in conversation with: ROSAMARIA FILOGRASSO
What attracts self-taught photographer Rosamaria Filograsso to the art of photography, is it’s visionary and it’s super powers to go beyond reality. It is teaching Rosamaria to look harder at people, objects and situations, enriching her natural curiosity, hence why she thinks it fits her personality so well.
Rosamaria shares with us her project called “Vitamin Sea” that started some years ago. It is an ongoing personal project that she keeps adding to every Summer when she is visiting Barletta, her childhood hometown in the south of Italy, where her parents still live today. Leaving her parents’ home has meant that Rosamaria feels a deeper and stronger affection and connection to the city that has seen her growing up and becoming an adult. As long as she can remember the sea has always been a large part of her memories.
This project portrays the positive interaction between the people and the sea in a beach environment. Somewhere on the web, Rosamaria found a quote that says: Those who live by the sea can hardly form a single thought of which the sea would not be part of.” The sea is rooted within Rosamaria, everything she has seen and experienced over her life since day zero. It is an integral part of her culture and something that she can never tear apart from her existence. Her sea is a lively place, a bright place of joy, and as she describes, “a sort of natural vitamin supplement “Vitamin Sea”, where you are able to recharge one’s personal batteries like nothing else. Ready to make you feel alive again and full of energy.” Rosamaria achieves this in her photographs, playful and happy, impromptu geometries created by pure chance.
In this interview, Rosamaria talks to us more about this project and about the evolution of her photographic journey.
For your feature you sent us your photo project "VITAMIN SEA". Tell us more about your project, what you were thinking about, and how you approached putting it together.
My project “Vitamin Sea” had a causal birth, with the first photos dated back in 2010. It began to take a proper shape some years later when I bought my Nikon camera, my first 'grown up' camera. It was natural for me to bring it along during every summer holidays in my hometown of Barletta in the hot South of Italy where my parents still live by the sea. I documented summer and beach life and, year after year, when I was in Barletta or visiting another beach place in the South of Italy, I grew my collection of beach moments and beach people.
A couple of years ago while scrolling through my archives I realized those images had a lot more in common that I would of thought, and I started to work with them to explicit the narrative hidden within. So, yes, I would say that here the photographs came first and helped shaping their inner story. And because every year I visit Barletta I will keep on working on “Vitamin Sea” project for the years to come.
I love witnessing the way the relationship between people and their life-by-the-sea is changing through the years, especially now as new generations follow.
This is my first ongoing project, it is teaching me getting as organized as possible because I only spend about ten days at the beach each year to take photos. So I must treat shooting time as carefully as I can. Dealing with a high number of photos is also crucial as both the selection and the editing part is not easy, plus it’s done over a long period of time.
Finally, should I mention the greatest achievement I would say “Vitamin Sea” pushed me to break the ice and to create a common field of trust with all the people I have met and photographed throughout the years.
More generally speaking, tell us when and how you started getting interested in photography?
I am a self-taught photographer living in Milan but I am born and raised in Barletta, a city by the sea in the South of Italy. Although photography it’s not my job at the moment, I have gravitated around it all my life. My father was a keen photographer, he used to take tons of photos of me and my sister everyday and to collect cameras. I was fascinated that’s why when I was about 10 I asked for a camera, he bought me my first one and taught me photography.
My partner is also a talented photographer. We love spending time discussing photography, going to photo exhibitions, buying photography books, commenting on the photos we take, playing each other’s photo editors.
My 9-to-5 job is in marketing and communication, so also during my office life photography is on my radar, having I to deal with images and their power on a daily basis.
Do you have a favourite quote that resonates with you the most?
Yes! Martin Parr once said: “Photography is the simplest thing in the world, but it is incredibly complicated to make it really work”.
I think it’s 100% self-explanatory! Just clicking the shutter button is not enough to have a proper photo, and this is even more true nowadays where everybody is (or better: believes to be) a photographer. But I guess that’s a feature of the image-based society we’re living in that has, unfortunately, depreciated good photography. So it’s even more important to curate and support good and meaningful photography: it’s a matter of culture, which is fuel for progress in the society.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Music and photography books are my greatest source of inspiration. They act like a mood board for when I have to start any photo essay!
Who are your favourite artists/photographers? Who has mostly influenced your style?
Luigi Ghirri and Martin Parr are my Maestri, those I rely to whenever I feel blah and uninspired. I understand it’s an odd pairing but I am hopelessly fascinated by opposites! In particular, Parr teaches me how to compose images when there are crowds involved, while Ghirri educates my eye putting serenity, calmness and poetry into photos.
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
Luigi Ghirri’s “The Complete Essays 1973-1991”: it’s a collection of thoughts and reflections around photography with a strong philosophical flavor. It’s a super slow book, but each page contains millions of ideas!
I am not sure Ando Gilardi’s books have been translated in English or in other languages (what a great shame), but they are the most eye-and-mind opening that I’ve ever read. Gilardi was an Italian photographer and a photography historian but mostly he was an independent, anarchist, lateral thinker and his unique point of view about photography is, in my opinion, still unsurpassed.
Where is your favorite place to shoot?
All places where people interact and do stuff...are my favourite!
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
Yes, it has changed and a lot.
First, in terms of composition I improved greatly.
Secondly (and related) my photography is grown up more in terms of “getting straight to the point”. I have learnt how to concentrate my photographic efforts towards one or few elements, (being it an interesting person, some gestures or a particular situation) shaping an image which is talkative about one story.
Once I have mastered this, I want to add a higher level of complexity to my images, with different and multi-layered subjects so to create a longer narrative.
Do you prefer to shoot alone or with friends?
Shooting with friends is not an option for me, because they would take my concentration away leaving me with zero productivity. Moreover, I am sure they would be fed up soon of spending time with a photographer in action constantly looking for the next interesting face or situation to visually explore.
Sometimes I shoot with my partner - and I like that because obviously he knows how it works and what it means to spend the whole day walking and yearning for people and places interesting enough to contribute telling a story.
What equipment do you prefer to use? Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
My camera is a Nikon D750 and 90% of the time I use a 50mm lens. I love that lens because it provides the right amount of distance if I want to photograph someone or something either near or far. Being not to wide it forces me to select the right elements to give importance to, and that really both simplifies and makes the process of taking a good photograph much more efficient.
What would you say to someone wanting to start out in your genre of photography?
Cartier-Bresson’s “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” is in my opinion the best motivational quote for anyone wishing to enter this amazing photography world. It tells a simple truth: that photography is difficult and requires a consistent, never ending eye-training. To that I would humbly add to experiment with technicalities to help find your own vision and style.
Finally: don’t be shy and break the ice! If you find an interesting face ask if you can take a photo. Most of the times you will end up with hours long chats with incredible people that will be as friendly as an open book telling amazing, moving stories ending up enriching both you and your photo story. That’s the genuine beauty of photography!
Is there anything you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
Photography is visionary, it has this amazing super power of going beyond reality, making you daydream: that’s exactly what I want to express with my images, and that’s exactly the reason why I consider photography as the visual sister of poetry. To achieve that, the elements I always try to include in my photographs are: simplicity, humor, a bit of surrealism.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
I love all art forms: music (I play bass guitar and sing), cinema (when I was younger I have been attending Venice International Film Festival as a jury member of one of the independent and unofficial awards), ancient and modern visual art, architecture, sculpture and design… but apart from attending exhibitions, museums, events etc. I am not involved in the artistic world.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
I am planning to shape a photo essay “looking harder” and with more attention at people and habits of Milan, the city that welcomed me 21 years ago.
The idea here is that the ordinary is always taken for granted and under-valuated just because it belongs to what’s familiar. We usually feel attracted by what’s uncharted, so my goal is to try and reverse that point of view and finding the exotic in the familiar.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
As an artist my main goal is to always use photography with the greatest sense of responsibility. The power of photography is to document our complicated world, so I hope to do so in a way that makes people appreciate what we are seeing, think in a non superficial way and - last but for for least - have a healthy laugh of ourselves if needed!
With that in mind I wish to keep on improving both my narrative and composition skills and reach my professional aspiration of working as an editorial photographer for magazines.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…”
...listen to The Beatles, I am their number one fan!"