“I like to think that photography arouses questions and curiosity,” says Milan-based photographer Laura Visigalli. She focuses on taking portraits but gets visually creative with her styles and approach to each session. Taking clinically sharp images isn’t her idea of a fun shoot, and she explains in detail why a bit of creative blur is interesting for photos.
“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept” is a quote legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson probably attributed to street photography. Given how photographers these days are obsessed with sharpness, it could be applied to pretty much every genre. I see Facebook forums filled with photographers, mostly in their 20s, craving for sharpness in each image. People bash one another on there to boast about which brand of lens produces the sharpest lens. For someone like me who grew up learning on 35mm, getting the moment was more important than achieving 100% sharpness in a photograph. Getting the feel and the emotion of the image mattered more than zooming in to see if each eyelash was razor-sharp. Laura embraces a similar approach to her portrait photography. The narrative is more important to her than visual clarity across the entire frame.
The Essential Photo Gear Used By Laura Visigalli
- Sony a7
- Helios 44
- iPhone XR
I don’t have any particularly performing cameras or lenses., neither I am particularly interested in the technical aspect of a photo, although I recognize its usefulness in being able to obtain certain images and knowing how to handle them. Technique is important, it helps. Nevertheless, it is not what I am looking for.
The Phoblographer: Hi Laura. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Laura Visigalli: Photography is something I had always considered cool. Something you had absolutely to love to be cool too. When I was just a teen, most of my friends were quite good at taking pictures. I studied at the Arts and Design High School, and we were supposed to be young creative artists, the brand new coming up. We practiced photography there. Nevertheless, I never take it seriously; I just took some pictures during travels and at parties. In 2008, I was convinced by a friend to buy a reflex and share some pics on Flickr. That’s the way I started.
The Phoblographer: “Experiencing the space around me through filtered transparencies”. Could you tell us a bit more about this approach to your series of portraits?
Laura Visigalli: I seek the extraordinary in the ordinary. My photos and the main themes of my works originate within my domestic space. I run an architecture studio and spend hours at the computer in an enclosed space where I am often alone. Within this space, which is both a place of work and my home, I started to pay attention to what I like to call a ‘parallel world’.
In this world, inhabited by reflections in windows, mirrors, and many other surfaces, virtual spaces are generated as they have no physicality of their own except in the image they give us back.
Within these reflections hides my nest, my protected home. My photos tell of loneliness, of silence, of life behind a glass.
The Phoblographer: Do you think we tend to see people through preconceived filters nowadays? Have we lost the ability to accept a person for who they are?
Laura Visigalli: I don’t know what people are. What is reality? Quite a big issue. We always tend to consider people based on what we know and what we think about life. In this way, cultures, customs, and so on should be considered a kind of filter.
The Phoblographer: Would you say that your subjects are different versions of themselves when behind a glass?
Laura Visigalli: One of the main reasons I’m so fond of water reflections, of deformed reality images, of glasses used as filters is the impossibility of fixing something forever. The photograph slips out of your hands and becomes a form out of your will. It is as if the picture lives an unpredictable autonomous life. You want to stop time, to hold everything, and it stops, perhaps, but as it wishes. In the ‘Memories’ series (provisional title), which I am working on at the moment, the re-photographing of portraits of strangers or relatives who have passed away, the use of filters such as water, glass, and double exposures, have a meaning of investigation and reflection on the transience of life, and on our relationship with photography. And what is left of those who came before us?
I believe that rephotographing old portraits and transforming them is a gesture of love, an attempt to bring them back to life, relocating them to the present time.
With this in mind, I also started working with double exposure. I try to do everything in the camera in one shot.
The Phoblographer: You’ve also got a fascinating Filtri di Pelle series, which roughly translates to ‘Leather Filters’. what is this series is about? what prominence does it have in your portfolio?
Laura Visigalli: “Filtri di Pelle” (Skin filters) series is a feminine narrative woven with barely noticeable figures. The images were made using glass as a diaphragm between the camera and the subject to create a fusion between the human body and matter, where the physical space within which the female body is placed is transformed into mental space. The female figure, whose skin merges with the skin of the glass, becomes a figure made of pixels, just like a PC screen. The image needs to be reconstructed by putting the visual fragments together so that we give back a figurative sense to what we see. These details of bodies, glances, and hands guide the observer toward a sign world whose narration is left to what we can imagine, but we still don’t know. It is an open narrative, open to different developments. We can transform it the way we want it. What is missing is regenerated in a unique and personal way through the eyes of the viewer.
Skin Filters was the first series I worked on. It represents an important moment in my artistic production because it gave rise to many works developed later.
The Phoblographer: sharpness is something photographers are taught to be careful of. yet subjects are sometimes out of focus in your portraits, often barely visible. What are you aiming to tell with this approach to portraiture?
Laura Visigalli: We want to see everything. We pretend to know what reality is and how things should be like. Our eyes are a way we have an experience of what we called reality. Digital photography tends to push the boundaries of details further and further into a claim of photography’s ability to be a bearer of truth. I photograph what seems to me to be lurking within this very real world, where everything seems really in focus. It is what I see. I like to think that photography arouses questions and curiosity and that it does not reveal itself completely.
I take a lot of photos at random, sometimes I don’t even know why, I just know I have to take them. For this kind of thing a smartphone is ideal.
The Phoblographer: How often do you decide that you would prefer to be the subject for the photo you’re looking to create, instead of getting another model. What factors take precedence in making this choice?
Laura Visigalli: At first, it was almost by chance. When I made the ‘Skin Filters’ series, I had an urgent need to shoot right away. Apart from me, there was no one else available to pose. When I looked at the photos again, I realised that, in some way, it was also my personal story. Standing behind something that protects. Pretending to show myself but not really doing it. Even if I had photographed someone else, it would still have been a self-portrait of me.
The Phoblographer: What are some of the boundaries of female photography that you’re looking to redraw/break?
Laura Visigalli: I just need to express myself: I do believe that women are often less considered than men. But it happens in many fields. What I can do is keep creating. Both as an architect and as a photographer.
All images by Laura Visigalli. Used with permission. Check out her Instagram, Flickr, and Facebook pages to see more of her photography.