We are not alone and we are not all the same. We often use to forget that there are communities and places that have survived the disruptive force of globalization, which unifies and flattens every aspect of society.
Gabriele Zago is an Italian photographer who has focused his work on research and documentation of ethnic groups, territories and populations that, although threatened by what we call progress, manage to preserve traditions, customs and values.
What Gabriele offers us is a journey into distant territories that, among glances that tell a thousand stories, has the objective of making us know what happens in the world and make us discover realities far from our own and therefore of immense value.
Gabriele Zago’s photography is both discovery and testimony, thanks to which we are transported among African tribes, or even to Papua New Guinea where he realized his latest project entitled “Colors still remain“.
Waiting for the beginning of the exhibition, Gabriele Zago tell us more about his work. Don’t miss the interview below!
How did you approach photography?
I have a traditional artistic education, I grew up through freehand drawing and therefore with a more academic language, but I have always been interested in visual arts in all its declinations. However, it was thanks to the travels that I found in photography the medium that most represents me. When I am lucky enough to explore new territories and get in touch with new situations, I feel compelled to immortalize those moments already knowing that that photography will not only describe an instant but will be the beginning of a process that will evolve into something new.
With your photographs, you take us to faraway places like Ethiopia, Madagascar, Benin. What stories are you looking for? Which stories do you want to tell?
My research focuses on photographically documenting ethnic groups, territories and populations threatened today by progress and globalization. The photographs that I use for my projects come mainly from travel experiences.
I choose destinations that can enrich my culture and put me to the test, not only physically, but also psychologically. I look for themes that are often little known in the West in order to make my work an instrument of diffusion and information. My shot, therefore, does not want to describe the subject but brings to light the reality that the subject is forced to face.
I am particularly fascinated and stimulated by the African continent, but I had the opportunity to visit all 5 continents in search of creative ideas. From one of the most recent trips, the one to Papua New Guinea draws inspiration for the project “Colors still remain” that I will exhibit this year as part of Ph.ocus – About photography by Paratissima, presented for the first time by Galleria Ferrero Arte Contemporanea in Ivrea.
Which role does post-production play in your creative process?
My works are born as reportage shots, but post-production is a fundamental element of my artistic expression.
The manipulation of my photographs through graphic devices shows, in an evident and emphasized way, those socio-political processes that are often not visible or do not reach our reality. These are not just photographs, but shots that clearly give back to everyone a process of modification, upheaval and alienation suffered by the subjects and the territory in which they live.
It is obvious to say that during your travels you have a very different type of equipment at your disposal than a photographer in the studio. What, in your opinion, is the necessary equipment for this type of photography?
During my reportage trips, I always travel extremely lightweight, most of the time with only one piece of hand luggage. This also determines the volume of the equipment I carry with me. I always travel with my inseparable reflex camera and a couple of lenses that I can use depending on the situations I find myself in. I would like to take a wider choice of lenses with me, but due to the extreme conditions in which I often find myself, they would only get in the way. Since they are not cutlery photos, it would be very difficult to change lenses depending on the situation, with the risk of losing the moment. In some cases, even the smartphone has helped me to capture some situations that required more discretion!
The technical support for me has a secondary role as the focus of my research is not so much the technically perfect shot as the resulting graphic rendering.
Is there a shot that was particularly complicated to take? Tell us about it.
I must admit that every time I find myself in reportage situations the biggest difficulty to overcome is the tension of not being able to get the “right” shot. My travels bring me into contact with such rare and unique realities that it is almost always difficult to capture them objectively.
The reasons for these “difficulties” can be the most varied, from people’s distrust to cultural differences and religious taboos, without often neglecting the adversities of weather and geographical conditions. Often reaching the most remote tribes has forced me to undertake even arduous crossings of several days in a canoe under the scorching sun or dangerous storms.
For example, in many African tribes photography is seen as a tool that steals the soul; in some remote areas of North Vietnam still strongly subjugated by the war, the zoom of the camera frightens like a weapon; in Benin, photography can become an instrument of blackmail in voodoo; in Papua New Guinea many tribes do not have the slightest perception of why their image should be trapped inside a black box.
In all these situations being able to photograph in a natural way the subject is very difficult and often I had to give up shooting in order to respect the culture with which I measured myself.
In reconnecting to the project “Colors still remain”, great difficulty was also represented by the socio-political and geographical nature of Papua New Guinea, a very unstable and dangerous territory where the beauty of the tribes and their rituals mixes with the violence and guerrillas that must be faced and accepted daily in order to approach these incredible communities.