Claudio Napolitano: I am an engineer, an image constructor
Professional photographer / Hasselblad Master Prize
You have an excellent work dedicated to image. There you can appreciate sharp contrasts between publicity work and social sensibility. Please, tell us how do you handle those contrasts?
I see advertising as training in how to sell other’s ideas. When you have to sell your own ideas, you take your learnings about advertising and start selling your concepts. You as a photographer start playing with light and at the moment of manipulating images and guiding viewers, you are creating a psychoanalytic activity. You arouse emotions in people, stimulate feelings, and throughout a variety of moments, you focus on impacting viewers with your thoughts.
How do you manage your personal seal in your work, regarding image drama, light, texture, others?
Intuitively, there is a little of personal preference and lots of those heroes I admire and have found on the road. Painters, they really inspire me. I just try to draw inspiration from drawing and painting, but I am not good with brushes, so I try to be good with light.
Are you a Renaissance photographer?
Yes, I am a photographer from Renaissance and Obscurantism. When people know me, they question how I am the photographer of those dark pictures. Photography is my shadow, a shadow where I don’t show but just project my feelings, fears, and wishes. That’s why I move between shadows in my personal photographic work.
I evolve daily, measurable by season. I like certain colors, frames or authors at times. I don’t like tying myself down to a particular style. However, the subconscious tends to find a style and signature. At first, photographers look for their own style, but over time, we should try new things. I have experimented with video and virtual reality. That’s the new path for the image world.
I think, just as there were big opium rooms in the past, there will be big rooms of virtual reality where unhappy people could live a new life.
Furthermore, photographers are unemployed thanks to iPhone 7…lol
But, not everyone with an iPhone 7 can be a photographer
I end my workshops with the phrase: “It’s not the arrow but the Indian”. We can take photos with a shoebox with a hole, or with a Leica, what really matters is what is inside you and how you show it.
How does Claudio Napolitano balance content, technique and special effects?
The secret is a good concept behind each work. That comes from advertising. There, you learn how behind a powerful image is a thought. So, every time a person looks at the picture, she/he can see different things and feel new and different feelings. But there is no secret to steal somebody’s soul throughout a portrait.
A good concept makes a picture never go out of style, giving it a historical value.
In my case, the social topic recurs because I want, as a citizen, to make a contribution. I have a picture of a power station in Venezuela (Tacoa) with a kid filling a bucket. It may well be a Pink Floyd’s cover. There is complete symbology there; the bucket could be everybody’s life from our childhood and us filling it with grains of sand. It is key the spectator could both see the half empty and half full perspectives. I like to show the glass fill up to just the middle, so that everyone can see reality from their own point of view. I like showing harshness and realism. I don’t like disguising.
So, are you a graphic psychoanalyst?
Yes, when I was a child, I wanted to be a coroner, psychologist, sociologist, and architect. Those careers are about analyzing and assembling. So, because an Italian who doesn’t build things is not an Italian, I am an engineer or image builder. Lol
Topics like old age and childhood are repeatedly present in your work, as a contrast between beginning and end of your development as an artist. What moves you to address those topics?
In those two cases, we can say children and seniors are both the same. The subject of death has obsessed me for years. Knowing what there is beyond. It is like finding the connection between coming and passing. Children develop emotions; this is the purest age. When you are a senior, you are back to your first challenges. In childhood, the challenge is not peeing on yourself, in old age is the same, lol. There you can understand the perfect cycle of life.
Advertising doesn’t show fears but perfect people, in my opinion, that’s frightening.
Poverty of spirit and values matter to me, and injustice makes me sick. What drives my personal work is the existential crisis I experience working in advertising. I like it, but there comes a moment when I feel poisoned, and I need an antidote against selling unreal beauty. What I like most of new generations and society is the anti-photoshop trend, and the harshness, realism and naturalism in images now.
I enjoy presenting beauty inside harshness and realism and working in a team. I click, but the product is the result of conversations and alliances with artist, in the end, is like I conduct the orchestra.
Is there an espiritual photoshop?
That’s why image psychology is important. Beyond the sociological component, there’s a moment when you have to take the others’ place and think as they would do before an image. Based on that you develop your style.
Do you think we should teach how to read images? For example, most Marilyn Monroe’s pictures show, in my opinion, a very sad woman. There wasn’t an espiritual photoshop there. Probably, few saw beyond the sex symbol that went around the world, to capture the real image.
I think, schools should teach children how to be more sensible, because we are educated until seven; then we must be self-educated.
Or wearing orthopedic shoes? Lol
Tell us about your future projects, now you are working in NY, what’s next for Claudio as author?
We should be like Frank Lloyd Wright, building houses with stones from the nearest quarry. That’s why I like busy cities; there are many stories to develop. I’m still looking for that inspiration month when I will find ideas and work to develop for the next two years. I see myself working in advertising a few years longer, because it is changing. According to the brands you are working with it could even take you to exhibits. I think, this could be the meeting point between an endangered consumer world and art.
Now, I see you as a psychoanalyst-photographer. Once, you shot me like the Mona Lisa, not a Menina nor the Clothed Maja. How would a Claudio Napolitano’s self-portrait be?
Indeed, I have not thought about that. I am a little shy in front of a camera. But I see myself coming out of shadows, not the closet, but shadows, lol.