INTERVIEW: SANDRO GIORDANO
A Fall from Grace
IN HIS SERIES "BODIES WITH NO REGRET" ITALIAN PHOTOGRAPHER SANDRO GIORDANO PORTRAYS A WIDE RANGE OF CHARACTERS GOING DOWN HEAD FIRST. SOME OF THE FALLS SEEM TRULY TERRIBLE AND PAINFUL, FATAL EVEN, AND YET THE VIEWER WILL STRUGGLE NOT TO SMILE. GIORDANO’S ORCHESTRATED CHOREOGRAPHIES PAY GREAT ATTENTION TO DETAIL. CLOTHES AND PROPS HINT AT THE CHARACTER’S ROLE IN SOCIETY BEFORE HIS OR HER FALL FROM GRACE. A FARMER’S DAUGHTER, A RELIGIOUS WOMAN, A BOXER OR A MAN IN A KINKY LEATHER OUTFIT: A SUDDEN FALL CAN HAPPEN TO US ALL ...
Sandro, could you tell us a bit more about yourself? Where are you from? What did you do to get where you are today?
I'm Italian. Born and raised in Rome, the city where I live right now. But I can consider myself a citizen of the world since I'm always traveling. I recently lived for three years in Barcelona, the city in which my photographic project "Bodies with No Regret" was born. I've been an actor for twenty years, but prior to that I studied as a draftsman designer. This new adventure in the world of photography has completely changed my life. Until three years ago I never thought of doing what I'm doing. I had never picked up a camera professionally! Life is truly wonderful!
"Bodies with No Regret" has been a huge hit on Instagram. What is the main idea behind the project?
I never expected this series could "explode" the way it did. In October 2013, I started to create these images with the intention of reaching a small audience to introduce my work. Instagram seemed the platform closest to what I wanted. As the number of my followers increased, I felt a growing desire to tell new stories, some ironic, others socially critical. I tell about the world that is within and outside of us, about characters falling because they are overwhelmed by the "weight" of life that has become more and more unsustainable. They are common people, victims of their own material goods. At the same time, they are prisoners of appearance. They exist only according to what they own. Afraid of not being up to par with our cruel society demanding we are always perfect and spotless.
The project was triggered by a personal experience. Could you tell us a bit more?
The project stems from an accident I had with my bicycle last summer. As I fell, I kept holding onto the object I had in my hand instead of just letting go. If I had, both of my hands would have been free and I certainly would not have hurt myself. A few weeks later a friend of mine broke his leg as he tried to prevent his smartphone from falling into the water. I started worrying. We live in sad times. Material things, expensive or not, have become more important than our own lives. I started to feel the need to capture the moment, the moment of impact. But I wanted to do it ironically, not make it too serious. There had to be a comical side to the tragedy. I would like people to laugh at themselves by showing small, everyday accidents of which everyone, no one excluded, could become a victim
Normally, people are portrayed as they look into the camera. In your work we never see any faces. How come?
I hide their faces for two simple reasons: ever since childhood I have been fascinated by the comedies of Charlie Chapin and Laurel and Hardy. They had these hilarious scenes with characters falling over or banging into things. I find the concept of "slamming in your face to understand what you should not do" very significant. The other reason, because of the many details in my images, each one of us can recognize oneself in my characters. The props I use are extremely important for understanding the story I want to tell. They have been very deliberately designed and positioned, so that the audience can connect with the character, discover his identity and understand what has led to the action. If the props were not set “on stage,” the audience would only see bodies thrown away without meaning.
No matter how tragic the fall and most seem very tragic indeed – your images are always funny as well. It is like watching a slapstick movie. We cannot help but smiling seeing someone being poked in the eye or walk into a door. Why is that?
That is a good question that I find it difficult to answer. I believe that seeing another person fall or being knocked over, unconsciously relates to a fear that what we saw could happen to us too. It is as if, by laughing, we exorcise the fear and turn away from that tragic moment. With laughter we make light of a moment that would be very serious otherwise. In the act of the fall, we throw away the masks that society forces us to wear and we became naked and vulnerable to the eyes of the world. When we fall we are all equal.
When not photographing people falling over, what pictures do you take?
You will not believe me, but since I started this project I stopped photographing all other things. I think it is called professional deformation. For three years, my eyes were focused on everything that might be useful to my photography series. Maybe I go crazy one day, who knows. Maybe I leave the house and only see people fall!
Which photographers do you admire, and why?
I like the melancholic and decadent atmosphere of Jan Saudek's images. They are so poetic. I think he is my favorite photographer. I also like David LaChapelle for his impeccable taste in the use of colors. His pictures are very pop and fun. I like to spend several minutes observing the details of every single work.
What’s your favorite film of 2015?
The film of an Italian director who died shortly after shooting it. His name is Claudio Caligari. The film is called Non Essere Cattivo (Don't Be Bad). Stories of burnt youth set on the coast of Ostia, near Rome. A very raw film. Very well acted. It reminds me a lot of Pasolini. I recommend it to everyone.
What’s the last album you bought or downloaded?
I'm completely in love with the latest album of a rock/ folk artist named Ben Howard, I did not know him before. The album’s title is I Forgot Where We Were. I also love the last masterpiece of the greatest musical genius of the last fifty years Mr. David Bowie.
If you could go on a holiday anywhere with anyone, where would you go, who would you take and why?
I would like to go to an exotic location. I never have. Perhaps Indonesia or Thailand. A place surrounded by nature and with a beautiful blue sea we usually see in holiday brochures. I think that would be heaven. Unplug from the noises of the city and live for a while with the sounds of nature. I would take along the person I love. If not that, I could do a "bad boy" holiday. Go with two of my friends to a European city like Berlin and lock ourselves into the Berghain (the club with the most beautiful techno music in the world) for four days: drink and drugs till you drop.
What is next for Sandro Giordano?
For now I just want to fully dedicate myself to this project. I still have many stories to tell and I don't know when I'll finish. Very soon I will start a project with a group of designers. It is a project I really like, but I cannot reveal much more for now. Obviously, one of the main themes will be “The Fall.”
INTERVIEWED BY PETER SPEETJENS