A Young Portrait Photographer Struggling with the Uncertainties of Life
When I met Samuele Ripani, I thought to ask him some questions about his work as usually happens.
Actually, I found myself being interviewed too about the interpretation I gave to his shots and of him as a person.
I think this clearly summarizes the way of working of this young photographer who elaborates the events and negativities of life always questioning himself without ever being sure to have found the final answers.
What is the distinctive feature of your photos?
Oh my gosh! We’re already off to a good start because maybe the answer I can give you now will be already different in two months because I don’t really follow a trend.
In general, I can’t tell you what makes me a photographer, if you want to call me like that, I have always defined myself as “someone who knows how a camera works and can take pictures. End”.
Surely, a feature that I try to make mine is the ‘mood’ of the photos, so trying to internalize what happens outside, rework it, and then transmit it through a shot.
I don’t like to play so much with the light but I like with the dark.
So, can we say that you like strong contrasts like black and white?
Well, no! I have an almost total repulsion for black and white because, in my opinion, the role of black is too much taken for granted.
In my photos, black doesn’t just mean ‘dark’; it is the absence of everything, especially in the colour photos. For me, it has a quite precise role, not exactly studied, but almost. So, perhaps, trying not to use it at all can be a feature that sets me apart from other photographers.
Do you define your style incomplete?
Yes, I think that’s the only feature that will remain forever!
There’s always something missing, I am always on the lookout.
Speaking of lack, are the graphic additions on some photos your way to overcome this ‘problem’?
In the end, these are experiments because, to communicate something, sometimes I simply couldn’t do it with the photo, and so I added what I needed in post-production.
Could it then be said that the completeness is given by the different meanings each person can attribute to your portraits?
Unfortunately, as a photographer, I am very selfish even though I am not like that outside; indeed, today I feel a little embarrassed because the attention is focused on me. (This, however, is a component of my nature).
Narcissistically speaking, in my photos there is only me: they talk only about me, of my thoughts or situations in which I am involved and whose interpretation is always mine.
Despite this, my self-portraits are very rare; indeed, on social media there is only ONE!
Actually, there’s another shot in which I am there, but you can hardly see me.
If I’ll ever take a photo where I am clearly visible, it will happen in years. Maybe!
You have mentioned your self-portrait. Can you tell me something about it?
Till now, I have expressed myself but always through someone else’s face.
Recently, I felt the need to appear, albeit almost completely hidden by ‘scribbles’.
In that self-portrait I decided to talk about myself even if in a quite abstract or at least indirect way.
I reworked the negativities of life by ‘throwing’ them into the image both to hide them and to hide myself due to my low self-esteem.
In these few minutes I have practically self-destroyed, but it is because I am not giving a precise and unique way of reading the work; it’s just an interpretation that I’d like you to do too.
From what emerged during our dialogue, I think that the various graphic signs can be read like this: the spiral on the belly could allude to the stomach pang that is often felt in difficult times, the question mark refers to questions about ourselves and about the world around us, the spring on the forehead can be linked to our reactions to life events and the shadows or halos under the eyes can allude to tiredness but also to tears.
You talked about self-hatred in self-portraits and about needing something negative inside you to be able to photograph. Considering this, do you think that the need to act on your body (in the picture) and to cover or hide it is a kind of cathartic act?
Yes, yes-yes-yes. I think I have adjusted that photo 3-4 times within 5 minutes, however, when I said “OK, that’s the photo” I was more relieved.
In the past, I used photography as a distraction, to relax when something bad happened.
Now, however, I have realized that I precisely feel the need for this catharsis which, however, doesn’t satisfy me 100% because it is not yet completely clear to me what I want to communicate with each photo.
By the way, I have questions for you too:
“In general, what do you see from my photos?” and “What did you think of Samuele before you met me, so only through my photos?”
Looking at the photos of Barbara, Maria Chiara and Irene I was captured by a sense of the ephemeral because they seem immaterial presences.
The aim did not seem to me to capture the beauty of the girls but rather emotions and feelings.
Regarding Samuele as a person, I thought you were a anguished and complicated person with dark sides because I had initially only seen your self-portrait with ‘scribbles’.
Now that I see you and we are talking, I don’t think so. Maybe you just gave voice to the dark side of each one of us.
Did you expect a different answer?
Well, actually, I asked you this question precisely because I wasn’t expecting a specific answer. If I knew for sure what I want to communicate with my photos, maybe I wouldn’t even need to ask.
I can only imagine what an external person perceives since I am the one that, after taking a picture, is not even sure of knowing what he’s saying with his shot.
But I am happy that even a little part of message arrives, it means that it is a language that I am not the only one to speak.
It rewards me so much because it means that everything I’m focusing on is good for something!
Useful link: IG: @ripans.ph
Photo courtesy by Samuele Ripani