Emotional connectivity is established when a photograph can close the distance between the image and the viewer. In this interview, Enrico Doria talks about his visual diary “Esprits” and how he removes the barrier of his perceived reality to let others experience the surreal and extraordinary world.
Where do you come from? And how does home affect your upbringing as a photographer and how did photography become a way of life?
I’m from Palermo, Italy, but I’m living in Milano at the moment. I don’t think the place where I was born influenced my choice to use photography to express myself. But I’m quite lucky to have the opportunity to travel and visit several places and this is a great stimulation to observe everything around you.
As a child I loved the power of images, either photographic or cinematographic. I started to use a Canon from my father when I was kid. Growing up, I evolved as I experienced small moments of personal trouble. From then on I made photography my favourite means of expression, using it to fill a void that I believe each of us naturally feels inside. Basically the photograph helps me to remember who I am.
We saw your photographs and loved the style of “Esprits” and “Dreary Town.” How do you do approach the art of blurring?
“Esprits” and “Dreary Town” are similar projects. They are instinctive, even with a draft basic idea. “Esprits” should be considered a documentary about myself and my vision of many things, related to a past, remembered by hinted images. For this kind of work, this camera, simple and light, represents the ideal travel companion, where travel represents life, with its experiences and emotions which constantly overlapping. Dreary Town is inspired by “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino; it’s sort of revisiting the idea of the town.
So, I think that all these projects refer to my intimate and strictly personal way of seeing reality which sometimes I myself cannot define or describe. I like the “controlled” unpredictability and the distorted effect of the Holga camera; the Holga is sort of my right pen whenever I “write” down my feelings and mood with the lens.
You also have photographs like “Just A Small Town” and “Egoli” that are composed differently from the style of Esprits—all very sharp and focused. When do you use blurs, and when do you use your sharp details? Is there a particular reason for switching between the soft and the sharp?
I like reportage as well. I like to tell stories using photography. So, in this occasion, I need to use an image style with more definition. I use Holga when I need to do some intimate and more personal projects, such as Esprits. My latest project “South African Farewell Blues” is also shot in Holga and represents my personal farewell to a beautiful country where I lived for a long period.
As for my sharped and more focused images, I use a digital camera, because I will need more control and configuration.
I don’t feel like there is some dualism though. These are two aspects of my personal vision of the things; I can use different language in conveying my vision of what is around me. I don’t want to be identified by a single specific style. My style depends on the subject and the message I would like to communicate to the other people.
What would you like to tell through your soft-focus and sharp photos?
In particular the pictures made using the Holga represent a kind of diary; “Esprits” is a project-diary, a series of photographic notes about faded memories that often appear like spirits. In general, these blurred photographs are instinctive, evolving over time and form a body of work that I hope will never end. Anyone can see something personal in these images, which are not precisely defined because they leave something to the imagination
Sharp images, most of the time, tell a reportage-like story, so they need to show more details. And I prefer this style to underline the connection among all the pictures of a story. In this occasion I want the viewer to notice every detail of the image that is part of a story.
What difficulties do you face when you take your photographs, and how do you get through them?
If I use the Holga camera for more personal projects, the major difficulty is the concept. I need to find and think carefully about the meaning of what I’m doing. Of course “Esprits” or “Dreary Town” are instinctive works but beyond this instinct, there should be significance in every single shot. Post-processing is very important as well, mostly when I want to present a work like that. Then I need to print my photographs and leave them on a table, and observe them for some time.
For the reportage works, sometimes the greatest difficulty is to interact with the local people and to find a “good contact” that can drive and take you inside a certain environment. Many times this aspect takes time and patience, but there are other possible difficulties existing especially when you want to try for a photographic story.
Overall, it’s essential to have a clear aim about what you want to show to the observers. It’s also important to be clear without being trivial, to communicate without saying too much, as what the photographer Lorenzo Castore would say.
You’ve mentioned you like reportage in photography as well. What’s your insight about human life and the self?
It’s a complicated question to answer in few lines but I like to quote a sentence from a book by Paolo Sorrentino: “Men are divided into two categories: those who get comfortable and wither, and the others.” I am part of the others.
What certain emotions and ideas do you want to your photographs to evoke?
I just wish my photographs speak a little about me and represent a link between my self and what I have around. It should be easy to say that I would awaken emotions in the viewers, but in reality I photograph just for me. It is my path that includes other aspects and disciplines such as music, painting, and cinema.
Are there muses who help your art? Is there an art principle you follow?
I like several photographers and I’m trying to learn from everyone. There are several photographers I learned to appreciate; I love the black and white from Michael Ackerman and Lorenzo Castore, for example. But I can’t say I was inspired by them or by other photographers for my film photography.
I don’t have any art principle in particular. I love cinema and art in general and I am enchanted by many things that may be reworked in my photography, but I do not think too much about it.
What are qualities you look for in a photograph, or a work of art?
I just look for emotions some art work can give me.
What do you usually do when you’re not making your art?
I’m a plant biologist and working as a researcher at the university. So, this is a work that keeps me quite busy.
What piece or photo set of yours are you most proud of? Why?
I love all of my works because each of them is related to me: they’re all pieces of me. But nowadays, “Esprits” is the work giving me more satisfaction and visibility. I love all my photos from this series. There are some that I particularly remember with more affection because they are related to a place or a special moment. I could talk about each single image for long time.
What’s next for you?
“Esprits” and “Dreary Town” are projects that are always evolving; now I would like to give visibility to all the projects I did in Africa. I need to do the editing carefully and it takes time, especially when I’m meeting with other photographers. I already published something, but there are some projects I would like to promote in a proper way.
Feeling inspired? Read our first feature on Enrico Doria or visit his "website"http://www.lomography.com/magazine/319574-esprits-a-visual-diary-by-enrico-doria for his other photographic works. All images used with Enrico Doria’s permission.