What Italy Is interviews are back. Did you miss them? I hope so! As you know January is the month of new beginnings, so I decided to start right from beginning here interviewing the two founders of What Italy Is: Simone Bramante and Giuseppe Mondì.
I believe they don’t need a presentation, who knows What Italy Is, knows Giuseppe and Simone, but I asked them to give us an introduction anyway. Giuseppe defines himself in a quiet continual ardour. He likes to think that each and one of us could do something to improve the life of the people we meet. Dreamy soul, but grounded, especially thanks to Celeste, his first daughter, born two months ago. While when Simone receives my questions, he said he survived a kids party, it’s about 9 pm, he didn’t have dinner and the day after he needs to wake up at 3.30 in the morning for work. Too much drama? No, Simone considers himself lucky every single day.
Tell us the name of a song you suggest to listen while reading this interview
S: Buonasera (signorina) by Fred Buscaglione, 1958
G: Mare Verticale by Paolo Benvegnù
Well, with you I have to ask this straight away, What Italy Is for you, outside stereotypes?
S: Italy it’s where we are coming from, part of our identity, for better or worse.
G: The memories, the flavours of a place, our own evolution starting from a place, the emotions that a territory can give you. This is what Italy is to me.
The What Italy Is project: how it has been evolving and what would you like to see this project looking like in the future?
S: What Italy Is is like a container of real stories that are getting more and more sophisticated. I would like to find all the connections among these stories one day.
G: I would like to see an increasing integration between the stories the people tell with the editorial content we create. In these years, we listened to hundreds of stories from which you can see a fair good spectrum of this country. Since the beginning, our aim is to understand the country we live in, without any judgement.
If I asked you to recommend an Italian place where to take pictures, what would you say?
S: As a place, I would say your grandparents’ home, because it’s the starting point, for most of us.
G: I have a deep bond with two Italian regions, Tuscany and Sicily.
If I have to mention a specific place then I choose Porto Ercole, where I grew up pampered by my grandparents. When I was a kid, my grandad and I used to walk from home to the town’s little beach. He was leading the way at the front and I was following him closely from behind. Very few words exchanged during the little trip, while I was inventing battleships in my head with springs found along the way. The last days of my grandad matched with the last weeks before Celeste’s birth. I hoped as never before that my grandad would have be able to go over again that little trip of ours with her. This is not possible, but the way from my grandparents’ home to the beach is the place I suggest.
Tell us 3 essential objects, the ones you will bring with you on a desert island
S: Sunglasses, a solar panel and a desalination system.
G: Satellite phone, a good chinotto while waiting to be rescued and Kafka on the Shore. In a more general sense: headphones, iPhone and my camera.
To this day, what is your greatest satisfaction?
S: Be free to decide what is important.
G: To have my own identity: in the relationships with the people I know, in the pictures I shoot, in the way I write.
What photography means for you and how this passion started?
S: It’s a mean of expression, I started when I was in my 20s because I was curious and the environment back then was very creative. But at that time my favourite mean of expression was writing.
G: Photography accompany my life since several years. At the beginning under a concert stage, afterwards with many other projects. I believe photography is an excellent mean of telling the way you are and how you see things. Photography can help observing what’s around you with a renew attention.
What impact do you think Instagram had in the photography world?
S: I think it added a visual aesthetic to the communication narrative.
G: I believe Instagram had a big impact into the digital photography world, an impact that not even Flickr had back then. It brought the use of photography into the ordinary as a mean to tell what is happening to you every day. Thinking this through, I believe the use that most of people do of Instagram is the one that should have been of Twitter: a constant update of what a person is doing.
How do you use Instagram and what do you like the most and the least of this platform?
S: I use this platform for some projects, to play with ideas and to communicate with people who are interested in what I’m doing. As of today, beginning of 2018, I like the speed through which I can share things and the possibility to follow interesting talents.
I don’t like how the idea of a golden world where “I quit everything and travel the world” became so widespread and so “normal”, even if only few people can actually afford it.
G: I use Instagram primarily because I love photography. Exactly for this reason, I use it for personal purposes and to tell my point of view. Then the projects, like What Italy Is, come naturally as a consequence.
The thing that I don’t like is the monstrous quantity of identical contents that every day I get to see on my feed. The uniformity bothers me a bit.
What is making a photo “beautiful” to your eyes?
S: Creativity and use of light.
G: To avoid mentioning concepts already present in the many photography blogs or abuse any of Henri Cartier-Bresson quotes, to catch my attention a picture has to be the result of a great creative and technical work. In the social media days, the concept of beauty has often been confused with the number of “likes”. But if the social media would shut down tomorrow, the number of “likes” will not make sense anymore, while the “beauty” will remain.
What is the best advice you ever received and what suggestion would you give to who want to pursue a career as a photographer?
S: Everything might sound a bit banal and not so practical under the file “advices”. What I can say is that I appreciate who is able to stop and form a thought. So, I appreciate the small, but thorough.
G: I would like to say two things which are not proper advices, but they are part of the “work”. During a workshop, Jerome Sessini said me that, except the shooting and the production phases, where you need to have in mind what you want and how do it, one fundamental element of the story is the editing part, meaning the selection of images and of what is fundamental for the narrative of your project. These words, especially in a time where taking 100 of pictures is as quick as the blink of an eye, editing become a fundamental part. And then one time Simone, who you are reading with me in this interview, told me that for him the ability of constantly renewing himself is essential. I consider him a great professional also for this reason.
Interviews Giulia Dini
All pictures © Simone Bramante, Giuseppe Mondì