For Women's History Month we're taking a closer look at the work of aspiring female photographers. We're analyzing how the female gaze influences the artistic view in a male dominated world, and we continue this journey together with Ilaria Magliocchetti Lombi, a photographer with a unique strength, which shows in her artistic work. In this interview, we discuss political personalities' and portraits, experimental photography, and important names in the Italian music scene.
Welcome to the Lomography Magazine Ilaria. Please introduce yourself to our community?
Hello, I am an Italian photographer and I mainly focus my photography on portraits and the music scene.
When did you first get interested in photography?
I started taking pictures at a very young age, during my family trips, and I continued with this as a diary. When I was around twenty 20 years old, this became more concrete as I started to take photos of my friends and the band that I followed back then. So it all started from there really. It was clear to me that photography was what I wanted to do when I received a job opportunity in another field: I realised that I would have wasted my energy on something that wasn't photography and that this would have kept me away from it before I could really get started. I couldn't tell you what a "good photo"is: we are surrounded by technically correct images, but an image needs to be much more than just "good". It's subjective, what impresses me might not mean anything to someone else who has a different background and culture than me.
You had the chance to tell the stories of great national and international sports women, such as the champion swimmer Federica Pellegrini, the female national football team and the athlete Libania Grenot among others. What kind of approach do you use with all these different female personalities? Could you tell us some experiences you shared with them?
I don’t approach my subjects based on their sex; it wouldn't come naturally to me. But I might be more involved as I get the chance to represent amazing women.
I feel that those occasions are an opportunity to create images that, in some cases and even if we are talking about something that is not considered so important, can undermine some stereotypes and be a source of inspiration for other women.
When I shot Federica Pellegrini I remember that she told me: “Could you please not take away the muscle like your male colleagues do? It took forever to build up”.
You created a beautiful story about the Italian female national Football team, what did they transmit to you? Compared to your job, how do you see this kind of teamwork? Did they surprise you? Do you have any stories to tell us?
Perseverance, passion, constancy. They are doing an enormous job to undermine the stereotypes. They still have to deal with a lot of ignorance and sexism, but they maintain their love for football and take huge leaps to fight for their passion.
It seems ridiculous, but still in 2018 in Italy, when a girl wants to play football, people try to discourage her and interest her in other fields because football is considered a sport only for men. The female football team told me that when people see them at the airport, they ask them whether they are there to sell or to sponsor something — people don’t even think that they can be football players! It was beautiful to photograph them in all their strength and grace.
Regarding teamwork, I think that it is essential to take a qualitative leap, and I prefer to work with the same people as much as I can. It’s crucial to have different points of view as well, so you don’t stick to your own ideas all the time.
You met two different political female personalities from Italy: Laura Boldrini and Emma Bonino. What was it like to work with them? What did they transmit to you? Do you think that female politicians are undermined compared to male politicians?
Sure they are. Take Boldrini for instance, a man would never have received the type of attacks and violence that she had to deal with. She is just "guilty" of being a beautiful young woman... I’m proud to have been given the chance to photograph them — they are two women for whom I have great respect.
You shot one of the photographs that represent Bonino’s heart, a life spent to fight for women. Could you tell us more about this?
I'm glad you see this through these portraits. I don't know, sometimes the beautiful portraits come and go, there was not so much research, I had very little time for that session – which is often the case. The portraits are the result of two people meeting. There is what the photographer looks at and wishes to represent with his photographs, but at the same time there is what the subject chooses to show to whoever takes a photo. Maybe the difference was her. I care very much about this portrait.
In recent years you've followed the most important singers of the Italian music scene. How does music influence your creativity?
It's the most creative part of my job, where I feel totally free. I can dare to experiment more. I couldn’t do without it: it's when I express myself. I am lucky because I follow most of the artists I work with as a fan, and I have established a friendship with them. They entrust me with the task of creating an imagery linked to their projects, which is a great responsibility. In my opinion it's essential to have the right “feeling”.
Some of the artists with whom I have a very strong bond and with whom I feel very free, are those with whom I have worked for many years. I built a path with: Zen Circus, Le Luci della Centrale Elettrica, Afterhours, Bud Spencer Blues Explosion. Even with Dente I have a great relationship, it has been a while since we had our last shooting together, but he is very creative and it has always been fun to photograph him.
Over the years the female role has been placed in front of the camera, but not behind it. Do you think that something is changing in this male-dominated world?
I do not know if in this field something is changing. In general it's a crucial historical moment of awareness about women. At the moment I can only hope that – like in other artistic fields – more women photographers enrich the world through their gaze.
During your career as a photographer, did you face some obstacles because you are a woman? And, do you think that, in your field, there are differences between men and women?
No, there isn’t anything special that happened to me, and I don’t think that my job would be more comfortable if I were a man, but this is only my personal experience. Sometimes it happened that someone took for granted that I couldn’t be the photographer, only because I was a woman. Once, for example, I was organizing the production of a shooting, and I was renting all the material, and the person I was talking to asked me, “but the photographer has his own backdrop, or he wants to rent this as well?”, even though I had been talking with him, firsthand, for a long time about the photos that I wanted to take! Sometimes I have the feeling that it's not so simple to give a job to a woman, as if a man was more trustworthy than a young woman. We probably need more time gain credibility, but I don’t know whether this is correct or just my impression.
What would be the biggest compliment for you to get from someone looking at your work?
If I am told me that my portraits are human, that there is vulnerability and humanity in each of them. This is something I really love hearing as I always try to be detached from the role of the people I photograph. I don’t know what I would like to hear about me. I've never thought about it that deeply.
Which women inspire you in general? Is there a photographer that influenced you more than anyone else?
I took inspiration from a lot of women that – for different reasons and in different phases of my life – influenced my job and are still influencing it. To be quick, I will tell you the names of the photographers, I may be trivial, but I guess it could not be otherwise, considering their role in the history of photography. Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, Francesca Woodman, Nan Goldin e Letizia Battaglia. Also Tina Modotti, Mary Ellen Mark, Zanele Muholi. Paz Erràzuriz: I discovered her work only last year, I didn’t know her story. In fact, it touched me a lot. She is a Chilean photographer, and she started to take her first shots during Pinochet's dictatorship, her work is incredible.
Do you have any advice for young female photographers?
To be aware of their strength as women and to understand how much we still have to fight for. To escape from the stereotypes related to the female vision, to remember that they can make any kind of photo like like. To take risks and flee from their comfort zone — this is something I would suggest to everyone all over the world. It is only when you decide to take a risk that you can progress.
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