Intervista di Emanuela Gianlorenzo per Hanze University of Applied Sciences, School of Communication, Media & IT, Journalism Minor. Groningen Holland.

Telling through photography

Luciano Zuccaccia and the conceptual photography: “To photograph is to communicate”

Born in 1963 in Terni, Luciano has been in the world of photography for 25 years. His photos have been presented in several publications and magazines, mainly in Italy. He was part of the Air Force, so photography has never been a real job for him, but it is a means to tell a part of himself, his own vision of the world and of the things that surround him. This is what conceptual photography means.

The beginnings

He began to photograph in the 90s and in 1995 he attended some courses at Studio Marangoni, a professional school of photography, in Florence. There he learned the language of photography. Luciano said “It has been a long journey. Talent is an innate quality, but with constancy, perseverance and interaction with other photographers you can build it” and he added “A professional school can help you to find your own language”. He compared photography to writing: you learn to write at elementary school, but if you want to become a writer you need more specific knowledge. This is also valid for photography. In fact, the word “photography” comes from the ancient Greek: “phôs” = “light” and “graphè” = “writing”. So “photography means: write with light” Luciano explained.

First recognitions

His first photographic project was a reportage entitled “Gente di sponda” (= People from shore), about the life of the fishermen of Bolsena Lake (published in Photographies Magazine in 1996). After that, he started a new project, which lasted about two years, called “Scopri il verde che è in te” (=Discover the green that is in you) with Tuscia University and Botanic Garden in Viterbo. It was a research focused on the relationship between adolescents and nature. He took pictures in black and white because he did not want the colours of the plants could distract the observers from the emotion that he wanted to transmit. Edited in 2001, the collection of photos won the Orvieto Fotografia award for landscape pictures for books published in that year. Some pictures of this project are in the photographic archives of the ‘Bibliothèque Nationale de France’ in Paris.  

Aspects of photography

That award made him known nationally. But Luciano does not chase prizes. “Photography as art is not a competition. Art can never be a competition, but it must create emotions” Luciano said. But how to make the emotion feel? How to tell your experience through pictures? The photographer who wants to tell the world must be able to select from his production those pictures that express a strong concept. And he must want to know what is around the corner. Luciano advised “A mantra for photography is: one must be curious”.

According to Luciano, one of the greatest difficulties in photography is that not always what the photographer tries to communicate is perceived by the observer. He explained “Sometimes, who is on the other side (the observer) sees something different from what I want to communicate through my photos”. He gave me an example through his own experience. Last summer, he participated in a cultural event called “Face to Face”, held at the Rocca dei Papi in Montefiascone. More than seventy artists met people inside the cells of the former prison of the town and each showed their own performance. His proposal was called “visual incommunicability”: he showed pictures and asked what people saw in that. And not all people perceived what he wanted to communicate. 

The photographic books

He showed me his collection of photographic books: they are almost 1600. “I do not say that photo book is an indispensable instrument, but it is very important, it connects you to the author”. When he gave a conference on the photographic book at the University of Teheran, a student asked him why we should use books when we have internet in our day. A more than legitimate question according to Luciano. He replied that there is a big difference. “The photographic book is not a simple container of images, but contains in itself the experience of the author, his thought”. He showed me a photo book of his collection, entitled “El Egipto” by the Japanese photographer Keiichi Tahara. He found it at a stand during his journey to Buenos Aires. The images of the artist are in black and white with a deep contrast. Luciano was impressed. This motivated him to create his own photographic book: “Persepolis”. He decided to go to Iran and immortalize those places with the same intensity and strength of Tahara but telling another story, his own.

Even the exterior of the photo book must convey its own experience. Also the kind of paper you use helps to transport the public inside the photographed places. Even the text in the book must have sense, it must be linked to photography. In his book, in fact, Luciano has inserted a poem by Hafez, one of the major Iranian poets and a text taken from the book “The Road to Oxiana” by Robert Byron: a must among the travel books. 

Photography and travelling

Luciano has linked his photography to the journey. “Traveling broadens the mind, makes you see things from different perspectives, your views become wider. Traveling becomes almost a duty towards your curiosity”. But he also added that traveling is not something necessary for photography. Because even with the little things that happen around us we can tell a story; “It’s the little things that make the difference,” Luciano said.

A new project

Next week his new book will be published, entitled “A world of books, reflections on the author’s photographic editorial projects”. This is a series of interviews with Italian photographers regarding their editorial projects and their experiences in the field of photography. Some of these artists, just like Luciano, have named Walker Evans, well-known American photographer. “For me and for my generation, Evans has marked a fundamental turning point”, Luciano explained, “During the period of the Great Depression, he photographed poverty for the first time. His is not an aesthetically beautiful photography but represents reality”.                  

Advices for young photographers

Luciano has left some advice for those who one day would like to become a professional photographer like him “Do not focus only on photography, but on everything around you, try to understand the thought of people, be interested in everything that happens around you”. Moreover, according to him, a good photographer has to reason before producing, he has to ask himself the right questions: Does this make sense? Does it work in this context? “Always remember that you are trying to convey a story to others”.

Momentarily, Luciano has no future plans. But who knows, it could happen that right conditions will create a new experience to tell.