in conversation with: CLAUDIA ORSETTI
Italian Photographer Claudia Orsetti is an architect by training, but as long as she can remember has been photographing things. She has lived in Switzerland, Tokyo, New York, and London, before moving to Amsterdam at the beginning of 2020. Photography for her is a way of knowing places and people and their stories, but also knowing herself. She is most interested in the "obvious things", the imprecise moments without expectations, the reality where you think there is nothing to see. She is attracted by contradictions and those often become the centre of her work.
When and how did you start getting interested in photography?
Honestly, I don’t know...I don’t remember. I think it must have been at the beginning of highschool, my parents got me a camera for me to play around, but back then it was not a priority. I guess when I was around 20 and I started travelling for real, that was the switch: seeing realities so different from mine pushed me to somehow find a way to express what I was seeing. Photography was my way of telling back the stories of people and places I encountered.
What is your favourite quote?
In life, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)
I remember I printed it and hung it over my desk, when I was doing my master diploma and somehow it stuck with me in everything else afterwards. I am someone who jumps into the high water and just does. Sometimes...a little bit too fast! But I would say that this attitude of not being afraid of doing something (therefore potentially failing at it) has been proven to bring very interesting and unexpected turns in my life!
In photography probably Robert Frank’s "The eye should learn to listen before it looks."
Which for me means the story is more important than a technically perfect photo with a brilliant composition.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find that a very difficult question and the most honest answer (probably also boring!) is that I find my inspiration everywhere. I am an eager observer and a good listener, and I think that is always the beginning of a story. So if by inspiration you mean how do I start any project, I would say that is it.
Who are your favourite artists/photographers?
I am in love with the photos of Luigi Ghirri and Guido Guidi. That minimalism way before the instagram square, which was almost ermetic is super poetic for me, and allows the viewer to complete the image the way he wants. I find incredible the frame cutting of Alex Webb, the genuine and disarming honesty of Sebastiao Salgado and the irony of Tony Ray Jones.
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
Absolutely and necessarily. I’d like to think I constantly grow and evolve as a person, and that brings me to new perspectives and more banally new knowledge and technology. Therefore my focus on things shifts and so does the way I portray them. Also I believe that one develops a style through time; I think your own style is not just the same pinkish filter you add to your shots, it’s something deeper, an overarching theme or mood which at some point you’ll realize is your own.
Where is your favourite place to shoot?
Iceland. I adore that place and I keep going back every other year. I just feel good there and I love driving so...it’s my perfect place. It’s surreal, primordial, moody, extreme, and it’s different every time. It is mainly about landscape obviously. I also love shooting on the streets, when travelling especially. Somehow my mind gets into a different dimension and I feel open and receptive to many more things, which consequently allows me to get closer to people and their stories.
Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? What would you say to someone just starting out?
This is the classic tricky question as I guess everyone will tell you that a good photographer is good regardless of the equipment. It’s the mind and the eye that makes the photographer. Nonetheless, the right equipment does allow you to reach the level of expression that you aspire to, so yes it is important, but, if we reverse it, an amazing camera doesn’t make you a good photographer! To someone starting out I would say experiment and explore a lot. Try different cameras, old, new, film, digital, colour, b&w, anything. But do go out a lot to take a lot of pictures. That is essential.
What characteristics do you think you need to become a photographer? What are your tips or advice for someone in your genre?
Be curious. Be open and generous, meaning be ready to open yourself up to others and listen, and let unexpected circumstances drive you on different paths that you haven’t considered. In that sense also be very resilient, be able to adapt and yet be stubborn in pursuing what you want. Allow a lot of time. Shooting is just a part of a photographic project, then you need time to reflect, to research, to think, to write perhaps, and most probably to shoot more.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
Well, I am actually an architect by training, so yes! Although architecture is an incredible mix of science, art, technology, business, sociology, and communication. But hey....so is photography.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on?
I’m currently working on a few things. One project is called Iran is Pink, and it is using the colour pink as a thread to talk about the women in Iran. Pink is a colour that has gone from being a symbol of fragile femininity to being punk and strong: it has become feminist. And the story starts on the Maharlu Lake, which is a salt lake (hence pink) south of Shiraz. The project is still evolving, not sure how, but will definitely become more rich than what it is now...at least I hope so!
I’m also working on a self-published book called Ordinary Intimacy, which is a project born during the quarantine. Nothing to do with photos in the domestic environment...instead it is a collection of photos of ordinary things and moments without expectations, which I found by looking back into my archive. They were shots I didn’t remember, and lots of them I didn’t remember when or where I took them, but those things or moments were so ordinary, so easily identifiable, that you could project any similar memory into that. So that process became the project...which is also still in evolution!
Last but not least a series called Suspended, which is ongoing.
If I wasn't photographing what would I be doing?
As I said before, I am also an architect, so that is what I am actually doing together with photography! I’d like to be an event organizer, to be honest, which I do sometimes, but not professionally. Nonetheless I always say that if I had to choose something else completely, I would grow and sell plants and flowers. My house is a small jungle!
Thank you Claudia!
All photographs © Claudia Orsetti
Claudia has organized several photo exhibitions, and her photos are regularly featured in digital platforms and magazines. Read Claudia's story Informal Realities about when she traveled to India and visited two of Mumbai's slum areas. Discover more of Claudia´s work and her latest projects by following her on Instagram and visit her website.