Photographer Chiara Zonca's landscape photographs look out-of-this-world, capturing seemingly alien sunkissed and sand-blown landscapes. Her horizons are often juxtaposed by the occasional billabong or oases hiding between the sand dunes. Using her medium format camera, Chiara continues to chase these spectacular sights even in the harshest of conditions. Feel the sand between your toes and radiant late-afternoon sun licking your skin with her gorgeous photographs in this interview.
When did you start shooting on film? How does film help you with your aesthetic?
I started exploring with film a couple of years ago, at first, I was drawn to it as it seemed to capture reality in a way that more closely matched the multiple tones the human eye is capable of capturing. Digital always feels like a partial reproduction of reality and a not very subtle one at that.
So I started to carry a film camera with me and shoot on both, just to see the difference. Gradually I realized I was constantly striving to make my digital images look as if they were shot on film which felt like a tedious and completely unnecessary process. These days I still use both for different reasons but my addiction to analogue is definitely growing.
Your command of colors is also brilliant. What’s the best time of the day to shoot the great outdoors?
Thank you! I am particularly fond of blue hour and the split second when the sun starts rising or sinking with a deep red tint. You get the intense blues and red hues but the sun is still weak so shadows aren’t that visible. That’s my magic moment. The fact that it is also so fleeting you really have to be in the right spot at the right time makes it all more special to me.
We notice you shoot a lot in unusual and rarely-frequented locations as well such as deserts. What do you love most about shooting such isolated landscapes?
For me it’s all about introspection. It’s when I am alone in a place with no clear human presence that something in my mind clicks, I feel alive and exhilarated. It’s almost a form of meditation, my desire to document the landscape is not only to describe its beauty or form, it’s an attempt to visualize my feelings towards it.
As a landscape photographer, what's the most important element in a scenes composition?
It depends, sometimes it’s a colour hue or combination that draws my eye. Or a texture, natural shape, it could be anything. Composition-wise, I am not a fan of super wide panoramas, you can be experimental with landscapes as if you were shooting a portrait. An abstract camera angle or a close-up can change a landscape completely and it’s always fun to play with that idea.
From where do you draw inspiration?
I look at films for storytelling and cinematography. I am obsessed with the use of photography in movies. The fact they choose to grade a specific shot in a certain way. I also come from a graphic design background and that helps with editing my images and keeping a certain cohesive look to my work. And of course, I also am inspired by other photographers. Although I try not to look too much at what other people are doing to keep feeling instinctive about what my own style is.
What are your favorites of places to photograph?
South America, Chile, in particular, is a place that feels like home. Loved the Atacama desert and would happily photograph it forever. The Western states of the US are also a classic. So many wild, remote locations still to discover, big wide open spaces, I try to visit at least twice a year and I am always discovering new "muses". I am also particularly keen on the Middle East, have been to Oman last Winter and took my breath away.
On Chiara Zonca's downtime, what is she up to?
Camping and in particular, overlanding. There’s nothing else I love more to do. Rarely have much downtime as if I camp I end up taking loads of photos but, as soon as I am done for the day, I love lighting up a fire, relax, chit-chat with my mates, look at the stars. All of this while knowing you could essentially live in your home on wheels for months at a time. Livin’ the dream.
Any on-going projects, or other plans you're keen to work on?
I have one yep, working on it at the moment and taking it really slow. Will be shooting in Canada and the US and will be very personal one. Cannot wait to share more about it but it’s very early days. Will keep you posted.