Andrea Botto • Photographer, Italy

Paesaggi instabili

Landscape Stories: Could you tell us something more about how a new project starts?
Andrea Botto: When I start a new project the inspiration comes in different ways: from pure observation, from the reading of a book, from a previous work, from a piece of news or from a blog, from a comic strip or from a chat at the bar; there are no precise rules to follow, but obviously I always tend to pay attention to inputs that more deal with my favourite subjects. Generally speaking, when I work on a certain territory, I gather all the useful information first by a web research. Afterwards I go deeper into the subject with more refined studies. I try to find the best way to develop a new job first defining some guiding lines, but the final result only takes its shape after the first photo shootings on site. I don't like kicking a job off with predefined schemes or merely looking for approvals. I prefer seeking for questions, other than obvious answers. I'd rather like looking for situations that arise doubts or stimulate a critic point of view in the observer. I would say that my work method tends to join together solid scientific basics and a more instinctive process.

Lo sguardo imperfetto, 2001

Landscape Stories: How are your earlier works related to the new ones?
Andrea Botto: I have been always thinking of myself as a photographer of places: the first guidelines so far have been the interest in space, the environment and my personal pleasure to confront myself with a kind of photography that I feel closer to my skills, without over-planning to join different projects together. With the passing of time, looking back at my previous works with more consciousness and confidence, I realised that some recurring themes, like the concept of time, the layering of signs and the idea of limit, could be easily read in them. Some observations that came up in a few of my first works like "Lo sguardo imperfetto" or "Biscione" , a council houses area in Genova, found out new life, for instance in the conceptual research of "Horizons". Similar inputs can be found also in the historical and social research in "La stanza della memoria". All these projects are leading to the development of the new "World's End", that I am currently working at. Personally I never appreciated the obvious evolution and recognizable style of an author, because all this risks to become repetition or exercise of style. I prefer working on what I am interested in without boundaries, with different means and solutions, without too many certainties or points of reference. I love in this case to mention the principle of a great contemporary philosopher, that says: "The answer is inside of us. But it is wrong!"
Landscape Stories: Could you describe your experience of photographing a place where you have never been before?
Andrea Botto: Most of the places that I have photographed so far are places where I never went before. There are only few exceptions. I rarely go twice to the same place to take pictures. I love the idea of surprise, but also the challenge of "predicting" the image. "Il momento anticipato" is the title of the book of a dear friend of mine, Francesco Zanot, that in my opinion resumes a particular methodological and maybe philosophical approach to photography. Many times I compared my work on site to the one of a water diviner who, while feeling the vibrations of his tripod, realises that his water , the photography, is exactly in that place. With the passing of time one learns to be predictive, but sometimes more realistically "necessity is the mother of invention". By the way, even when the timing imposed by the client is tight, in one way or another the work must be done.

Tutto in una notte, 2003

Landscape Stories: Could you tell us something more about the creation of a book (editing, printing, etc.)?
Andrea Botto: I have been involved in many publications, both of my books and other authors', and it is always exciting. This is the occasion when a book takes shape and a specific cut is given to a project. There are always big differences among the many ways of presenting a photographic work: web, book, exhibition, projection, etc.. All these means can strongly influence the final result of the images, positively or negatively. For each of my jobs I personally build up a mock up, like a book, first in pdf format, afterwards in a printed version, to check out the order/sequence of the images, but also to have a handy presentation. I have noticed, by the way, a significant return to the artist book or to the limited editions, not to mention the options that the books on demand services can offer. All this is mainly due to the crisis and the flat approval of the publishing industry. In my opinion creating a layout is a good way to test new solutions, materials, printing methods, with a great freedom to express. The result will be a substantial improvement of the presentation and the following spreading of the work.

La stanza della memoria, 2007

Landscape Stories: You have been among the youngest photographers who took part to the project and published "Trans Emilia. A Territorial Reconnaissance of Emilia-Romagna", what about your memory regarding this experience and how did it influence your later works?
Andrea Botto: Taking part to the research for Linea di Confine per la Fotografia Contemporanea has been of paramount importance for my professional growth. And I would like once again to thank William Guerrieri and the Scientific Committee for assigning me in 2003 the photographic campaign about HST. That job marked indelibly my career. From that photo shooting about the night time demolition works of some flyovers, called "All in one night", completed in 2006, I selected some photos that are now part of both public and private collections. I felt really honoured when my photographs have been selected afterwards for the exhibition "Trans Emilia", by Thomas Seelig, who is the curator of the Winterthur Photomuseum. He was also part in 2005 of the jury during the "European Prize for Architectural Photography" in Germany, when I won the 3rd prize. "Trans Emilia" represented the unique occasion to display my works in one of the most important museums in Europe along with some of the internationally renowned masters of photography like Stephen Shore, Axel Hutte, Olivo Barbieri, John Gossage, Guido Guidi, Lewis Baltz. The event was a precious opportunity to exchange and confront each other. I was moreover aware and proud at the same time to be part of such an international happening, where for the first time, an Italian public project was displayed. But unfortunately this remained the only one important episode for Italy. The same "Linea di Confine" project didn't develop any further into discussions about photography, in a moment of big change and evolution of this art. In my opinion it shows to be more and more isolated, cut off and self-serving. I am not saying that I lost completely my hope to see something happening sooner or later, but if that will come, it would probably risk to be too late.

World's end, 2010

Landscape Stories: Could you describe your experience as art-director of the Rapallo Contemporary Photography Festival? How do you approach the subject of this event? What is the guiding principle (o anche " the linking thread") among the selected photographic works?
Andrea Botto: The Rapallo Fotografia Contemporanea project took its origin in 2006, supported by the Rapallo Borough, some local institutions and sponsors. The Festival was the only one in Liguria about contemporary photographic research on site, realized by selected artists to create of a public photo collection. During the first four editions we hosted Mario Cresci, Antonio Biasiucci, Mark Cohen e Takashi Homma. Thanks to Francesco Zanot, who has been appointed as guest curator in 2008, we published two monographic books ( "Italian Riviera" and "Widows") about the above mentioned Mark Cohen e Takashi Homma. Every year we select a new subject that the guest-photographer is invited to work on. During the final exhibition his work is displayed along with a selection of other photographers who developed in Italy or abroad the same theme, using different techniques and with sometimes completely different exits.

Horizons, 2009

Landscape Stories: What is for you "landscape photography" ?
Andrea Botto: And to land up here it is the typical one million dollar question!
Out of the blue, if I think of "the landscape photography" I recall images by Timothy O'Sullivan about the American Far West, that he shot for the Geological Survey. My memory then goes back to something really old, that probably doesn't exist anymore, like many of his subjects. I have always thought of myself, and maybe I am still thinking of, as a confident landscape photographer. But the abuse of the term "landscape" in these last years, mainly in Italy, forced myself to reconsider it and partially to change my mind. First of all the meaning of the word "landscape" should be clarified: my idea of it could be different from yours, and from many others'. I agree with Antonello Frongia who expressed few years ago his concern about the "landscape that risks to step back to the level of an artistic genre (like the still life or the nude), rather than arising discussions around the relationship between visuality and territory – a typically pictorial mode that during two centuries the photography have usefully deleted". Due to the numerable meanings that the landscape took on with the passing of time, we should define first what it is not. But I also think that it is completely anachronistic nowadays to keep on questioning about "what the landscape photography is", as the main issue in my opinion is about what photography is or how it has been changing and if this word will keep its meaning in the next future.