Photography Photos does not create opinions: a chat with Mattia Zoppellaro
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Photos does not create opinions: a chat with Mattia Zoppellaro

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Tommaso Berra
Mattia Zoppellaro | Colater.al

Among the most prominent names that will exhibit their works at Liquida PhotoFestival from May 5 to 29 in Turin is certainly Mattia Zoppellaro. Taking the opportunity to discover some background of the series that will be presented at ARTiglieria Contemporary Art Center, Collater.al asked some questions to the photographer, which analyze his relationship with contemporary photography and the links with the subjects shot over the years.
From Tony Servillo to Ibrahimovic, passing by Pete Doherty, Iggy Pop and Marina Abramovic, many are the portraits of giant personalities of the artistic and sporting scene of the last decades. The unpredictability and style of people are the driving force behind Mattia Zoppellaro’s artistic production, the search for stories to tell is an essential mission. To know, to be part of a movement and to lose oneself in a collectivity as an individual. Some of his most famous series, such as Dirty Dancing, born by chance, at a party where nothing happened by chance.

What is it about the subjects you choose to photograph that makes you realize they are the right ones for your shot?

I mostly photograph people because of their unpredictability. At the end of a session I always discover unexpected and surprising images that are impossible to plan for. Because the ugly and the beautiful bore me, I don’t choose subjects based on aesthetic qualities. It’s the style of people that makes me want to approach them photographically. Style is not elegance, but the attitude through which you express your personality. That thing that makes me want to get to know someone.

You’ve photographed a large number of athletes and artists, is there anyone you’d like to photograph in the future?

Nick Cave, for his charisma and energy that mesmerizes me at every one of his live shows. I would like to know what it feels like to relate to him Vladimir Putin and Mike Tyson for the fear they instill in me If I had a time machine Silvio Berlusconi from the 80s, for his facial expressions.

You are one of the most well-known names in this edition of Liquida, how did you interpret the theme of the exhibition “Look Beyond”?

I happened to come across by chance the project that I will present at Liquida. I found myself catapulted into it, because I was invited by a girl I really liked to a party (the term rave is for outsiders) in the Mazzini district of Bologna.
Once I entered this decadent shed, I got lost in the acrid smells, the minimal-tribal rhythm of the music and the look of the people. The feeling of peeking at something totally new although already seen in previous experiences (the quotes from the Mad Max universe, the punk looks revisited, the hip hop attitude) stimulated me to want to join this movement. By pure chance I had my SLR in the trunk of my friend’s car and I started shooting. That’s when I realized that for me the photographic medium would be a key more useful to know the world than to inform it.

Mattia Zoppellaro | Colater.al

Many series you’ve done portray the punk and underground scene, where for you does the beauty lie in these countercultural expressions?

All of my photographic research focuses on the relationship between the group and the individual, whether by compulsion, as in the book Appleby (about Irish travellers) and La Voce di Rovigo (a portrait of the city of my adolescence, soon to be published), or by choice, as in Dirty Dancing. I like the tension created when the individual tries to lose himself in the collective.

How does your approach to photography change depending on whether it’s reportage photos or posed shots?

I always try to do reportage projects focusing on the human being, and conversely I use reportage in portrait sessions, trying to steal the moment. I hate photography that reeks of posing. My favorite word is serendipity which translated means “lucky coincidences”. I believe that the real talent of a photographer is his ability to provoke these kinds of events.

Is it more difficult to be a photographer today than in the past? Because of both the speed with which images are spread and the censorship that unjustifiably obscures artistic shots?

It’s different today. There are many people who take pictures, very few are photographers. Anyone is capable of making interesting images, not many of carrying out an authorial project. I don’t think photography is a discipline capable of creating opinions with images (as Avedon said “if you want to know how a war went you don’t look at the photos, you read a book about it). What an author can try to do is express his own personal vision.

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Written by Tommaso Berra
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