Although photography became a part of his life recently, Stefano Gardel's photographs captivated us from the very start. His work can be described as mysterious and surreal, and will definitely leave you speechless. He enjoys traveling to inspiring places and seeking the unknown in order to take the most breathtaking photographs. In this interview, Stefano tells us what fascinates him the most about landscape photography as well as what is his creative process like.
Hey, Stefano! Welcome to our magazine! Can you tell us how did you get into the world of photography?
Hi! Thank you for having me! I got into photography last year, around January. I was going through a through time with my health, and I had to change drastically the way I ate or drank. Which meant I had to limit my foods to a great extend and cook everything at home. I also had to stop any kind of alcohol, which was really really hard! Being very outgoing, my social life became empty really fast and soon I found myself at home most of the time getting depressed.
So one day, sitting on my couch after work looking at the white wall I thought: “ Why not hang some cool picture on it?”. I had a weekend course like 12 years ago on how to use a DSLR and some experience, I bought a professional camera and started traveling over the weekends and holidays to shoot. It was a way to distract myself from my problems, and the more I shot the more photography felt like home, like my own thing. Things turned out for the better and now, one year later, I’m selling my work to art galleries in Milan and Sydney.
You've captured some really stunning landscapes over the years. What attracted you specifically to landscape photography?
Actually, all the pictures you've seen are the result of this one year of intense shooting and traveling. Whenever I do a project I never know what I will do until I feel inspired by something. It doesn't matter if it is landscape or street photography when I get the inspiration I try to act on it as soon as possible. I don't have a personal preference in genre, but they are more like “urges“.
Lately I’m interested in fashion and portrait photography, even tough I don't know the first thing about it, there are aspects that intrigue me, and the nice thing is that in photography you can improvise and have as many tries as you like, using different lights and settings, until you achieve the results you are looking for. The landscape photography has the advantage of bringing you to beautiful places and immerse you in nature, which is a blessing by itself.
How would you describe your style of photography? How do you succeed in making your work stand out from the others?
I think my pictures tend to be mysterious and gloomy, sometimes surreal. If I had to describe my style of photography I would call it meditative. That’s because the whole process of taking pictures is like a meditation for me. When I decide to do a project I have a mental outline of what I want to achieve, but then I leave things very much to chance. I’m always open to new inspiration to come.
Usually, whether I’m doing street photography or landscape, I’m listening to some electronic beats or experimental ambient music, something that lets my mind go. Then I just immerse myself into the present and witness without judgment people, situations, thoughts, emotions and sometimes something magical starts to happen as if it was orchestrated by something greater. Things acquire a more symbolic dimension. I may stay still in front of a lake for one hour or move around a city non-stop, but the feeling I get is the same.
What is it that fascinates you the most about photography? What's your creative process like?
It’s the personal approach to photography that really attracts me. I think having a medium that allows you to express yourself with immediacy and precision is very important, and I think that photography does just that. Especially today with digital photography the creative part of post processing is just amazing. Usually, when I have a project in mind I already know how I will processes it in post production, and according to that, I may set my camera when I go out shooting.
Once I find my subject or scene I tend to shoot a lot of pictures of it, with slight variations in exposure, focal distance, and framing, sometimes only moving few millimeters to the right or to the left. I may shoot 50-60 pictures of the same subject with minimal variations, so that in the post when reviewing it I can find the exact shot I’m looking for. Then I come down to 5 to 10 pictures that really grab my attention and work with them. Most of the times I just use Lightroom, other times I get crazier and use photoshop with different editing plugins.
I understand you are based in Lugano, Switzerland. What are some of your most favorite places here to shoot?
The Alps are an amazing spot to shoot. Engadina is a region couple of hours from where I live, really like to go out and shoot. But to be fully honest I’m mostly attracted by what is exotic and distant from me. I’m not saying that I don't like to shoot here, but I think the contrast is the key to creativity. That’s why I tend to shoot somewhere far from my surroundings, somewhere foreign to me.
When do you feel most inspired to take photos?
Whenever an idea that really stimulates my mind comes in. I may have long periods of time where nothing comes, and then all of a sudden I know exactly what I want to shoot and how I want to edit it. It is all or nothing. If I don't have anything in mind usually I don't go out and shoot.
There is also an interesting fact about you. Besides being a photographer, you are also a chiropractor. How do you manage to keep both pursuits in your life?
Photography is really recent, I just started. Even though it became a profession really quickly, my “real” profession is chiropractic. I consider being a chiropractor a real privilege. It allows me to interact with people on a level that is really rewarding and fulfilling. Right now I made some changes to my office hours that allow me to have more time for photography, so I can afford to work half of the time as a chiropractor and half of the time as a photographer. This new situation gives me great balance and keeps me motivated between the two.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in photography?
I think the most important thing is to take a lot of photos and work only with the few that really grab your attention over time. Never get too attached to a photograph. I’m a firm believer that less is more.
Can we expect more magical work from you in the future?
I’m planning to go to Iceland and the Nevada desert over the summer, so let’s see what happens!