Giampiero Pagnini

When we arrive at Giampiero’s, together with Miccetta, the house full of friends. There is one very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere, like being in an open meeting place where friends come and go. Giampiero is keen to show us his work and is forced to explain everything from scratch, as it is the first time I’ve heard of pinhole of machines. I remain surprised even for the curiosity that shows experimenting the chemical and physical processes that are hidden behind the shooting of a photography and in combining film and
unusual formats
His is an all-accomplished experiment which a key element is the relationship with time and movement. Looking back on his word, I jumped in the eyes this sentence found by chance in a magazine. As Geoff Dyer wrote in But Beautiful, the photograph implies a blurrier sense of time than the mechanical snap of the shutter indicates: “Although it depicts only a split second the felt duration of the pictures extends several seconds either side of that frozen moment to include – or so it seems-what has just happened or is about to happen.”. So photographs are suggestive of times, rather than pinned in time.”*

The feeling you get looking at pictures of Giampiero is to be faced with condensed films, it is as if his pictures had a specific gravity greater than the normal and ephemeral ones we are accustomed to. Maybe I have an impression that even so much because they are actually summation of moments following one another in a certain period of time and leaving , even though a very slight, trace. That then is only another name for what we call “life”.

* Dan Hill, Praise to the time lost in Domus n.956, March 2012, p. 107.

What about your research in the field of photography?
I’m carrying on this research since I finished art school. I actually started firstly with 3D and digital photography and then I switched to analog photography, very very analog at heart.

How did you start?
It all started from two passions I had as a teenager. One is the passion for graffiti tags on the streets. Seeing all these crazy calligraphy inspired me to experiment with writing. The other is skateboarding that is not just a sport but a way of seeing and using architecture. Who skateboards looks to the urban space, with its furniture made of stairs, ramps and benches, as a potential spot, or place for trying tricks and stunts. The choice of the place is never casual, there’s always a photo to the environment as a backdrop to the stunts. The writing has given me the desire to draw, the skateboarding to photograph and both come together in my work since I use photography as if it were a painting tool.

Is skateboarding a world now too linked to the fashion world?
The skateboard has influenced virtually everything, from how the boys dress to all other sports that came later, like snowboarding. The world of skateboarding is all done by publicity, just look at the magazines. It’s a complex world that is part of the cleverness of the boys who do tricks to pass the photographer or filmer who must have a keen eye to try to capture the best moment in the best location. This attitude has greatly influenced my photographic vision.

Is it strage that a street sport, born without rules from unbridled desire to move and challenge the city, now becomes fashion, marketing …?
This is nonsense, but it involves that today the photographs for skate has very high standards equal to those of fashion, and videos have become real movie, not a mere catalog of tricks of the player. 80’s videos were shot in parking lots with just a wall and now they organize crazy tours around the world in search of the most spectacular and unknown places.

Are there in Italy any interesting places for skating?
There is a U.S. site that reports all the most beautiful spots in the world For example, one of the most incredible places in Italy is in Frosinone, a square with absurd strange plant pots. In Europe, Barcelona is one of the most popular.

This was your starting point. How did evolve the way you take pictures?
I enrolled in art school because I had imposed myself to learn to draw, in particular I wanted to learn to draw human figure.

So you studied anatomy …
I studied after the accident and the only way was using the computer. I started doing my drawings from photos I shot with the camera and then revised according to the theme. I started to take photographs in this way, by necessity, and I continued until I got no more stimulation,  digital picture gave me a sense of monotony, I was not enjoying anymore. Then I started to use my compact cameras, making myself being helped from a person who holds the machine, and from there I thought I should start from scratch, going to study all the mechanisms that underlie the photographic process. In this research I came across with the pinhole technique which is the one I’ve been experiencing more.

Could you explain how a pinhole camera works?
It is nothing but a box with a small hole that can be opened and closed by levers. I regressed completely but I did it for two reasons: the first one is because I was looking for a very static type of photography, which is similar to my way of life and to my times, and the second one is that I did not want being necessary to look into the lens, something that lacks the pinhole.

Did you built it by yourself?
I bought the first one. I started to experiment, to understand the photosensitive material and how it behaves with shots ranging from two seconds up. In general the films are rated up to one second, then going beyond changes occur varying in color and exposure. I started experimenting with analogue material, always using the Polaroid for instant feedback.
Later, I started to build my machines, especially large size, always trying to give a painting mark to all of my images. At that time I met Marina Giannotti, Study Chalcographic Urbino, who made me know and experience the world of installations where photography, staging and lighting are combined all together.

Where did you show this work?
We presented it at the arsenal in Venice, as a side event of the architectural bienniale last year.

What does fascinate you most in photography, the technological and material side or the aesthetic and pictorial one?
I think they are both important. The technical side interests me because I enjoy it, especially when it allows me to create images that leave observers amazed. It happened in Catania, where I presented Rosso sedia. I wandered among the people and I heard that, according to them, the shots that made up the image were made one at a time. When I explained them that there had been a single click, using a machine specially constructed, they were all amazed.

How does this machine work?
It is a box about 70x60x25cm with a pinhole. Inside, instead of having a single sheet of film, there is a grid of polaroid films placed next to each other. After the shot, in the darkroom every Polaroid is passed into the rollers to blow up the chemicals and, therefore, are developed. Then when they are ready we reassemble them in the same order returning a single image.

In all this, are you a self-taught man?
One of my greatest teachers was Marco Di Vincenzo, who I persistently ill-treated. In general I studied photography at night a lot, because pinhole times are very long and you need to know how each type of film behave.

I suppose that for you the next step is to directly produce films by yourself, otherwise you could make daguerreotypes…
I studied all them, the Cyanotype, Vandyke, I know how to do them but I have not tried yet, maybe over time …

Are you still using digital?
I reassessed it recently because, however, I think it gives an incredible creative freedom, perhaps too much. The analogue gave me the rules, a road to follow. As I coul not make a lot of shots, it made me learn to be more reflective. But when I see those beautiful photos on Instagram, I get crazy, even if they are made by a cellphone. I think the important part of photography is the ending result, what you put into it.

What are you trying to tell through your photos?.
I do not try to capture the moment, as Cartier-Bresson magically taught, because it is necessary to be very fast in shooting, but I search to catch a period of time, ranging from the second onwards, that records what life really is. Let me explain: when you make a picture of a person, in that moment that person becomes like an object, a thing like everything around. On the contrary, in my images you do not see what is moving, it is virtually invisible. If the exposure is set on one minute, you can pass by the machine 50 times and, unless you have a white shirt, you will only be seen as an aura, the representation of life. I do not know if you’ve never seen the photo of Andy Warhol’s man jumping out the window, and staying there in the air [Andy Warhol, Suicide (Silver Jumping Man), 1963]. That photo describes exactly the moment when the separation between what is alive and what is dead is canceled. My timeline is wider, it is not the moment.

Is there among your projects one you’re closest to?
It is a job that I have been carring on for a long time, perhaps the most difficult, The Pinhole Drink: it is a lightbox, wide only 1 and a half cm, with a 1x1m lenticular print of three glasses photographed from above, that when observer moves around, are mixing with each other.

When you need inspiration is there anything you enjoy to do?
I’m always projected towards the realization of a work, my mind is constantly in action. Very often, then, I get the inspiration by chance, from a phrase, a website, something I’ve seen around …

Are there websites that you see often?
Lately I’m following the blog of a Japanese man who tests incredible cameras. It is a superfetish, his blog is titled Circle Rectangle. Then I use Flickr where I have two accounts, giamps’_polaroid_shots, where there are all the tests and photo shot I do for fun, and Giampiero Pagnini where there are all the things I do in film, always for fun. Another site that I follow is Polanoid dedicated to Polaroid photography.

Zoom and tatoo and skateboarding magazines.

I like those type of education a rogue, Eddie Bunker, who speaks of life in prison, some pulp stuff. The last one I read Criminal Secret.

Documentaries a go go, my favorites lately are Family Affairs, where grandfather, father and son have a pawn shop in Las Vegas, and Missione restauro, a tv show where there is this guy who restores some ’50 stuff, such as machines, refrigerators, gas stations …

Everithing that comes out. I really like the films by Darren Aronofky: Pi greek, the theorem of delirium, The Fontaine – The Tree of Life, The wrestler, The Black Swan .

Everything, I also like jazz, but I do not disdain the catchy tunes. The last one I bought is SuperHeavy, a Mick Jagger’s album with Damian Marley, Bob’s son, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart the one from Eurithmics, A. R. Rahman. Lazy stuff , four musicians who have nothing to do one with each other.

Favorite photographers?
For me, the biggest of all is Paolo Gioli, the most important worldwide experimenter with pinhole cameras, he made pinholes with everything, nuts etc… But there are also others from fashion photography like David Lachapelle and Terry Richardson.

What are the fundamental qualities for your kind of work?
Perseverance, patience and knowledge of the material you are using. In addition, a pinch of creativity.

Is there anything that you think you’re are lack of and that you would like to work on?
The communicative and social aspect is the most difficult for me.

A project that you would like to accomplish in the future?
I ‘d like to organize a collective photo exhibition pointing out the most experimental side of the medium.

Instead, a concern?
Not being able to find Polaroid films anymore.

Tell us the name of a person who you’ll consider comics creative fighter and you would like us to meet.


foto di Pippo Marino
slideshow su flickr

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