Light Tellers – What Italy Is interview with Elena Braghieri

Elena Braghieri is the protagonist of the seventh interview of What Italy Is for the new Collater.al column dedicated to Italian Instagramers.

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29 March 2018

March is women’s month and us of What Italy Is have decided to celebrate this month dedicating our space to a strong and versatile woman, Elena Braghieri.

Elena defines herself at the same time as a blond but also as a graduate in Mathematics and, in her life, has a very serious job in the insurance industry.
She has a disproportionate passion for photography: she loves to capture moments of beauty and share them with those who appreciate them. She considers Sicily her most powerful Lexotan: when she isn’t buying flowers at the wholesale market in Milan, you can easily find her by bike upwind in Favignana, around Vucciria or on a sunny terrace of Salina while she photographs shadows.

If your life had a soundtrack, what would it be?

The Beatles’ discography. They accompanied me during my adolescence, my first CD (I’m old, the CDs arrived during high school) was a compilation of them. I know every song by heart, there’s one for every mood, from For No One to Norwegian Wood to St Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And here I stop because I might not finish anymore!

What photography means to you and how this passion start?

It’s a passion that my father handed down to me: a passionate about photography, he gave me the first camera when I was in elementary school (we’re talking about the early 80s when the camera was a luxury): a red Konica Pop with black and white films to ration. I often developed them and printed them with him in the darkroom: I was so little that I barely got to the counter on which the printing bowls were placed! Growing up, I maintained my passion, developing a personal style. Cameras have changed, I have gone from analog to digital reflex cameras to the current mirrorless camera, but the passion remains the same. I need photography to stop moments, details, it’s a continuous exercise in the search for beauty even in the simplest things, it’s therapy. It works as a memory for moments when I need a hug, it’s a powerful weapon.

What is the thing that inspires you the most when you take pictures?

Stories. When I can tell a story through images I’m happy. It can be the story of a trip, it can be the story of a backstage. Being able to convey through images the atmosphere, the less immediate details, the colors, the sensations are also the thing that – modestly – come easily to me. Maybe because I am the first to be moved.

The picture of your dreams: how and where.

Maybe I haven’t taken it yet, maybe yes and I haven’t noticed it, but I don’t dream of any particular place, a beautiful photo doesn’t depend on where you take it. It’s just a matter of the eye and of the heart.

The name of an artist, a photographer, or Instagrammer that you admire in a particular way.

I have a special passion for Ferdinando Scianna’s work (and it isn’t a coincidence that he’s Sicilian and his most beautiful shots are about his land), but in general I don’t have a favourite artist: I’ve had the good fortune to meet Peter Lindbergh and let him guide me in his recent exhibition at Venaria in Turin. Beyond his undisputed talent, I loved his stories about the background of some iconic shots: they made me appreciate his artistic expression even more.

Of a completely different kind, but in my heart, Maria Vittoria Backhaus, who has made the history of Italian photography and who has a scenographic and meticulous approach to every detail of photographic composition: I love some of her works presented at the Biennale di Filicudi in particular (the one presented in 2008, a tribute to her friend Ettore Sottsass who died a few months earlier, it is immense)

Instagram: what do you like and don’t like about this platform?

I am one of the Instagram early adopters, my current profile was born in 2011 but the very first (now closed) is 2010, and I admit that after all these years I never get tired of it. I love Instagram’s expressive simplicity, I love all the beautiful things that happened to me thanks to my exhibition on Instagram (for example the aforementioned meeting with Peter Lindbergh), I love the people I met thanks to Instagram. For me it’s a game – my job is another – but it’s a game I take as seriously and professionally as my job. I love sharing some pieces of my life, but it remains a pleasure, not a duty.

Well, maybe the thing I don’t like is when users use unpleasant tones in comments: rudeness, lack of respect make me really lose temper. Who are you to address me in those tones? Would you do it, even if you don’t know me, if you met me at the bar?

Recently, on Instagram, I wrote that it’s as if I left my house door open: this doesn’t authorize those who come to see me destroy the lamps because I am not good enough for them. Please, sorry, thank you, they are always my favorite words. Also in the virtual world.

What is the “secret” to succeed in this social media?

I’m not the most suitable person to talk about success since my numbers are not gigantic (they’re real numbers of real users who follow me and interact in a real way, I don’t use shortcuts to build my audience). For me, it takes an eye, it takes sensitivity and it takes constancy. And above all, to have something to say. I’m not a fan of overexposure and even the audience (a certain type of audience, the one I want to attract) prefers the “little but fair”.

If I asked you to recommend an Italian place to take pictures, what would you say?

Sicily, what a question! You can just look for #BraghyLovesSicily on Instagram to understand it.

And what is the place of your heart?

For not going to too far, Salina. I spent my childhood and adolescence trekking in the Dolomites, I approached the sea only as an adult. Salina – and the Aeolian Islands in general – for me is “the mountain inside the sea”, it’s the place where I return every year to fill my eyes, heart (and palate) with beauty. It’s the cliffs of Pollara that leave you breathless, it’s the black sand of Rinella with the rude houses of fishermen, it’s the climb to Monte Fossa Delle Felci between vineyards and chestnut woods. It’s a bath at dinner time in the clear water of Malfa, it’s the tanker that docks at the port and stays there all night, reassuring presence and, in its way, fascinating. (Shall I go on?).

What is Italy for you, out of the clichés?

It’s my country, and it’s the only one I would like to live in, that which – recent elections aside – makes me proud to be a citizen, for its culture, its rich landscapes, because it’s an immense cradle of art, because where do you eat better than here? Maybe we are unaware of all our wealth, maybe we should go a little further to appreciate it more – as with certain loves, we should take it less for granted.

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Pictures © Elena Braghieri

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