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Photography As Invention: Giuseppe Lo Shiavo’s Fantastical Art

We talked to the photographer about augmenting reality with technology, and the place where humans and nature intersect in his work.

by ADVERTORIAL
17 June 2015, 5:50am


From 'Wind Sculptures'

In collaboration with Canon, we searched for innovative photographers and artists who make use of Canon cameras to reimagine the world. Giuseppe Lo Shiavo uses a 5D Mark II and the results are otherworldly.

Giuseppe Lo Shiavo uses photography to imagine other worlds and express our own fantastic potential. He suggests that his work is a form of escapism, inventing alternate fantasies through trickery. His expertise with both camera and computer have allowed him to explore a range of concepts – from the possibility of salvation for African migrants crossing the Mediterranean to the influence of Pop Art on money.

His most recent work is an open project called 'Wind Sculptors', which explores the relationship between humanity and nature through the use of an emergency NASA blanket and, as the title suggests, the wind. Since then we have caught up with Giuseppe to ask him a few questions about his influences, work and opinions.

Image from 'Levitation'

VICE: What inspires you to produce the kind of work you do?
Giuseppe Lo Shiavo: I'm inspired by many factors, from the history of art to sociology and social behaviour, but I'm always investigating new fields because I like to change topics and style. I consider my personal research to be in a sense multiform –going in different directions. I would feel frustrated to produce the same kind of works for the rest of my life; it's important for me to feel free to experiment.

In almost all my series, there are plenty of references to the art world, from Magritte in my early work 'Levitation', to the Flemish painters in my series 'Ad Vivum', the Pop Art in my series 'Art Currency', and the modern Vanitas of my 'Proserpina' still lifes. I also feel inspired every day by contemporary artists like Marina Abramović, Bill Viola, Mustafa Sabbagh and also directors like Terrence Malick, Kim Ki-duk or Paolo Sorrentino.

Your art is a combination of photography and technology, how do you think technological advances have let photography as an art form evolve? How do you see it progressing?
Technological advances have given many artists the possibility to explore photography as a limitless tool and to expand the way an artist can express his creativity. You can be more active and free in the process of creation, using the camera not only as a passive tool but also like the paintbrush of a painter with infinite possibilities. With modern postproduction, photorealistic 3D and matte painting, a visual artist can now expand his boundaries and create extraordinary artworks.

For instance, for my photographic series 'Wind Sculptures', I used a modern digital camera with a really high shutter speed that can capture and freeze a really fast moving object such as the aluminium foil constantly blown by the wind. I took about 10 pictures per second and this gave me the possibility to select my favourite image from a wide range of unpredictable shapes.

'Action light' still of GIF from Saatchi Gallery exhibition

I can also spend more time thinking about new ideas and less time thinking about the feasibility of them, because with all the technology an artist has available today, nothing is impossible.

We are living in a fast changing environment, surrounded by images, by photographs, by art. We are living in the "Instagram generation" where everyone can take nice photos and the digital cameras for entry level users are becoming ever more sophisticated and affordable. Many people think that the popularity that the photography market is experiencing will destroy photography as an art form. I don't agree with this, I think this revolution creates a democratisation of the medium and describes perfectly our contemporary way of living. Photography doesn't only belong to a small group of talented people anymore but it belongs to everyone that is interested in communicating with it. We don't have to be scared of it because taking pictures doesn't make you a great photographer just like a good software doesn't make you a writer.

'Wind Sculptures' is a documentation of a performance where humans and nature collaborate. Why did you choose to explore this collaboration in the way you did?
We are so immersed in our society, in our "concrete cities", that sometimes we forget that we are all part of a bigger reality: nature. We escaped from our animal status because we started to think that the planet has been created just for us, because humankind is special and superior to the other species. But I don't think so.

We should investigate further our origins and the meaning of our life and a good starting point could be to collaborate with nature and respect the planet we live in more, because we are just guests like all the other animal species in this world. With my series, I wanted to recreate the link that I think we have lost between us and nature, in a performing act where we can collaborate to create beauty.

Only by collaborating with nature will our race be safe, and this salvation is also a concept in my series. The first time I saw the emergency blanket, the foil I use in my 'Wind Sculptures' project, I was in the South of Italy where thousands of migrants from Africa arrive almost every week from the sea, travelling with crumbling boats in really awful conditions, looking for salvation. When they arrive, the first thing the Italian coastguards do is to cover every migrant with a gold emergency blanket, in order to protect them from the cold or from the sun. So for me, this beautiful gold material developed by NASA is also a symbol of salvation and the generosity of the human being.

Image from 'Wind Sculptures'

Dr. Seuss said, "Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living..." Do you think this is true of your work?
Fantasy is a fundamental ingredient of my work. I like to create a new reality with my fantasy in order to escape from the normality of our everyday lives in society. I consider myself an inventor because I invent with photography; I like to invent a scenario that wasn't there before or at least interfere in an active way in the creation process. I prefer to work with staged photography because this gives me the possibility to have full control over my work and to be calm and concentrated during the shooting.

For example, there was a big dispute not so long ago between two landscape photographers after one of them won an international competition with a picture of an Iceberg, taken in the Northern Patagonian Ice field, which was identical to a photo taken by another photographer. One accused the other of plagiarism. In the end, they found out that they were both in the same cruise ship taking pictures of the same iceberg, and of course they looked identical. But for me the real talent in photography resides in presenting something new or revelatory, otherwise a photo only becomes a beautiful documentation of the reality.


Image from 'Levitation'.

Finally, what projects are you working on?
I have some exciting projects in the next few months. First of all, I will be part of a group exhibition at MACA Museum in Calabria, Italy, which will run from end of June till October. I am also producing a solo exhibition show in Mykonos, in Greece this August in Y7 Art Gallery.

I'm also continuing the 'Wind Sculptures' series, because it is an open series, I will continue to add pictures until I am completely satisfied with it. This project gives me the possibility to travel and discover new places. My last adventure was in Iceland where I created a video performance of my project to better show the process and the concept. It was an amazing experience that I will remember forever.

Image from 'Wind Sculptures' – unpublished from Iceland series.

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Words by Gabriel Mathews

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Giuseppe Lo Shiavo