Photography by Gianluca De Simone

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I was born in Rome and ever since I can remember I’ve had an interest in the visual arts in one form or another. In 2006 I quit my job in TV production and moved to Australia, where I lived for seven years working all kinds of jobs, from waiter to cleaner to dock-hand. I wanted to be a screenwriter. The writing started to do my head in a little. I was also getting a little tired of moving heavy things around for a living. Photography only became an obsession a few years ago, while going through a pretty rough patch. So I tried to turn that obsession into a job, while shooting every day in the streets. I came back to Italy in March this year and I had my first exhibition in the circuit of Fotografia – International Photography Festival in Rome, with a work I did together with photographer Francesca Pompei in a former psychiatric institution. It’ll be on until October the 31st and it’s called “Passato Prossimo” (Present Perfect).

How would you describe yourself and your personality?
I guess you should ask to the people who know me… I would say I am quiet, a bit introverted, unstructured, sometimes obsessive, sometimes lazy, and I try to keep open to anyone and any experience.

What inspires you? Who were the first artists that inspired you?
Many artists had a great influence on me, actually I’m pretty sure that some of them saved my life even though they don’t know it. Not necessarily photographers but also writers, painters, musicians, too many to mention. Music inspires me a lot. A photographer that I really love since the first time I saw his work is Robert Frank, both his early and later work. Also Adré Kertész, William Klein. These guys will never die. And Daido Moriyama, Mario Giacometti, Lee Friedlander. Others, who have quite a different style, are William Eggleston and the Italian photographers Luigi Ghirri and Gabriele Basilico. More recently Martin Bogren, Marc Trivier, the Korean artist Jungjin Lee. Of my generation I like the work of my good friend Lorenzo Castore. These and many others’ work inspires me every time I look at it. And the real world, the world out there, whatever it is, inspires me when I am able to really see it. Sometimes I have the feeling I can really see only while taking photos.

How did you start taking photos?
I don’t remember exactly when but I was very young, playing around with my father’s camera, a Nikon F2 which I still own. He was an amateur photographer who took some pretty good photos. Growing up I developed a passion for all kinds of visual arts but for some reason I never had the real notion it could be turned into a way of living until much later. I started taking photos constantly only a few years ago, and that happened without a conscious decision. It was more a psychiatric condition, if I had to describe it.

What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
The best thing would be to feel the truth of that moment, even though you don’t know what it is. A photo is open to the viewer’s interpretation but it can only work if the moment is truthful, if the photographer’s reaction to that moment is honest. The best answer I know of is Robert Frank’s: “When people look at my pictures, I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read the line of a poem twice”. That would be really great.

Do you take portraits? And if so, in a portrait, what is important for you?
I do take portraits sometimes, and what I try to capture is an unguarded or spontaneous moment, more than a technical element. So I prefer to work in a loose situation, not very structured, trying to be at ease, without the feeling of someone sitting and ready for a portrait.

Do you think it’s important to follow a school to learn how to shoot?
It isn’t strictly necessary, as many great photographers haven’t studied in a school. But I think it can be useful, if one can, to buy the time to really focus on one’s passion, having the time and means to go deeper, with some experienced advice. But I think the most important thing is to go out and take photos as much as you can, it’s the best way to learn. That’s definitely necessary to me.

Is there a personal project that you’ve had in your mind that you haven’t done, and that you probably will never do?
There are many personal projects I would like to do and I hope I’ll get the chance to work at least on a few of them. One that I will never have the chance to do is to document the period in which my father passed away. I wasn’t taking photos as I do now at that time, and also I am not sure if I would have had the strength to follow it through.

Where’s one place you dream of taking photographs?
Inside my head.

Why do you take photos?
I don’t think there’s a rational answer to that question. I would say because it keeps me alive, and it has kept me alive in difficult circumstances. There is certainly a sense of gratitude in me towards photography. It also makes me feel good while doing it, to me it’s almost like a form of meditation.

What keeps you going?
Sometimes even bad feelings can keep you going. A feeling of failure, of not knowing what to do, it can be turned into a source of great energy, it can push you forward, and sometimes your best work can come out of that. Otherwise it can be a feeling of some kind of beauty, something you cannot grasp and yet you keep on chasing it, something that’s not usually visible and yet you would like to capture it and show it. The feeling that something meaningful to you and other people might be carved out of reality and shaped and put back into the world. Also the basic need to get in touch with the outside world and get out of your head, of your own mind.

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