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Photo Q&A - Watch Me If You Can

Blurb: Italian photographer Leonardo Pucci’s first artistic solo exhibition titled ‘Episodes (without a real border)’ captures stolen moments of intimacy that finds its balance – sometimes precarious, sometimes profound – in the minds of its viewers. Excerpts from the interview.

Leonardo Pucci, Hong Kong, 00:32am.

Image Courtesy: Leonardo Pucci, Hong Kong, 00:32am.

What are the recurring themes or ideas that you work with?

My images are stolen moments of intimacy of individuals or couples. Almost always taken at dusk or at nighttime, they capture, sometimes, in distant windows, the liberty of relaxed and suspended bodies. In the darkness, sensuality is amplified; it’s the moment when you get rid of constrictions, and conventions. Your body moves differently than in the day.  I try to capture those fragments of life because those stolen instants become the improvised stages where anyone can recognise his own moment of intimacy.

The images in this exhibit have a voyeuristic quality to them; they are people who don’t know they’re being photographed. Could this be considered an invasion of privacy?

As a photographer, I’m constantly attentive. My eye is always ready to capture an image that suddenly appears in front of me. I have my camera with me, night and day, and when the opportunity arises I focus on my subject with respect and attention, keeping a neutral distance, a certain detachment. I pay a lot of attention to the fact that the subjects are not recognisable. In fact, they do not interest me. They are just a pretext, a means. My photography is mostly based on hidden feelings being revealed and not on specific subjects or on their specific lives.

On the other hand, it’s true that intimacy is a main topic of our times, if you think how we fight for privacy and at the same time how we unconditionally show all ourselves on social media. In my opinion, we are strangely experiencing a sort of second Victorian age, a period cloaked in respectability and morality, but instead full of scandals, transgressions, contradictions and secrets. So the problem is not so much what is private or not, but what is unsaid or censored.

Leonardo Pucci, Savelletri, 8:27pm.

Image courtesy: Leonardo Pucci, Savelletri, 8:27pm.

Several of the images have a painting-like effect. How did you contrive that?

‘Walking on the razor edge,’ between photography and painting-like effect is one of my goals. Like in my favourite paintings, I want my images to express a dreamlike feeling of indefinite fluctuating atmospheres, to embrace the imprecision of fragments of time, to shift the boundaries of objects and reality. And to reach it, I force myself in a ceaseless search for a sensual touch in the composition, in the way the image is cropped, in the proportion between elements, in the voluptuous yet rigorous use of colours and their calibration. Even the choice of the paper I use for printing (100% Cotton Heavy Weight Hahnemuhle Fine Art Paper) is meant to enhance this effect

Is there an India connection for you? What has the response been like?

I do not think it’s a coincidence that Episodes has been so well received in India. India is such a refined country that for Indian viewers it is incredibly easy to enter in the pictorial nature of all images with their muddy saturation, with their palpable colours, with their visual stories condensed of delicate sensuality. And, India is a place extremely connected to my personal change. Every time I feel an intense desire of India, a sudden urge to come back to this country, it has always coincided with an event that has an impact on my life. I still remember the words of the Italian author, poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini in his book, The Smell of India, that accompanied me during my first trip to Varanasi: ‘You can get lost (...) as in a rebus, but with patience you can get to the solution: what’s difficult is to grasp the details.’

India is so sensual and suggestive yet contradictory and clashing about spaces of intimacy, that it might be the perfect setting for a new series of Episodes. This is a very intriguing project for the future.

Aditi Seshadri is a former journalist and current Goa resident. She runs Unlock Impact, a consulting firm for social change, and imbibes all things cultural, either side of mandatory beach days.

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