Interview with Raffaele Canepa
BIFA 2021 Winner, 1st Place, Professional Architecture category, “Invisible Light of The City”
Q: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you discover your love for photography?
I was introduced to analogue photography as a kid by my father and with ups and downs, I’ve fiddled with cameras since a young age. In 1993 I moved from Genova – where I was born in 1974 – to Milano to attend university; soon after my arrival in town I was involved in my first film production job, and at the end of my second year I quit economics to pursue a career in the film production industry. For almost 20 years I have worked as a producer for TV shows and ADV and a director for broadcast and web documentaries and series; throughout this whole time, I regarded photography as a sort of visual sketchbook. It was around 10 years ago that I stepped into professional photography as a sport and landscape photographer on golf courses, and on those very locations I started exploring the reign of invisible light and Infrared Photography, which is now at the heart of my work. My experience with Infrared Photography comes from years of personal research and field experimentation, supported by a basic knowledge in physics and maths: in fact, you can’t totally rely on what your eyes see when you deal with infrared light. It is a trial and error process that is still ongoing, and this very process of trying to understand how the invisible light works is what still keeps the sparkle alive.
Q: What was your last work and how did the initial spark of inspiration come about?
After a few years of experimenting on infrared landscapes, I’ve switched my focus to architectural photography and how IR light responds to different materials and light conditions. My first infrared Architecture shooting was done in Milano – my hometown – back in 2016, and since then I’ve always been travelling with my infrared camera to shoot architecture and landscapes. My last major body of work was shot in 2019 in New York City, just before the pandemics. Since then travelling has been almost impossible; nevertheless, I’ve been travelling around Italy and experimenting with a specific filter which cuts deep down in the infrared spectrum, rendering very harsh black and white images and incredible crispness in the details.
Q: For your work Invisible Light of the City, you were awarded Professional Architecture Photographer of the Year 2021. How hard is it to decide which building you will be photographing? What is your thought process behind it?
Invisible Light of the City is a selection from different shooting sessions that I have been taking during my trips around the world between 2017 and 2019. It generally happened that I had in mind two or three specific buildings that I wanted to shoot, and the rest came up during my wandering around the place. The hard part is deciding what filter to use, depending on the latitude of the location, on the material the building is made of, on the atmospheric conditions and the time of the day. Infrared rendition is quite different from what we naturally perceive with our eyes, so you have to know in advance how all these factors will play into the equation, and it’s not unusual to get some disappointing results. During my one week trip to Sri-Lanka, I’ve taken more than 500 shots, but only four made it to the editing room, as I did not take into account how the humidity in the atmosphere would affect the final results. That experience though was really helpful for my subsequent job in Kazakhstan, where I achieved pretty satisfying results by using a different filter to overcome the adverse weather conditions.
Q: Besides Architecture photography, is there another genre that you enjoy creating in?
I’ve also been experimenting with infrared Portraiture, which brings to life very interesting results, but at the end of the day, I am not really a portrait photographer. At the moment I am experimenting with Polaroid and instant photography, which in fact is quite at the opposite end of the spectrum of what I normally do, but maybe this is the reason I enjoy this kind of photography.
Q: What does winning this award mean to you?
It’s a great honor. I have been awarded a few recognitions in the past, but this is the very first time that I won a “Photographer of the Year” award in my specific category, and this recognition gives credit to my work and will certainly be a booster for my next future activities.
Q: What would be your dream project in photography if there would be no budget limits and you could travel anywhere, photograph anything/anyone?
Beside all the amazing architectural sites around the world, I’d love to have the opportunity to travel around the deserts of world to do landscape photography; I’ve travelled through the desert in Oman and in Peru, and it’s an amazing landscape which matches really well my love for minimalism.
Q: What would be the one advice you would give to novice photographers?
Don’t be afraid to imitate the work of others. Imitation and repetition is the best way for learning: just like when you’re learning to play an instrument, you don’t start with playing your own music. At some point, you will find that you’re ready to walk your own path and you will do that with a solid background.
Q: Are you working on something new right now? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I’m working on a project on medieval towns of central Italy with a particular focus on Umbria, Marche and Abruzzo, which are three less known regions of my country, but still beautiful and amazing. The major difference with my previous work is that landscape has a key role and is not just about the buildings: I’m still experimenting with different filters and combinations thereof in order to achieve the right balance between nature and man made structures, but my first results are promising. Eventually this could be my project for BIFA 2022 in the landscape category…