I realized that it was an extension of who I was. So I dropped out of college and immediately started working as a photojournalist. I didn’t go to any school, I learned in the field, day after day, mistake after mistake. I immediately started to study photography on my own, going to public libraries and reading all the books I could find on the subject.
Q: What was your last work and how did the initial spark of inspiration come about?
I can’t say which is my latest work, because I always work on several projects at the same time, often very different from each other. Because besides doing fine art photography, I am also a portrait photographer and a photojournalist. I can only say that my inspiration comes from observing our society, the people around me. And then I try to figure out how it all relates to me and my intimacy. I usually let some time pass and then I try to understand if what I have in my head is feasible and if someone else has already done it. In that case I move on.
Q: You were awarded Professional Fine Art Photographer of the Year 2021 for your work, Filling the Void. The series resonates with all of us, demonstrating some of the emotions we have felt during the Coronavirus lockdowns. How did the idea of this particular style come about? What was the most notable moment during this project?
Thank you so much for the kind words and the award. Over the last couple of years because of covid-19, especially in the beginning, the workload has almost gone to zero. And I went from traveling a lot to staying cooped up, like everyone else, at home. This led me to look for new ways to communicate my emotions, my pain, my anguish. And so I began to take inner journeys in search of new ways to see the desolate world that was around me at that moment. I’ve always loved collages, and I thought they were a good way to express myself. The hardest part was choosing which photographs to use of my parents and grandparents…but the most exciting thing was seeing their portraits from 50-70 years ago placed in today’s Venice, desolate because of the lockdown. It seemed to me that they could live again for a moment and that that moment was mine alone and, at the same time, became universal.
Q: Besides Fine Art photography, is there another genre that you enjoy creating in?
As I told you, I am a photojournalist and portrait photographer… I am generally interested in human beings and the society they live in.
Q: What does winning this award mean to you?
Awards always have more value. Beyond the obvious ones, i.e. exposure and diffusion of one’s work, they also serve to compare oneself with other photographers and artists and to see where photography is going. And these things are fundamental to grow and improve.
Specifically, this award came after being a finalist at POY, winning the Lens Culture Critic’s Choice and also PX3 with this work. For me, it was the final confirmation that working on yourself and experimenting with a new kind of language, stepping out of your comfort zone, works. It works because it forces you to question everything, to study, to look inside yourself, to look for new ways. it’s tiring, but it’s worth it.
Q: What would be your dream project in photography if there would be no budget limits and you could travel anywhere, photograph anything/anyone?
Truth? I would love to be able to follow the life of the President of the United States for a year, both his public and private life. I think it would be an extremely stimulating and fascinating experience, as well as educational. One of the works that I have loved and studied the most is the one made by Pete Souza on Obama. I know it will never happen, but a dream is a dream!
Q: What would be the one advice you would give to novice photographers?
I would tell him to train a lot. And to find his own style, always remaining very critical of himself. To read essays, go to photography shows, art shows in general, and to compare himself with colleagues. I would tell him that it is important to be able to listen to others, without ever taking them for granted. To always respect who you have in front of you, and to know how to listen to your own emotions. That every time you start a new project you start from scratch and you have to question yourself again and again. And that you never arrive, you can only grow.
Q: Are you working on something new right now? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I can only say that I am working on a new project that combines photos and paints 😉