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Siamo Tutti Alpini

In conversation with Giulia Simonotti
What’s your story?

I became interested in photography at a young age, when I got my first digital camera. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, but I saw photography as a hobby. I then moved to London at the age of eighteen and after a year I decided it was time for me to pursue my passion for photography.

As soon as I started university I came across so many different styles and ways of creating work that soon inspired me even more and made me realise how passionate I was about photography. I soon left digital photography behind, focusing on analogue and developing my own films, spending time in the darkroom and creating my own prints.

I absolutely fell in love with the process and I started taking more and more photographs, enjoying the excitement of not knowing what would come out of my film and wanting to experiment with different cameras, settings and subjects.

What kind of photography are you interested in?

My work is documentary mainly; I love working with people of different ages and backgrounds and communities. I mix landscape photography with archival material, as well as details and portraits. I spend large parts of my creative process in researching and reading about the topic I’m going to document.

I feel extremely influenced by photographers who shift between documentary and fashion photography, like Viviane Sassen and Jamie Hawkensworth. The aesthetic stays the same – iconic and recognisable – but adapts to the different environments.

I do love to experiment and am considering working with still life and more in the future.

Let’s talk about your project.

Siamo Tutti Alpini is a collection of analogue photographs and archival images portraying the Alpini, a corps of the north Italian army. The Alpini is the oldest active mountain infantry in the world, founded in the 1872. I have been photographing the Alpini of my local Italian territory in Piemonte. The project is collected in a book, which mixes the 120 photographs with the archive, as well as some handwritten quotes from the subjects.

This on-going project started in 2018; I wanted to find out more about this place after I’d been living in London for four years. Exploring the local community, I found myself reconnecting with my heritage, collecting stories and recording new memories through the use of photography.

The project aims to celebrate the Alpini, not only historically but also for what they do for the local community on a daily basis. The images, alongside the archive provided by the local communities, are the contemporary testimony. My aim is to share this project with a big audience by telling a story perhaps unknown to many.

The images evoke a sense of belonging to me, through the closeness to the subjects and the discovery of the territory. The landscape is portrayed as a romantic painting, where I can reconstruct her old memories and create new ones.

While working on the project, were there any moments that stand out to you now?

This project allows me to talk to a lot of new people and listen to new stories I would never have known of otherwise. I felt very privileged and so welcomed by these amazing men and their families. They gave me full control and their time to make this project possible. I want to carry this memory with me and learn from their dedication and passion for what they do with such love. They’re a true treasure and pride of my local community.

What are you working on next?

As future project, I would like to focus on my identity through different medias and representations. I often find myself struggling when trying to explain how I feel… being an immigrant in the UK, always asked about your future with unknown and delicate answers.

Recommend us something.

I am constantly inspired by music, especially by artists like Loyle Carner and Slowthai who truly speak the truth from the third generation immigrant perspective, giving the listener a clear picture of being a young, mixed-race boy in the UK.

What I love about it is that I can visualise what they sing and get immersed in it. It helps me understand a culture which is different from mine and to get to know my friends and the people I photograph better.

I am also currently reading Tender Is The Night by F Scott Fitzgerald. I find it amazing how he describes the locations, giving the reader a deep, vivid image of the colours, the smells, the people in the French Riviera. It helps me when photographing my own county, Italy – especially when it comes to landscapes.

I love to combine my images with small sentences which give the viewer a deep connection to my pictures, even getting to know my emotions which I always include when producing my work.

Not long ago I watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Tarantino at the cinema, and the stills, the connection of the acting with the viewer, the movie within the film inspired me and made me want to photograph more and more. The colours described perfectly the lifestyle of the late sixties, and every shot was carefully crafted. I truly found it refreshing and inspiring – one of the best films I watched this year.

Finally, rell us about one photograph or piece of art that has strongly influenced you.

Jon Tonks’ work Empire always inspires my work and I can’t ever get enough of it. I love the way Tonks shows us a part of the world which we almost forget about, a mysterious and almost magical place with a sense of quietness and balance. The colours and the subjects all give me a sense of past, belonging to the place. A feeling of nostalgia for something that is gone, something that has been forgotten – perhaps the land itself.

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