Born in 1985 in Verbania, Italy, Stefano Marchionini lives and works between Arles and Paris. He has a Master’s Degree (2014), in visual arts with honours from École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. These images are a selection from his recent series ‘Regrets’ with some inputs about his work and preferences:
Please tell us about yourself and your relationship with photography:
I started taking photographs after several years of art studies. I was mainly expressing myself with drawing and painting, since I was little, but it was starting to get less comfortable to work with those media. In 2007 I met my partner, who was really into photography, I got intrigued and started taking photos myself. Photography came to me in the perfect moment, painting was hard and I discovered that making images could also be fun and quick. Of course my relationship with photography changed after I decided to work with it as any other media I was used to, meaning as an image-making tool, and a way to express things that lied beyond the mere subject of the photograph. It is still an ongoing process for me.
I pretty much avoid thinking about genres and classifications, I don’t care about it. Everyone will find a box for me to fit or not fit in and it is ok to me, I can’t control that. I like to be open about things, taking the time to know what I am doing, not jumping into projects that are made to please other people.
I like to shoot anything that has a meaning for me or, and this would be a more accurate view of my current artistic practice, I like to create photographic images that evoke a variety of feelings or emotions, many of which are related to my personal views on life and art.
I think that photographers often think too much about themselves and about what their place in the industry, or in the art world, should be. It is good to know what you are doing but it is also good to just do it no matter what the demands are right now. I don’t want to be constantly aware of everything I do; I want to take the time to discover it myself: being inspired, making the work, understanding things about it and being open to, maybe, change my opinion on it. I know I will keep photographing until I think it is not good for me anymore that is for sure.
It really depends on what kind of work I am making. I always try to find balance between the spontaneous and impulsive side of creation and the rational and formal side of it. For some photographs I would say that the process is really simple and straightforward while for others there is a little bit more thought put into it. In both cases the shooting has to happen rather quickly, otherwise I might lose the interest.
I only self-published two little books: ÉTÉ 10, published with my partner Vivien Ayroles in 2010 and I see around me tombstones grey, in 2012. While the first one was born from the desire to create something together with my boyfriend, a four hands/four eyes project, the second one was more of a suspension in the development of an ongoing photographic series about my family, somehow a way to summarize the work I made until then, working on it through editing and making it live on paper.
Making books is really great, it is fun: you can make beautiful objects, adding new dimensions and expanding the meaning of the work, and it forces you to reflect on your practice and become aware of many things you can’t really see on your computer screen. It is also very difficult, whenever you try to develop new ideas or less simple book forms, making dummies or even understanding how to technically achieve the project, become a pain in the neck. Then of course you usually need to find a publisher, and that is something else.
I think a photographer should work on a book as soon as they think it is the right time for them. I also think you should test things on your side, making real dummies or .pdfs, print stuff at home just to get to know better each side of a book manufacture. You can also not make books, not every photographic series or portfolio need, or deserve, to be published: I don’t think it is a mandatory step at all.
I mainly shoot with a Nikon F3 HP, 50mm lense, and a Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 127mm and Soft Focus 150mm lenses, both on Portra 400 film and occasionally with a digital SLR or with an iphone. I use both cameras because I am comfortable with their image format, their weight and their personality. They don’t work the same way and I use them to achieve different results. I like to pair images made in these two different formats because it allows me to create a narrative that is not confined to a single format.
Editing can be as important as the photographs themselves: with sequencing, it is a part of the process I really enjoy, even working on other people’s photographs, although sometimes it can be excruciating. Manipulation is an open subject for me, I am not a purist, I like to experiment a little now and then myself.
I recently had the chance to work as a curator of the first issue of the Cartographie de la photographie contemporaine (http://www.cartographiedelaphotographiecontemporaine.com/), a project published by Annakarin Quinto, founder of leboudoir2.0 and artist. Working on this project I reinforced the idea I already had that what is of interest to me, what inspires me and what I admire the most, is when a photographer uses photography as a tool to bypass the simplistic representation of a physical subject to express other things that matter to them, speaking about both the intimate and the universal sides of a personal quest. If there were a trend of contemporary photography that I like it would be the fact that we are in a moment in time where the fundamental ambiguity of photography is somehow accepted, though I am not sure it will ever be fully integrated in our ways of looking at a photograph. There is a lot of freedom right now and young artists like the ones I presented in the Cartographie de la photographie contemporaine are definitely experiencing that, and by steadily and fearlessly nourishing their practice and their work they are building something that feels right to me that feels real.
I am still working on my ongoing series Regrets, which is the main photographing project I am working on since late 2014. I am also trying to find the perfect form for a book version of a small series that is very dear to me, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, which has been quite a long process but it seems to be coming to an end. Then there are other ideas for books or photographic installations but it is all at an early stage so I have yet to decide what to do with all of that!