Self-taught photographer Leonardo Pucci has lived in various cities across the world, being a fashion photographer. His debut solo exhibition titled ‘Episodes (without a real order)’, showcases private, intimate moments in the lives of individuals or couples, capturing vulnerabilities as well as their sensual side. He speaks to NT BUZZ between catching flights en-route Goa in a very interesting conversation
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
Ever wondered what it feels like to be photographed without your knowledge? Especially when you are absolutely yourself, guards down, in your zone, probably half or fully nude? Or during your most intimate and private moments with your partner during the night? Or doing anything that society considers taboo?
Leonardo Pucci’s first solo exhibition ‘Episodes (without a real order)’ is all set to give Goans a glimpse into his works of art. His photography is different; it is about people and their surroundings. But here Leonardo has, in various parts of the world stealing moments in lives of individuals and couples caught unaware.
The photographs use strong geometric compositions and almost three-dimensional contrasting colours; revealing moments usually secretive and hidden eliminating the distance between the observer and the subject.
There might be a turmoil of guilt and shame viewing these photographs knowing that they were clicked while in the act, or unaware, but these are a drama of sorts that put together aesthetically the subject and his placement in his/her surroundings. The viewer recalls memories or imagines themselves in the pictures evoking multiple feelings and emotions.
Q What intrigued you to capture hidden stories (pictures) of people ?
A theatrical drama was at the origin of the project ‘Episodes (without a real order)’. I attended the play years ago and I was intrigued by the subject – it underlined the role of a hotel room, which, though lived in for a brief moment, ends up becoming the fragment of an open story. Since then, the broader idea of an intimate and apparently protected place becoming a possible episode for an emotional narration fascinated me. Gradually I developed the desire to create a vast and complete photographic project around this concept: capturing fragments of real life that provokes a strong story narration, drawing directly from the mind of the observer. It’s a potential story that is kept in his dreams, his desires, his memories and in the need to have his story told. These are always different as all the different observers.
Q What do you want the viewer to experience?
My images induce a vague tension in the viewer. On one side there is curiosity, an intimate attraction to the delicate sensuality of a stolen moment, while on the other, there is a feeling of discomfort: he is looking at something he shouldn’t be seeing. However, this turmoil is temporary as the observer’s personal memories take over. His own personal narration starts because he recognises those episodes as part of an indefinite familiar plot and immediately starts to develop this scenario adding his own meanings, tales and emotions which go beyond the subject itself. Even the caption, with the place and time of the shot meticulously recorded, creates the false idea of a storyline while it really widens the possibility, intimate and subjective, of an underlying story for every moment.
Q Most of these photographs have been clicked at dusk or at night. Is this a conscious decision, especially because you were doing this without the subject’s knowledge?
At night everything is suspended and amplified. In the darkness if there is a noise, a movement, a shadow, my attention is taken immediately and I tend to focus much more on detail than in the day when the landscape distracts me.
My images are stolen moments of intimacy of individuals or couple. Eventually it’s at dusk or at night that you feel protected and at ease in your spaces. It’s when you get rid of constrictions, conventions, bans. If you notice, even your body moves differently than during the day.
Q Tell us about your frame of mind while clicking these pictures. Wouldn’t you feel scared, or guilty about what you were doing?
As a photographer I’m constantly attentive, my eye is always ready to capture an image that suddenly appears in front of me. I have my camera with me, night and day, and when the opportunity arises I focus on my subject with respect and attention, keeping a neutral distance; a certain detachment. I do not allow myself to be involved; I try to remain a detached observer ready to capture the sensuality of common life moments.
Q Though we consider ourselves to be developed and educated and rational, society still somehow doesn’t allow you to be yourself, express feelings and live life on your own terms. There is still a lot that is hidden in terms of feelings, lives we lead, our beliefs, etc.
We are strangely experiencing a sort of second Victorian age, a period cloaked in respectability and morality, but instead full of scandals, transgressions, contradictions and secrets. So the problem is not so much what is hidden but what is unsaid or censored. Every day we indulge in self-censorship and this can only be dangerous.
Q Can you tell us how you chose these pictures for the exhibition, knowing well that you might have clicked several more? Which are your favourite and why?
I’m really in love with all my pictures and it has been quite difficult for me to select, edit and choose. My gallerist Robin Rice in New York and my friend Siddharth Shanghvi helped me a lot during the process. Their meaningful though different point of view gave me the possibility to see my entire work through a different perspective.
Q Since these photos have been clicked across countries, does it have a uniform narrative or does it reflect the country, its ethos and more?
I tried to capture ‘hidden’ feelings in all the countries I visited and of course made them art in different cultures. In some cases it softly pointed out some controversial element in the context of the culture the image has been shot in. The ‘Carson 1:23 p.m.’ for example has a US flag woven from a Navajo tribe in New Mexico hanging next to an empty chair. Some stars are missing if compared to the official flag. In a suspended atmosphere it is for me the clear image of a country that is struggling to deal with itself and its origins; a country that is going through a deep identity crisis.
Q Will you continue this series? What are your other plans?
Since Siddharth Shanghvi offered to curate the exhibition for the Sunaparanta foundation, I began to reflect that India is so sensual and suggestive, yet contradictory and clashing. And this might be a perfect setting for a new series of ‘Episodes’.
Q What is the response are you expecting?
India is such a refined and sensual country that I’m sure for viewers here it will be incredibly easy to enter in the pictorial nature of all images with their muddy saturation, with their palpable colours, with their visual stories condensed of delicate sensuality.
(‘Episodes (without a real order)’ will be open for public viewing at Sunaparanta- Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho till May 24)