Gregorio Paone was born and raised in Calabria, in the South of Italy. He moved to Bologna in 2005 for university studies, graduating in Economics and Marketing and Social Communication as a second degree. Photography helps him understand his place in the world while observing those aspects of society that spark his curiosity. For him, scenes from daily life hide the secret of life. He shared with us a series of photographs from Bologna that he intends to evoke a nostalgic feeling. It is an introspective journey that syntheses the relationship between the photographer and his city over a twelve year period. He has turned many contemplative walks into an opportunity to narrate his relation with this place: a story of lights and shadows, created by the characteristic arcades of the city centre, and colour games: the worm tones from the “cotto emiliano”, the yellow, the red and the orange. He sees the people in the photos as "background" to complete the scenography that illustrates Bologna's atmosphere, which is the real subject of these shots. Gregorio´s Bologna is characterised by a suffused languor: just like the mood during the last light of day.
Tell us a bit more about yourself and your background. When and how did you start getting interested in photography?
I was still just a little kid when I started playing around with my father's Minolta. I later got my very first camera by the time I was 10. I only thought of photography as a simple recording tool for memories. I only realized and got interested in the true expressive potential of photography while studying at the University of Economics and Marketing. I received a book about composition in photography (The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman) and it was like entering a totally new world. For seven years I studied on my own. In 2017 I decided to take a Master in Photography Storytelling with two World Press winners, the photographers Fulvio Bugani and Giulio Di Sturco.
You sent us through a series of your work. Does it have a name? Tell us about when and how the idea started? Is it an ongoing series? Explain your process behind the series.
The name of this series is Last Light in Bologna. It was conceived as a farewell to the city that has been my home for 12 years. The idea started while getting lost in my contemplative walks during my last year in the city. I wanted to capture the spirit of the place and hold on to it. So I focused on what I feel are the main features of Bologna: the lights and shadows created by the characteristic arcades and the colour games played out there, the warm yellow, red and orange tones, all of which blend everything together. To capture this atmosphere I would only go out and photograph during the last light of the day.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I like to find inspiration in books, both novels and essays. Reading guides my vision towards new directions, new stories, new questions.
Is there anything particular you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
Something never missing in my photographs is some form of human presence. I try to express how people feel, move and live within their environment, and how modern society makes reality look like. I believe that behind simple daily life scenes hides the secret of life.
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
For a philosophical understanding of photography I highly recommend La chambre claire by Roland Barthes and On Photography by Susan Sontag. I would also suggest Magnum contact sheets, it really makes you feel the whole photographic process.
Do you have a favourite quote/lyric/saying that resonates with you the best? And why?
“If I knew how to tell stories with words, I wouldn't bother dragging a camera all the time." - Lewis Hine
Do you prefer to shoot alone or with friends?
I think that shooting is a very personal and intimate moment for self introspection. But sometimes, when I'm out with friends, I like to use them as cover shields.
Who are your favourite artists/photographers? Who has mostly influenced your style?
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
When I started using a reflex I was shooting mostly black and white, the photos looked quite classic, since I was influenced by the photographers from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The way I photograph has been evolving ever since. The more I studied the history of photography, the more my style became much more personal. Now I look for specific light moments and colours and the frames have became wider.
Where is your favourite place to shoot?
Wherever there is life going on.
How does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
In 2010 I started with an SLR, but I always thought it was too heavy, and mostly I felt it was too intrusive. In 2014 I bought a 35mm mirrorless and it was love at first sight. Very light and easy to carry, it doesn't scare people away, it really helps me to become invisible.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
I moved back to my home town in the South of Italy three years ago. I felt the need to get to know my region much better. My next project is to follow the same routes of travellers from '800 who have explored Calabria.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
In 5 years I will probably be building up a forest.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…”
Hang out with friends, read books, plant trees and plants.
All photos © Gregorio Paone
Interview by Karin Svadlenak-Gomez