On How We Shape Places — an Interview with Maxi Magnano

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Seeing Maxi Magnano’s works is like going on a trip on your own to a place you have never been before — exploration on solitude and a reflection on how we inhabit spaces, how we make them ours. On today's interview, he shares with us how he started, what motivates him and how he found his remarkable artist voice.

When I look at your work, it transports me to a quite melancholic surreal place, a sort of calm shelter so to speak. Do you connect in that or any ways with the locations you photograph? How is that process before the photography is taken?

I always try to point out how the most common places or things can seem so strange or even surreal from a certain perspective. I am very affectionate towards what I choose to photograph because all those places show how we as human beings cultivate our spaces, our workplaces, they are examples of how we inhabit and give warmth to a world that can also seem so cold or even sinister at times. I do connect with these locations in this way because they convey this duality in which the human world is so close to an inhuman or post-human world. My work deals with that sort of liminal space and maybe that’s where the idea of shelter and melancholy that you mention comes from. I can’t really describe a specific process because I just know that eventually these places appear and connect with those feelings of melancholy and strangeness.

What made you decide to pursue photography as something more than a hobby?

I don’t think I know exactly why or when I decided to take photography as something more than a hobby. My present relationship with photography is something that has been slowly developing and becoming more intense over the last few years. Most likely, the turning point was realising that photography is not merely a technical discipline but also a means to convey something beyond that. What interests me the most about photography is not its technical side or its perfection as a medium but how it can be used to express or show a way of passing through life. From this point of view, photography is not just a way of passing time but instead, I would say it overlaps with my time. This may also have to do with economical and territorial limitations: since it's very hard to pursue photography’s perfection as a technical medium, I have to explore its potential as a means of expression.

What is your weapon of choice? (Camera and film). Do you have any camera you would dream to shoot with?

Almost all of my work is done with 35mm SLR cameras, either a Fujica AX-3 or an Olympus OM10, which is my favorite out of these two models. I also use 35mm point and shooters sometimes but I’m very comfortable with the SLR system, they are not too heavy and the wide diaphragms are very useful to me since I do a lot of low light photography and the 1.8 or 1.6 f makes it easy to shoot handheld. As for film, I don’t really have a favorite kind of stock and I mostly use whatever I can get at a good price (which is normally Kodak Colorplus or Proimage).

Lately I’ve been using a Mamiya 7, which may qualify as the camera one would dream to shoot with, but I’m having a hard time getting used to the rangefinder system. The lens, the 6x7 format and the negative size are great, but composing is way harder than with an SLR, at least by now. Maybe the Pentax 67 is exactly what I would use right now.

Could you tell us a few your inspirations? Whatever they are: music, art, film, literature, day to day events, anything.

Inspiration may come from many different sources. The images I do at a given time may have a lot to do with whatever I’m reading or watching and that doesn’t always happen in a conscious way. My surroundings can sometimes be inspiring but that hasn’t really been the case lately due to the pandemics and the lack of mobility and social contact, so photography has become some kind of tool to deal with an uninspiring setting. I actually draw a lot of inspiration from photographers (and artists in general) that at least to a certain point seem to be dealing with the same issues, artists that are either stranded or that have the need to do something with limited resources (including space and time). I think it’s very interesting to see what photography looks like when it’s done under such circumstances.

You have a strong visual voice. How do you think it was your process to find it? Did you try different mediums or styles before?

I used to make music when I was about 18 or 19 years old, but I was never serious about that. Photography was the first and the only medium I ever tried. I started out doing digital photography but I quickly switched to film. As for the style or the voice, I always tried to be very honest about the work that I produce and show. The fact that other people may see it, like it and follow it is very important, but I have to be comfortable with my own images. I guess that has a lot to do with achieving a certain consistency in style. In the end, style is very closely linked to the use we give to photography or to the reason why we make photos, which is also very close to being a manifestation of one’s own vision of the world. Besides this, I always tried to learn from my favorite authors (such as Eggleston and Moriyama) and apply what I learn from them in my own surroundings.

What would you say to photographers trying to find their voice?

Be patient and sincere with your work. Social networks aren’t as important as they seem. It takes time to learn. Try to always appreciate other people’s work. Photography should be fun.

Can you share, from your own work, a favorite picture or the one you appreciate the most?

There’s a picture of a line of chairs at a basketball club. The chairs are pointed towards the pool. I love that image, it’s like the empty chairs are staring at an empty pool and the light is perfect. It’s from the first roll I shot with the OM10, I had just bought it. Everything seems so vulnerable, it breaks my heart.

What comes next? Any projects you would like to share with us?

I’m working on my first photobook right now. It should be out by March this year. After that I’m not really sure, I’m thinking I should really start travelling to see how it affects my work. I want to keep on growing, I’m just not certain how yet.

Please feel free to share some last words with our readers.

I’m always very happy with how my photos reach and affect people, I’m really thankful for everyone’s support and also for this space. Thank you.

For more of Maxi's works, visit his Instagram.

written by Reggina Idiartegaray on 2021-01-23

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5 Comments

  1. charliedontsurf
    charliedontsurf ·

    Stunning work, I really feel it:) The pool shot is terrific but I really love the bathroom shot, it's a talent to be able to make the ordinary look so special, well done!

  2. andreinaonate
    andreinaonate ·

    This interview encouraged me a lot. thanks.

  3. amerberg
    amerberg ·

    Complimenti, sono delle foto stupende...

  4. troubleinthemessagecentre
    troubleinthemessagecentre ·

    Beautiful! These shots have real atmosphere! <3

  5. martinfinestra
    martinfinestra ·

    Great photographer and teacher! Maxi gave me great advice and support with my photography journey in his online course. Well done supporting photographers from all over the world.

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