The Thousand Words: Giovanni Piliarvu

A picture tells a thousand words... and we are here to tell you a few more in our ongoing series A Thousand Words where we dig through the vault of talented photographers at Aperture Tours and get them to open up a little about some of their favourite images. 

The Lighthouse of Mangiabarche

Sardinia, Italy by Giovanni Piliarvu

PHOTOGRAPHY: Giovanni Piliarvu • Canon 60D • Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L @ 200MM @ 200MM • Ƒ/2.8 • 1/60 • ISO 400

The famous lighthouse of Mangiabarche (literally Boat Eater) named for its reputation as a danger to boats.

I have always been attracted to the Sulcis region of Sardinia, Italy. The first time I heard of it was on the label of a bottle of Carignano del Sulcis wine. Imagine my surprise the first time I explored the area and was confronted with abandoned mines, Roman temples, sand dunes and trees curved by the strong wind. It was not exactly what I had in my mind when I thought about vineyards.

Sardinia is a famous vacation destination. Unless you live in Italy, what comes to mind is the idyllic beach with white sand draped in constant sunshine. But coming from there, I know there is more to Sardinia than just humongous yachts floating in crystal clear water. When I was planning an exhibition on the Mediterranean Jewel, I wanted to show Sardinia through the eyes of a local.

There is something magical about going to the shore when the wind is strong and the sea shows its power.  I am sure that anyone who lives close to the sea would testify to that statement. I wanted to convey that sensation in my work. I just had to wait for the weather to be the right balance between what I wanted from the image and my camera's safety. Sounds easy right? It was not. I swapped one island for another, and now I live on the other side of the world in Japan, so I could not just open the window to check the weather and take a few snaps of the lighthouse.  Long story short, it took me four years and five visits to the lighthouse before I got this shot.

The lighthouse is close enough to the shore to shoot with a medium zoom lens - perhaps a 70mm - and that will give you a panoramic view of the area. My goal was to make the lighthouse take the lead, so I used my Canon 70-200L zoomed in to 200mm. The wind was strong, making it difficult to stand still, so I opened the lens to ƒ/2.8 so I could keep my shutter fast. I left my full frame 5D MkII in the bag, and instead opted for my cropped frame 60D. The crop sensor brought me closer to the subject, but the main reason was to take advantage of the faster burst mode (5.3 shots per second compared with 3.9). This allowed me to freeze the waves and concentrate on their shape.

To me, it is a symbol of the beauty and danger of the Mediterranean Sea. An image of hardships that the people of Sulcis encounter, who go through life making the best of a harsh territory. A place that combines raw natural beauty with the roughness that only mother nature herself is capable of. 


Photographer's Profile

NAME: Giovanni Piliarvu
BORN: Sardinia, Italy
STYLE: Landscape, festivals. 
INFLUENCES: I will leave out Cartier Bresson and the other great photographers because they are a given. My uncle Antonello, who was the first photographer I ever knew. Igor Tuveri, because he is a master in everything he does and a great person. Holger Feroudj, because it is fantastic walking together in the photo world. Andrei Tarkovsky because, if I have to explain it, you don't know him, and you have to fix that. Stanley Kubrick, for his painstaking hunt for perfection. Fan Ho, for composition and use of black and white in his pictures. 
FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOOT: Wherever there is something that tells me something. Usually, in the wee hours, when there are no people around, far from the city.
HIGH POINT: Top of Mount Fuji, camera in my hands and my heart to the sun coming up in front of me.
LOW POINT: every time that I have a deadline for an exhibition. 
TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Don't spray and pray, shoot only if you feel it 


Giovanni Piliarvu is is a photographer with Aperture Tours in Tokyo as well organising an eleven-day photography workshop around his birthplace, Sulcis with Aperture Tours for the Sardinia Photography Workshop.