Tuscany: La Culla Dell’Arte (The Cradle of Art), A Conversation With Gianluca Ricoveri by Dilshad C.
I first came across Gianluca’s work a few weeks ago on Facebook and I was immediately drawn into his photograph, which emanated beauty and poetic melancholy. There was something familiar, I could recognise the charm of places that I used to roam. I was intrigued by his photograph and while his work is reminiscent of works made by the Pre-Raphaelites, or the English Landscape’s painters, I knew that these could have only been inspired by the enchanted countryside of Tuscany. I also knew straightaway that I had to contact him and find out more about him, so I did and after a few skype conversation ad many chats I was sure he was perfect for an interview on Juxt and I think this has been one of the best decision that I have taken up to now, so without much ado lets find out more about Gianluca Ricoveri and his beautiful creations.
D: Dilshad G: Gianluca
D: First of all, thank you very much for accepting my invitation. I have to say, your photos have brought back so many memories from my past. I used to leave in Pisa, and I still can recognise many atmospheric places that you capture! Your work is truly stunning and I was, straight away, attracted by it. So tell me who is Gianluca Ricoveri?
G: I am 63 years old, I worked for a pharmaceutical company and now I am retired and I have much more time to dedicate to photography and to my countryside.
D: You live in Tuscany, and as they say, this is the birthplace of the Renaissance La culla dell’arte (the cradle of art), what does this mean to you?
G: I live near Pisa in Tuscany. I think that anyone who has had the chance to live here gets used to being surrounded by a series of artistic beauties, without being so deeply touched since it becomes part of the daily life.
If you walk around every town, you can admire and enjoy so many beautiful works of art, especially the ones coming from the Renaissance.
The beauty and the artistry of any landscape depicted in the many great works of art from the Renaissance, is deeply intertwined with the character of this region. Tuscany has a history that goes back 3000 years, where man has always tried to build a landscape by respecting nature as it was described by the painters of the Renaissance such as Piero Della Francesca, Masaccio, Leonardo da Vinci. In my Photographs I try to convey, besides the image of a landscape which I am familiar with, also the awareness of harmony that comes from a historical and cultural inheritance which is typical of the Renaissance, filtered through my photographic language.
D: How did you come across art? How important is art in your life and are you the artist of the family?
G: My father is a painter and an antiques dealer, so I can say that it’s a family tradition, I have grown up among canvas and colours. The other passion that I have is painting. I have always been between painting and photos: I have used my photographs as subjects for my work and I have altered my photos with paintings. Through Iphoneography I have been able to link the two artistic styles, create a perfect symbiosis between the two different processes. It is, indeed, a great pleasure for me to intervene with my editing to transmit that personal vision, that experience and interpretation, which comes from my background as a painter, and which very often, I would not be able to transmit only through photography or painting.
D: Are you more of a formal photographer or do you enjoy experimenting?
G: I have always used different cameras and different formats passing from B&W to film or slides, I have developed and printed the B&W and then worked on it with my painter’s tools. Later in the years, however, I discovered an hybrid system: by scanning the slides I altered it with my computer, then I would print on a watercolour paper, on which I used pencils and watercolours to improve it, so yes, I do love experimenting.
D: How did you come across Mobile photography and what device do you use?
G: I discovered Iphoneography thanks to my sister in law and a brochure of a fantastic exhibition of Roberto Murgia. Suddenly I started shooting photos with my iPhone, while trying to understand and learn the different apps and from that moment onwards I found a new creative world. I started with Hipstamatic, which I keep using. I then went on trying other apps more linear, less invasive. The next step was to improve the editing which is the most interesting aspect of the creative process. It wasn’t easy because I had to understand the different characteristics of every apps and the benefit of the editing process. The learning curve never ends because there are always new apps. From all the apps in my phone, I have selected a handful, on which I rely and I use most frequently. I took photos for many months with an iPhone 3GS and then I used an iPhone 5 and I am very happy with it, it has a good resolution, megapixels enough to produce fair enough enlargements and also the focal length in the phone satisfies my needs.
D: You have a very particular style, which is quite recognisable, this is truly a positive aspect of your work. Your photos have a particular painterly finish, very artistic and poetic. Your fields and landscape photos have that melancholic and solitary atmosphere, which makes me stop to meditate. However they are far from the classical Renaissance style, they remind me more of the Pre-Raphaelites’ way of depicting, there is that Victorian Avant Garde feel to it. If one were to look even more closely to your work, then one could also see hints of the English countryside, a touch of Gainsborough’s light palate and easy strokes, allusions from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s works, colours that reminds us of Turner, and at one point I could almost see Millais’s Ophelia floating out from your photographs. So where does your influence comes from?
G: Now that you have said this, I can see the correlation with the artists and those particular artistic movements that you have mentioned. In my photographs I try to interpret nature with clearness and meticulousness, I try to search for very particular atmospheric effects, which you can find in the artists you refer to. One of the main characteristics I try to include in my photographs is to include more than one layer or better strata: there is movement with the clouds and the sky, then the reflection coming from the water, all this blended with some sort of mystery.
D: Your photos are mostly of landscapes and of hidden little corners from the countryside, places that are not easy to find, and yet you have managed to find those secluded dwellings and its hidden gems, how do you go about finding such beautiful locations?
G: My photos are mostly taken around a radius of 40-50 kilometres from Pisa where I live; the far and hidden these places are the better for me. I love that melancholic feel of loneliness that oozes from the countryside. Sometimes I return to the same places where I have already been to take photos during the different seasons of the year and in different climatic conditions andf of light. One of these locations is Massaciuccoli Lake, near Lucca, and its protected reservation areas and the other one is the hills from Pisa to Volterra via Cecina. They are ideal places for meditative walking and even if you have been there, you always find something that you might have missed before, or see it again with a different light, a new flourishing of plants which gives you the chance to create something different. I keep searching and looking for, always.
D: Italy, correct me if I am wrong, has a very formal and conservative look towards art. For example, if we take Literature, and Literary Theory or Criticism, everything backs to Dante and its Divine Comedy, and all the analysis passes through Benedetto Croce’s aesthetic. Based on this how do the Italians take into serious consideration Mobile Photography as art?
G: The development and prominence of Mobile Photography in Italy is becoming stronger and stronger, one can find the most important website sites dedicated to mobile photography made and run by Italians, such as: NEM, WIAM and Hisptamatic Sardinia. More and more mobile photographic exhibitions have taken place in Italy, and the critical response was quite positive too. Unfortunately however, the crisis, the recession of Italy and the “very formal and conservative look towards art”, as you have rightly said, doesn’t help to promote it as much as it would deserve, there is still a slight stigma attached to it.
D: You just mentioned NEM (New Era Museum) and I believe you are involved in this wonderful project, can you tell me more about this? How did you come across this?
G: NEM is an initiative owing to the creativity and engagement of Andrea Bigiarini who has created this project, something that is in its early days and is continuously evolving and bettering itself through the input of the many great artists that have become members of NEM. NEM is a platform for the most creative artists in this field, and it helps them to connect and share ideas. It is founded on a humanistic spirit and ideology: spreading this form of art which uses as a means of expression the new digital techniques, promoting both the development of new potential artists and the diffusion of new forms of creative processes.
D: Sounds amazing! I think I would love to organise an interview with Andrea or even a meeting, do you think will he be available and agree to this?
G: I am sure he will be delighted, and it will certainly be possible to arrange an interview or even a meeting whit him, this is a great prject that deserves all the notoriety possible.
D: Going back to mobile photography and to your photography, can you walk me through your process, from the very beginning to the end phase of publishing: how do you decide where to go? Once there what do you look for? You take your photo, then what? What apps do you use? How is your editing process? Which apps do you use?
G: My decision to go out and take photos depends basically on two factors: the quality of the light and the presence of clouds. The first one is the most important: without a good quality and temperature of light, photos come out to be flat, without life. The second are the clouds, if the subject I have to photograph is near, then I don’t mind if there are o aren’t any clouds, if, on the contrary, I have to portray subjects such as groups of trees or hills, then I need as many clouds I can get. After experimenting with many apps, I have chosen a group that seems to work fine for me. To take photos I use three different ones: 6×6, 645Pro, Hipstamatic and rarely Pro Cam and Hueless. My editing always starts with Photogene, which I use to move my photos to my iPad, then I use Snapseed, specifically the “Selective Adjust” tool, which allows me an accurate Dodge and Burn of specific parts of the image. The process varies according to what I want to achive: if I have to add some textures, I use Laminar, for grunging I use Vintage HD, Picture Grunger and Distress FX. If I have to paint on my images, I use Procreate. I haven’t a standardized workflow and an image often requires more interventions to achieve the desired effect.
D: If someone where to start now, what would you recommend them? What is the one thing that they should do or look for?
G: Without a doubt, I would tell them to experiment, to be curious! To make beautiful photos one does not need to go far away; subjects often are wonderful in your home or close to it, look with a different perspective. Do not be afraid to publish your work on the net and try to draw on the experiences of other photographers, one can learn so much from others, you can see the process of shooting and editing in the details by comparing works. I have noticed that people are willing to explain and share their own experiences in the different social communities, beside there are great sites that do a fantastic work from an educational point of view, Juxt to name one!
D: I have already said this, but I truly believe you have a wonderful eye, and your photos are testament to this! I would love to see you at work! If one day I decide to come around, will you take me into your enchanted world and show me the magic behind your photographs?
G: With great pleasure Dilshad, I would like to show you and share with you the beauty of the places I go to photograph, and I would also be curious to see what kind of feelings this places give you and what type of pictures you would like to take.
D- Thank you ever so much for taking the time, it was a pleasure catching up with you.