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In an exclusive interview Leonardo Pucci reveals how he juggles fashion with photography

The Dior creative director brings his photo exhibition to Delhi’s Nature Morte

brunch Updated: Jul 28, 2018 23:07 IST
Lubna Salim
Lubna Salim
Hindustan Times
Leonardo Pucci,Prada,Bottega Veneta
Leonardo Pucci, from Italy, is a self-taught photographer and is attached with Dior where he supervises creative and development areas

Fashion and photography have come together to shape the life trajectory of Leonardo Pucci. The Italian self-taught photographer has worked with some of the biggest fashion houses namely Prada and Bottega Veneta. He is now attached with Christian Dior where his job entails supervising creative and development areas.

And amid dividing his time between fashion capitals Paris and Rome, he opened his debut show, Episodes at New York’s Robin Rice Gallery before coming to Goa’s Sunaparanta Arts Center.

Episodes (without a real order) is Leonardo’s first solo photographic exhibition. Under the curatorial directorship of author, and photography and art aficionado Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi Episodes has travelled to Project 88 in Mumbai and Nature Morte in Delhi. It’s been produced by Dipti and Dattaraj Salgaocar.

Excerpts from an interview with Leonardo Pucci...

You had visited Goa, for the opening of your exhibition in March this year. What is your impression of India?

India is such a refined and sensual country that I do not think it’s a coincidence that Episodes (without a real order)” has been so well-received here.
I also feel that for Indian viewers it is incredibly easy to enter in the pictorial nature of my images with their muddy saturation, with their palpable colours, with their visual stories condensed of delicate sensuality.
And on top of that, India is a place that’s extremely connected to my personal change. So, every time I feel an intense desire for India, a sudden urge to come back to this country and that has always coincided with an event that has an impact on my life.

Rio De Janeiro 6_22pm

Would you like to capture the country or it’s people in your lens? If yes, then what is it that you’d like to focus on?

Since my dear friend, author Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, offered to curate the exhibition for the Sunaparanta foundation, I began to reflect that India being so suggestive yet contradictory might be the perfect setting for a new series of the Episodes.
As you know, my images are mostly based on hidden feelings being revealed so I’m sure an Indian series of these stolen moments of intimacy will be a poetical way to unveil contradictions and secrets of Indian society and its unspoken norms.
Because I have this idea that in India the point it’s not what is hidden but what is not said and sometime censored.

When and how did you become interested in photography?

I link my first memories and interest in photography to my father. In the ’70s, during the many trips I took with my family, my father would record everything with a Yashica Mat 124G 6x6 meticulously studying the exposure and shot angles. As a child, that black contraption with its two glass eyes seemed magical to me: my father would look into that little window on the top and the box would capture things!
Only few years later, my father gave me one of his cameras. I still remember it was a Minolta SRT101. Very happy, I used it without any photographic notion during a trip to Berlin: the photos I took were a disaster!
But I didn’t give up. I still wanted to capture things and moments…

Santa Catarina 5_27pm

Does having a grounding in fashion help when you photograph?

For more than 20 years I have been able to nourish my eye for beauty and conception through my work in fashion all over the world. In these last two decades, fashion has been one of the most important experimental terrains to obsessively redefine aesthetics and communication codes.
This background allows me to carry on an intense research on images concerned with beauty and art, but above all to develop an attentive and curious point of view, a sensuous way of observing the world and reality, constantly searching for a synthesis between the seduction of details without losing the force of the whole.

What would you say makes your photographs unique?

Siddharth in his Curatorial Note writes: “What distinguishes these pictures is the stroke of passing intimacy; one experiences a throb of familiarity, the tremor of possibility – in the way one sometimes does on the escalator, when a passing face on the descending scale catches our eye, and we conjure an encounter, impose motive and opportunity, with a face that we shall probably never see again.”
It’s exactly that sensual “tremor of possibility” that makes my images unique. In fact, every photograph is presented like a fragment suspended in time and space, the episode of an indefinite story, which is credible and acceptable because it evolves directly from the mind of the viewer. They are crystallised instants and therefore appear strangely like canvases that everyone recognises, adding their own meanings, tales and emotions: novels without a real chain of events, novels which transcend the subject itself and go well beyond the individual narratorial consciousness.

Santa Cruz 6_33pm

If you were to pick your favourite photographer who would it be and why?

If I have to identify someone that influenced my way of approaching photography, I wouldn’t immediately name a photographer.
There are, however, two important artists who are always present in the back of my mind - Edward Hopper (the celebrated American realist painter) and David Hockney (an English painter, stage designer, printmaker as well as photographer). The way they compose their paintings - the lines, the planes, the way they isolate key elements, light, colours , their narrative vision - condensed with a dreamlike sensuality.
Besides Hopper and Hockney there is, of course, literature and its power to give rise to images in your mind. I’m thinking of all those authors, for instance (American poet and short story writer Raymond Clevie) Carver if you want only one name, which have the immense power to capture an instant of life, to describe the sense of suspension and insecurity, to make you feel the presence of characters whose eyes or hair colour is almost never known, but whose deep soul tears are known, the disturbances, the secrets and all those small or large wounds well hidden under the skin.
On the other hand talking strictly about photography, among the masters to whom I refer in my work there are certainly Franco Fontana (Italian photographer) for his knowing use of colour and composition and Saul Leiter (American photographer and painter) for his lightness in grasping the simple moments of everyday life and again for the intelligent way he uses colours. I also refer to (American photographers) Stephen Shore and William Eggleston for their aesthetical intuition and (American street photographer) Joel Meyerowitz for his sense of immediacy.
And among the more recent photographers I’d pick (American photographers) Larry Sultan, Jeff Burton, Philip- Lorca DiCorcia for his sophisticated ambiences and, of course, Merry Alpern for her cheeky voyeurism!
Recently, I came across the work of a young photographer, Talia Chetrit, which strongly impressed me. Her almost obsessive attention on the human body pushes the observer through a personal and different interpretation of reality.

Paris-1_37am

If you were to pick an Indian brand ambassador for Dior and also photograph them. Then who would it be and why?

Without a doubt, Rupi Kaur the acclaimed and blamed instapoet. She walks on a critical path between iper approachability and over simplicity, but she still talks about sex and race and other taboos through a medium that reaches millions of followers within seconds. She’s a young modern woman who is exposed to both success and critics on a worldwide level and this makes her a deserving candidate.

How do you juggle commitments on the fashion and photography front?
At Dior, I have an inspirational boss who keeps me motivated, an efficient personal assistant who manages my agenda and my team, which is the best I can ask for.


On the photography front the boss, the personal assistant and the team are me, myself and I. And, as you can see from my images these three people work mainly at night or dusk.

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Give three tips to budding photographers ...

Don’t fight yourself: When you start to confront your creativity you immediately let emerge small or bigger wounds in your personality, which are coming from the remote past. Sooner you feel the impossibility of healing these lacerations. Don’t fight against it, let them to stay open as a loophole, a tiny passage that allows you to look over your own inner world and investigate with your art the most mysterious and secret part of yourself. This will reflect in your work, will enhance the strength of your art. Strangely, it will put everything in the right place.

Search for simplicity: Simplicity is the greatest refinement. It means subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. And a good picture has this strong power. It has the ability to synthesise, to simplify the apparent complexity of the real.

Curiosity is the greatest school:Curiosity keeps leading us down a new path and moving forward and evolve. I’m a self-taught photographer and I want to quote one of my favourite film directors Wong Kar-wai: I’m not coming from film school. I learned cinema in the cinema watching films. So you always have a curiosity…

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From HT Brunch, July 29, 2018

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First Published: Jul 28, 2018 21:34 IST