We are in Tuscany, precisely in Cascina, a historic town located a few kilometers from Pisa.
Here we have the pleasure of meeting the emerging photographer Matteo Rossini.
Q. Hi Matteo, nice to meet you, fresh from your first show, how do you feel?
A. Hi Massi, I can tell you that for me it was quite strange, as I still do not consider myself a photographer worthy of such an experience, but at the same time I am very satisfied.
For my conception of “photography” this is the maximum ambition, namely being able to exhibit one’s work to the public through exhibitions. I believe that exhibitions and books are the ultimate goal of a photographer, creating works that remain in time, in hearts and minds, a little in contrast to the current social world, where everything is instant and fleeting.
Q What shots did you bring in this performance and what is the theme?
A. I brought the shots of a lifetime, the shots of my travels to the east, Nepal, India, Japan, Vietnam. travels in search of a spirituality that I didn’t find here where I was born and grew up.
Q. Ok Matteo, as an emerging photographer, can you tell us something about how you started and your training?
A. Let’s say that my approach to photography has been unconventional. After finishing highschool – a technical school for surveyors – I started working a few years later for a tax collection company. In 2011 my employers put a camera in my hand with the task of surveying the driveways. During this work I started doing tests, I observed shadows, perspectives, lights based on the time of the day. In short, I was enjoying it very much, so I decided to enroll in the Circolo Fotografico Pisano.
At the CFP I started to follow a basic photography course, luckily being in the course of the great Roberto Evangelisti (FIAF) and I didn’t stop there. With the same Evangelisti, taken by enthusiasm, I followed the course of postproduction, I participated in portrait workshops to finally arrive at a course of image education with the development of a particular project.
Evangelisti had structured this course with the ultimate aim of creating a collective exhibition. This exhibition was inspired by the monumental exhibition “The family of man” by Edward Steichen of 1955, the most famous exhibition in the history of photography. Our theme was a variant, “the woman’s family”, and culminated with an exhibition at Palazzo Vitelli, under the aegis of the University of Pisa, where each of the participants brought their 3 best shots, all in black and white. It was 2014.
Q. These are your beginnings. How did this passion for the world of photography evolve?
A. 2014 was a very important year for Matteo Rossini. My travels outside Europe started that year. I was 27 and had an urgent need to find out who I was. In particular, a meeting spurred me on this research. I state that I have never been baptized, my parents decided at the time that I would choose what to do once I was of age. In 2013, being near Pomaia, in the Tuscan hills, I was lucky to meet a Buddhist nun from the nearby religious center, which the Dalai Lama often visits. Speaking with the latter about me being “non-religious”, she said: “People like you must not convert to any religion, you will take what is meaningful and good for your life for you, without any dogma, creating your own religion”. Years later I can say these words were never so wise.
In 2014 I decided to leave, camera around my neck, for Nepal. Here I found myself facing the majesty of the mountain and immediately felt at ease. Perhaps it was the distance from technology, perhaps the beauty of the mountain and the simplicity of its people, but I can say that it is the only place on Earth where I felt at peace.
My trip was not all fun and games. On the contrary, problems began on the fifth day. A strong pain in the leg and a relative swelling of the latter forced me to detach myself from the group, with which I had left. Being already in the high mountains with the first hospital days away of traveling, I found myself in a rather critical situation. I fainted and woke up the next day alone in a room, not understanding if I was still alive or in the afterlife. I went to the door and outside I found a horse with a Sherpa waiting for me, still upset at last I realized I was still alive. My travel group had decided, given the situation, to rent me a horse with its sherpa, not being able to follow them on foot for obvious reasons.
From there my adventure began. I began my descent into the valley in the company of a horse, a sherpa who absolutely did not speak my language and my camera. It was the most beautiful experience of my life. We were three beings totally immersed in the majesty of the mountain. I started shooting, immortalizing magical moments. Traveling on an animal and above all not in a group, we were perfectly in balance with the mountain and the creatures that populate it. Eagles, foxes, yaks moved around us as if we didn’t exist. Obviously it was not an easy descent. I completely relied on the sherpa and its Mongolian horse “Shiva”. Tackling small mountain trails on horseback with a shabby leg and endless cliffs that touch you is not really an everyday thing.
But every village we met was a big party, children who gave you high fives and families who tried to take care of you, each saying their own on my leg. The tea was the first thing they offered me, obviously after their spontaneous hospitality. After several days we managed to get to a bigger center and from there I picked the airport, deciding to be visited directly in Italy, since the worst seemed to have past.
From this journey onwards it was all in progress, a reaching out towards the East.
2014 was the year of my travel in India. In that country I found again that mysticism and spirituality I was looking for. I decided not to follow the usual tourist routes and ended up finding myself inside a temple dedicated to “Shiva”. Here a monk to whom I had asked if I could photograph him, kidnapped me and in less than no time, passing from courtyard to courtyard, I found myself the protagonist of a baptism ceremony with lots of incense, perfumes and flower necklaces. These are the experiences that photography brings to you to live, the possibility of entering so intimately into the cultures and ways of life of others.
In India, I also had the good fortune to see and photograph a tiger in freedom, a magnificent experience that marks you deeply. A majestic and proud animal that unfortunately runs a serious risk of extinction.
After India, I immersed myself in the immensity of the Omani desert and then landed in 2015 in Japan, a country that gifted me with many shots and wonderful moments. Always armed with my Nikon D750, I visited the historic capital Kyoto, moving on to Hiroshima, Osaka and finally modern Tokyo. A country closed to the world for centuries, with a unique cultural wealth, slender in the future but firmly anchored to its traditions, it lives more than ever.
2016 was the year of a country reborn from the ashes of one of the bloodiest wars of the twentieth century, Vietnam, where the two blocs clashed with inhuman means. From Vietnam I decided to go up the famous “Mekong” river back to Cambodia.
My travels have followed one another so far, a continuous research that has also led me to discover my definitive photographic vocation, the Reportage.
Q. Well Matteo, this path of yours to the east has made you know yourself, but if you should choose a place here in Italy, a city to which you are connected and that has made you grow on an artistic level, which would it be?
A. Without a doubt the Serenissima, Venice.
Q. Why Venice? Not by chance a city stretched out to the “East”.
A. True, it is the East that returns. Why Venice? Because it is a city different from all the others, it is unique, there is nothing in the whole world like that. It is the city that you imagine inside a glass ball. Every corner is a unique thing. Here I saw an exhibition of Salgado for the first time and fell in love. I come back every year and it’s like coming home.
In 2016 I also had the fortune to attend a workshop at the Leica Akademie Italy in Venice. It was held by Marc De Tollenaere, assistant to the immense Gianni Berengo Gardin. Marc gave us the task of “representing” Venice with our shots. Leica supplied us with a trinket, the mirrorless m10 with 35mm attached. I tried to do my best, and I was incredulous when in the evening, Marc, viewing my photos, complimented me.
Q. One last question Matteo, what is your relationship with social media?
A. Let’s say that while acknowledging the potential of it, I am not a great user. I’m part of the “old school”, if we want to call it that way. I try to create something real, like a book or an exhibition for example, rather than chasing a like that disappears in the network after a second. I have my Instagram and Facebook profiles but let’s say that I don’t spend hours behind it, maybe I should do it more, but for the moment this is my style.
English Translation by Carmen Mc Intosh
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