As I was meandering down the C/O Berlin corridor (for their opening of ‘Timeless beauty…’) a man stopped me (who turned out to be Sirio Magnabosco) to say he had taken pictures of me at a fashion event that happened roughly about 9 months ago for an Italian magazine (L’Espresso). As the words tumbled out of his mouth, I am sure my (very expressive, so I am told) face must have screwed up with disbelief because I didn’t believe someone could have such a good memory.
Anyhoo, fast forward an ’email’ of photographic proof’ from him later, me really liking the pics he took of me and the other shots I saw, doing research on him to find facts like, ‘he was born in Verona, Italy, worked for magazines like Newsweek, NY Times, Vanity Fair, Wired, Mare, loDonna, Sportweek and exhibited in Italy, Greece, New York and Tokyo, had received rave reviews from the likes of David Burnett who just so happens to have won, ‘virtually every award in the field of magazine photo journalism’-I decided to interview Sirio and here is how it went-
MFSL- What ignited your passion for photography?
Sirio- I never wanted to become a photographer and I never really thought that I was a photographer. I had a need to express what I was seeing and I used photography as a way to express that. It’s like when you want to say something in a different language, you learn that language so you can express what you want to say.
MFSL- What were you doing before photography?
Sirio- I was a web designer and working in that profession made me realise that I had a passion for creating visual things that others could see. I moved to photography when I was 23/24.
MFSL- How would you describe your style of photography?
Sirio- That’s hard for me to say, I see so many things that have an impact on me. I also tend to observe more than I interact. I like to take a real event and make it iconic.
MFSL- What does that mean, ‘to take a real event and make it iconic?’
Sirio- I like to take pictures to make symbols of events, so that means you take out a lot of things from that event, so who the person is, where they are, time and so on gets stripped away. I like the concept of that.
MFSL- What kind of moments in particular do you like to captre?
Sirio- I am drawn to moments that reflect visual tension and suspension. For e.g. the moment before someone is just about to fall into the pool. The moment appears to be steady because the person has not fallen, but the tension is created because you know they are about to lose their balance. That in between stage is very attractive to me- knowing it hasn’t happened but it’s definitely going to happen.
MFSL- Which photographers inspire you?
Sirio- Well the ones that do are not necessarily my style of photography, but I like their personal of point of view so, Lee Freelander and Garry Winogrand
MFSL- I read that you like to, ‘work in series’, could you expand on that?
Sirio- I believe series are a great way to express subtle things. So with a series of pictures, lots of elements change but what you are trying to say stays the same.
MFSL- What would you say is your process when you shoot your series?
Sirio- For me it’s all about a feeling, I have a feeling when I see certain things and I am very fascinated about this feeling. So when I am shooting a series, I take about two months off and when I see something that makes me have that feeling I shoot or else I don’t shoot. Then when I edit, I try to work out the concept because at the end people want to know what the work was about, the title of the series and so on.
MFSL- Which is your favourite camera and why?
Sirio- Although it’s very important to have the right camera. I think it’s a very personal choice because it’s not just about the result the camera gives you but the feeling you have when you walk around with it. Especially as sometimes you can be shooting and holding the camera in your hand for up to 12 hours a day. So to me it doesn’t make sense to share these things….
MFSL (Teasingly)- oooooOOh, its private…
Sirio–No not because it’s private but because I think it’s very important for people to experiment and go through the journey of seeing which camera works for them, and finding their companion so to speak, instead of having the idea, ‘If it worked for him, it will work for me’.
MFSL (Laughs)- You answered that question like a politician, you evaded the answer!
Sirio- Well, it’s a more interesting answer.
MFSL- Fair enough. You shot some of the images for your last series, ‘A Series Of Unexpected Meditations’ in Japan. What did you think of Japan?
Sirio- In many ways there were lots of contradictions. For e.g. I was expecting everywhere in Tokyo to be full of lots of lights and brimming with new technology but not every place was like that. For the most parts the people were very friendly and it was the safest place I’ve ever been to in my life; you are sure if you leave your wallet on the ground you can come back and find it there.
MFSL- Really? Great! What was the food like for you?
Sirio- The greatest experience I had there was with food actually. I went to a Soba restaurant where everything was made out of Soba which meant all the food had a greyish tinge. So there was soba soup, soba noodles and even soba icream, and it was a very rich experience because the chopsticks are encased in this beautifully textured paper, the food is presented in attractive, colourful pottery. All this makes you open up your senses because you have to do that to appreciate the unfamiliar tastes. And what I found when I stepped out of the restaurant was that my senses were very open…
MFSL- That’s because you were still hungry!
Sirio (Laughs)- No, really, it was great. In Italy, we have a very strong taste for food but most of the food as great as it is can knock you out. But the Soba food I had was a more subtle experience-in a way it’s like what I try to do with my work- to take you there but to make you do the last step. Because then it’s your experience and it’s not me telling you what it is, it is you understanding it.
MFSL- How did you come to be in Berlin?
Sirio- It kind of just happened. I had one solid week when I was home in Verona, Italy and I kept meeting people who talked about Berlin for one reason or another. And then I found out that a friend of a friend had a room to rent in Berlin, so I decided to move knowing I could always come back if I didn’t like it. That was 6 years ago.
MFSL- How do you see Berlin?
Sirio- I think Berlin is a city that can surprise you every day. You don’t need to own a car but you can still go everywhere. I like the way of life here, it’s very comfortable and interesting at the same time.
MFSL- What are some of your favourite hot spots in Berlin?
Sirio- Treptower Park, a bar called Bassy that do a Country/Rock/Burlesque night on Wednesdays, Kater Holzig restaurant….
MFSL- What advice would you give a photography intern?
Sirio- Unfortunately there are some photographers who want so badly to be accepted that they imitate the work of successful photographers before them. But this does not work, it’s so much easier to be honest than to lie and get caught. I think the most important thing is to be honest with your work, and show your uniqueness through your work because that will give you an advantage and help to differentiate yourself from the hundreds of photographers that exist today.
MFSL- And finally, what magazines or blogs do you read for inspiration?
Sirio- I read books actually, I think books are very important for a photographer because they help trigger your imagination and allow you to use your imagination to visualise the words you are reading.
MFSL- Interesting, I haven’t heard that kind of rationale before. What book are you reading now?
Sirio- I am reading a book called, ‘Conversations with Henry Miller’ edited by Frank L. Kersnowski and Alice Hughes which is turning out to be a fascinating read.
And now back to me-
All pictures (bar the ones of himself) courtesy of Sirio Magnabosco
To look at more of Sirio’s work please go to- http://www.mrsirio.com