“How did you get here?” is a question I get a lot. After hearing that I have an American mother and a father from Genova, that I was born in Florida and lived in Los Angeles, travelled around South East Asia and South America for a couple of years and then nestled into the town of Mantua, Italy, in the foggy flatlands of the Pianura Padana, people cock their heads with an inquisitive look.
I explain that yes, I travelled a lot but that I grew up here, and Mantua is actually in a very nice spot, geographically speaking. You can day trip to all major Northern Italian cities, it's a great place to eat, and all of Europe is a just a hop on a plane away.
The variety of this part of Italy is fantastic. Lake Garda is a great getaway, skiing in winter is just over an hour away, hiking in the summer time is perhaps less than that, Milan is a direct short train ride away and always has concerts and exhibitions going on, Venice is that magical playland you go to to forget that you live on Earth, Verona is basically my backyard, Bologna and its cultural events are close enough to go on a last minute day safari, Parma is a nice city with world famous ham and cheese (Parmesan). Photographically speaking, I can point my car in any direction and find an inspirational place to shoot and still make it home by bedtime. There's the Alps, the Appennini, the Po river with its desert like beaches in the summer, old abandoned villas in the countryside, natural hot springs, wooded areas, the fog in the winter, mountain ravines. In fact one of my favorite types of days is packing the car with snacks, photographic equipment, some photographer/model/assistant friends, costumes and odd objects, and taking off to frolic somewhere. So that's how I got here, and stayed.
Although I started off with travel photography, when my body stopped moving around so much my mind started to travel. My art has drifted towards surreal and conceptual photography. I find inspiration in objects, clothes and materials, bodies, ambiguity. Sometimes a photograph is born simply from an odd find, like an ostrich egg, then I build around it. Locations are also seeds for my images. I always like to add a human element and therefore a story to my pictures. A lonely leaf filled fountain becomes a home for water nymphs; an abandoned 18th century living room seats an old woman having tea all dressed up, unaware of her surroundings. I have a long piece of nude transparent fabric that has fluttered in greenhouses, wrapped naked ladies, and been dragged in a field. What I like about creating these kinds of images is the mystery in it. I merely give opportunities for imagination. Why the girl in the photo clutching the plastic strawberries seems happy about the hand cutting a chunk of meat is entirely up to the viewer.
When I work with people, which is nearly always, I try to find the photo that's in them, rather than give them a photo to pose for. In fact, our (yes, I like to use 'our' for some sets, because it's a relationship between the photographer and subject that grows during the set) best shots are the second half, after I have observed the subject, spoken with them, shared with them. I don't always end up with shots that I thought of beforehand. I think of the concept and basics, but then I leave room for inspiration. I like surprises.
Author : Anna Volpi
Anna is the photography expert that heads up the Aperture Tours in Venice and Verona. When she's not taking pictures she is usually enjoying dinners or having aperitivo with friends. Anna loves discovering new areas in Italy or going back to places with a crew of models and photographer friends to make magic happen.