Interview with Salvatore Montemagno
BIFA 2021 Winner, 1st Place, Non-Professional Portfolio category, “Suspended Lives”
Q: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you discover your love for photography?
I started taking photographs a long time ago, in the 80s. The passion was passed on to me by a work colleague, in fact I took my very first shots with his reflex. After the first initial blaze, however, photography remained a secondary passion for a long time. In fact it is only recently that I take “my photos”. The encounter with digital was a real “year zero” for me. Digital has finally given me the ability to have total control over my photos, from the shot … through post-production …. to the final print version. For me photography is “externalization of inner images” and I have a very pictorial approach. My photography talks about me, it reproduces scenes that I have inside my head, made up of memories, details, experiences.
Q: What was your last work and how did the initial spark of inspiration come about?
The last work I made is called “Itaca” ……. it is a very personal work …….. An anomalous work for me that I love and I work mainly with colors …. because “Itaca” is made in black and white. “Ithaca” represents the lost homeland ….. it tells about returning to this homeland, to this land where we grew up and that for various reasons we had to leave …… and not be recognized ….. .. Do not recognize her ……. Feeling like a stranger …….. not finding one’s things anymore. He says that “Ithaca”, after you have left it for a while, you cannot find it again ……… it disappears ……. If by chance you come back …. you cannot find Ithaca. …. but you find somewhere else which is that of your devastated memory.
I was born in Sicily ….. but I had to leave it at 18 for work reasons. I’m 59 now.
Q: You were awarded Non-Professional Portfolio Photographer of the Year 2021 for your work Suspended Lives. Can you tell us more about how this project came to be? Why did you choose this particular topic?
“Suspended Lives” is a job that has really given me a lot of satisfaction ….. as well as making me win the award as non-professional photographer of the year ….. it has made me win various other awards. The theme of “Suspended Lives” is the covid …. exactly the lookdown. The idea came to me during the second wave of covids that hit Italy at the end of 2020 ……. when the city where I live was declared a red zone and therefore closed in lookdown. We could not leave the house except for urgent things or to do the shopping …….. so one day I found my reflex in my hand … as a joke and by chance I photographed my wife and my daughter at the house window from the garden ….. and looking at it, I felt that that idea was effective and strong …….. So I repeated it every day at the same time, photographing my neighbors …. .while I was doing my half hour of permitted physical activity. Aided by a good post-production with which I tried to underline the anxiety and fear with which we lived, a series of portraits of a people who look out fearfully but looking for a light of hope in the dark came out.
Q: What other genres do you enjoy creating in?
I am basically a portrait painter. I love photographing people. I love to make portraits set …. in which the environment has the same value as the model …. they have equal importance. I am no longer able, except in rare cases, to take landscape photographs that do not contemplate the presence of a living being.
The set portrait and the conceptual portrait …. are (at least for now) the only genres in which I love to create and that satisfy me.
Q: What does winning this award mean to you?
Winning this award was pure nourishment for my self-esteem !!!!!! For those who invest a lot of energy in any activity, without being a professional and therefore without any compensation for their efforts and for all the time used … receiving recognition is very important … and even more so when it comes to such a prestigious award. An award that an artist receives is like finding a point of reference while walking in the fog. The artist always lives as in the fog …. he does not know if the path he is taking is the right one … and the prizes and awards serve to make him understand that he is on the right path.
Q: What would be your dream project in photography if there would be no budget limits and you could travel anywhere, photograph anything/anyone?
I would like to make a portfolio on the beauty of women around the world. Making portraits in all countries of the earth and at all latitudes. Create an album, in my style, with my mood, made up of portraits of women from around the world. To emphasize how beauty is not only a face …… but it can have the eyes of a girl from Nepal ….. or those of a girl from Vietnam ……… it can have skin black … or white … or yellow …….
Q: What is the one piece of advice that you received in the past about photography that you follow to this day?
“Look at many photos ….. visit many exhibitions ….. and study famous photographers.” Photography, as an art form, is not made up of rigid rules, but of the photographer’s personal way of interpreting them. This is exactly what famous photographers teach us …. how to subvert the rules, how to make them your own, how to convey emotions. Famous photographers teach us how to bring your soul into an image.
Q: Are you working on something new right now? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
My latest work, not yet finished, is about Absence. We have all experienced in life the absence of something ……. of a loved one, of a friend, but also of something … of an object. It is a purely conceptual work. I am trying to show something that is not visible and I am trying to do it using a model and various objects ……. Objects that must be able to evoke this feeling of absence …….. watches, bandages on the eyes, dried flowers, etc .. Of course, all amalgamated by a post-production that makes the scenes credible and evocative.
The idea came to me looking at an old photo of me that portrays a model blindfolded in a field of poppies ………. a photo that gives the feeling that something is missing … wanted to deepen the concept this time with a series of photos.