THE SILENCES WHERE WE SEE
IN CONVERSATION WITH FRANCESCA TIBONI
Francesca’s personal journey as a photographer is rooted in her communication skills and depicts the unique cultural stories found in her community in the old city of Cagliari, Sardinia. Focusing on the simple details of everyday life, presented to her as she walks through the enchanting neighborhoods of this medieval city, Francesca translates through her photographs what it is like to live in a city with so much history, with little influences from outside cultures.
Francesca’s family plays an integral role in her exploration, leading to a better understanding of how they are becoming part of Cagliari’s story, and what colorful details they will add to this part of Italy’s history. The Pictorial List's co-editor Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico asked Francesca to share her explorations, and some of her discoveries.
“You just have to live and life will give you pictures”.
Francesca, please tell us about yourself, and what your work is in corporate communications. What does your work bring to your photography?
My work pushes me to put myself on the client's side, to understand his point of view. I often have to translate information from a very technical language to a more easily understood language. Photography is also the story of many points of view. Your own, that of those who are photographed. A set of many different perceptions that visually build a new message that encompasses all these components.
You live in the medieval city of Cagliari, what it is like in Sardinia, Italy where the history and culture dates back to Neolith.
I have been living in this city for 15 years and I am deeply in love with it. It has a moving beauty, for the light, the colors of the stones, the enchanting sea. I can't stop discovering it. It is a privilege to feel welcomed in a place but, at the same time, to keep the stranger's gaze and amazement.
You say you inherited your passion for photography from your father, paint that portrait of him, and explain the inspiration and passion he left you with.
My father was a simple amateur photographer but he always encouraged me in this passion and, in general, he’s always been very supportive of my choices. He is a person very attentive to detail, without being obsessed, he certainly passed to me the devotion for precision and for a job well done. Two of my maternal uncles took and developed their photos at home. Even though I came from a very peripheral place, a village in the mountains of northern Italy, where the lack of cultural stimuli, like museums, bookshops, theaters, cinemas and exhibitions create a narrow environment.The access to flashes of beauty aroused in me a desire for research which I was then able to satisfy in the years I spent at Ca Foscari University in Venice.
Francesca, you photograph beautiful details of your city, what do these details mean to you in the wonderful stories they tell. How have the streets and culture you capture influence your photography? How have your captures changed the way you see Cagliari?
For some years I have been doing research on the city of Cagliari which is not so much about finding beautiful geometric shapes or interesting palettes. What interests me is to discover how the city of people and that of buildings intertwine, how the city changes over time and yet maintains elements that characterise it and make it unique. Distinctive features that pass from people to the urbanised environment and vice versa. This investigation passes through the exploration of the suburbs which are more of a social concept than a geographical one. Poverty, the invisibility that hides both near and far from the Inner city. I am a person deeply in love with humanity, for many years I have volunteered in the prisons here, listening to the prisoners. I have remained in love with humanity, a humanity that underneath remains even in people suffering the most, or who have committed the worst crimes. Through urban details, clothes hanging, windows, walls painted in one way or another, I like to tell the beauty that comes from man. Sometimes we think that harmony is found only in the beauty of nature, I find it a lot in the suburbs, between peeling walls, in spaces that people want and need to personalize.
Is there an artist that has influenced your work? If so, who were they and what was the influence?
A photographer I enormously admire is Joel Meyerowitz, as an artist and as a man. His approach to photography, a continuous research that changes over time, is something that fascinates me. Beyond the images of him, his words are of great inspiration. In moments of artistic confusion, I listen to some of his podcast interviews that I saved on my phone, he always manages to bring me back to the surface. I love his photographs but also his words. In general I like photographers with a profound and prophetic vision of reality, who tell stories delicately: Raymond Depardon, Mary Ellen Mark, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, Alec Soth, Jesse Marlow, Luigi Ghirri and Gianni Berengo Gardin… I could go on and on.
Documentary photography tells so many stories that as photographers, stay with us. They may even change the way we see or the way we tell stories. A cause with a direct effect. Is there a special photographic moment you can recall that will always remain with you, that changed your view of the world in which you shoot in?
I like to photograph people on the street, when I feel a particular energy I approach them and ask if I can take a picture. The subjects shot are always involved with me, they are people to whom I explain the use I will make of the images and with whom I will remain in contact with later. Partly because of my personal journey and partly because of the level of openness that I give and that I ask for in the moment of photography, often people I engage even for a few minutes of a street portrait, they share experiences very painful and personal with me. I remember the first two portraits I took with a 35mm lens, which forced me to be in a certain proximity. They were both women and both told me about episodes of their life so distressing and intimate that in the end they cried in front of me and I behind the camera. I was absolutely not prepared for such an opening of heart. Later I started interacting in a slightly different way with the subjects in order to give space to their story without letting themselves be overwhelmed by emotion like a flooding river. It must be a moment of intense but harmonious exchange.
Do you feel your work documents or is an expression of the moments you capture in the street?
I think both readings are true, honest street and documentary photography does not artificially create situations to build a story but, at the same time, it is the point of view of the shooter that creates the story. No one is more aware than photographers of the many different truths that can be told.
What are some tips/advice you would give yourself if you started photography all over again?
Look for teachers who support you in your growth, avoid people who criticize to destroy, save money to buy the right camera, believe in yourself, have fun.
Is there an artist or photographer’s quote that has inspired you and influences the way you approach your work?
I love Henri Cartier-Bresson quote - “You just have to live and life will give you pictures”. For me, the most important part of the process is the encounter with people: life. Photography is a consequence of this encounter. Sometimes the encounter remains, it is lived, but there is no photograph and I’m totally OK with that.
When you are out shooting - how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
Before shooting and after shooting I am super rational. Before, I dedicate time to plan, after, to analyse my bad photographs that are somewhat vivisected. It is a merciless activity from which I learn a lot. While I photograph, on the other hand, I am totally in a trance state, I enter another dimension that is totally instinctive and irrational.
What are any lasting impressions you would like to leave the viewer? What is their ‘Take Away’?
There is always room for beauty, if you look for it, you will find it.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?)
I switched to Leica in 2018, all the photos showcased here are made with a M10 and a 35mm lens. This camera helped me to focus completely on creativity, on how to make the photo and not how to manage the camera. Recently I was involved in a collaboration with Leica Camera Italia that gave me the opportunity to try the new M11 and, apart from the amazingness of the camera, I can say that the M system is just the perfect fit for me. Light, easy to use, producing astonishing files that need very basic editing. I feel that using a prime lens pushes me to create better photos and a nicer connection with my subjects.
What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
Working full time, not as a photographer, and having a family with two young children behind me, I hope that my work conveys, especially to other women, the message that there is always the possibility to dedicate oneself to something you love, to express yourself artistically, in an art form as humble yet powerful as photography. In five years I see myself making better photos with the same enthusiasm or more!
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
...I like being involved in any experience that asks me questions instead of giving me answers."