Fabio Severo • Curator and Photographer, Italy

Hippolyte Bayard

Landscape Stories: Could you tell us something more about how your blog started?
Fabio Severo: The blog started three years ago, mostly for fun. One evening I was chatting about photography with my friend and photographer Alessandro Imbriaco and we decided to open a blog, just to have a way to share our thoughts about the photographic world. We were both readers of several foreign websites about photography, and for the first few months we both contributed to the blog, choosing independently what to post, then I kept curating the website on my own until today. Now there is a much different situation in Italy, many websites, magazines or blog were opened in the last years and many are being launched these days as well, but back then there were almost none.


Landscape Stories: Sometimes your research refer to subjects like "anthropological spaces", "natural and urban landscape" and "different forms of human settlements". What does photography mean to you?
Fabio Severo: First of all I like to think about photography as a simple tool to make images – then obviously every visual language develops certain approaches rather than others, certain themes or styles. The same happens with photography, and the topics you mention are among those that are more likely to be encountered when searching through photographic works. The attempt to investigate and show real facts of our world has always been one of the most important goals in the use of photography. And I think that goes beyond any abstract idea about the 'truth' behind photographs, or the reality they would be able to convey, or any of the other eternal issues raised about photography. I think it is first of all a simple fact, then eventually we can find many reasons to explain it. But personally I am open to any photographic approach, I simply run into much photography that evokes those topics you mentioned, what interests me is just the creative effort that is behind it.


Landscape Stories: What is the guiding principle which joins photographic projects select on Hippolyte Bayard?
Fabio Severo: I think that my guiding principle is merely a matter of instinct, or gut feeling. As I said, what makes me want to share and write on one or another photographic work is just the human and creative effort I can feel in the images, whether it is a reportage or an extremely sophisticated art work. I like to look at photographs thinking they are something made by a person, I find it hard to see them as the mere trace of something that happened, even if I see them on the pages of a newspaper, illustrating a news story. So whenever a photograph has like a clear mark of the author behind it, then I get interested and eventually I decide to write something about it.


Landscape Stories: Every landscape has its characteristic. Every place is full of meanings and stories. Your work, as a curator, contains a special "social reading" about the world we live in. Is it your commentary a way to understand how we live and entertain ourselves?
Fabio Severo: My commentary comes mostly from the fact that I don't like to just say "check out this work", I'd rather suggest a thought about it, an angle, also to invite readers to exchange thoughts with me and among them. Writing about photography is also a way to avoid to fall in the false illusion of immediacy that photographs can suggest, and talk about all that lies beneath the simple act of looking at an image, which is something that is often a bit underestimated. So my commentary is an invitation to look at the photographs as images, then we can discuss about all the social issues these images may eventually raise.
Landscape Stories: In your opinion, is the World a simple or complex system?
Fabio Severo: The world is forcefully a complex system, just for the simple fact that it is something extremely wide and diversified. What's important is I think to move through it with complex ideas in our mind only when necessary, and to avoid ideas that are just complicated, rather than complex!


Landscape Stories: Could you describe your experience of guest curator for Unless you will and Dide Magazine?
Fabio Severo: Both are exammples of how the web can make people meet, share ideas, work together quite easily. I met both Heidi Romano from Unless You Will and Mohammadreza Mirzaei from Dide this way, as it happened with many other people, and in both cases the thing just came out of wanting to do something together. Online photography is still a world full of opportunities, a place where ideas about photography and how to diffuse it can potentially be created out of nothing, without the burden of any institutions, set of rules or hyerarchies. Aside from that, they have been different experiences, for Unless you Will I curated a selection of images by different artists to propose an overview of some staged photography from these last years, while for Dide I was asked to write a short essay about one single image by Mitra Tabrizian.
Landscape Stories: How do you consider Italian photography?
Fabio Severo: Hard to say, Italy has many different photographic worlds, with different styles, reasons, relevance. I think you can't consider any of those without taking into account the diffusion and communication apparatus that eventually supports each of them. For sure ours is a culture which is not so accostumed to consider photography as a widespread and autonomous visual language: you see plenty of examples of photography being used for one reason or the other, but a free and personal research in photography dosen't find a particularly fertile environment in Italy as it can happen elsewhere. Having said that, I still think there many interesting artists in our country, but the general photographic culture is not so solid – you just need to walk into a bookshop to realise that.


Landscape Stories: What has been your favorite photo-book in the last few years?
Fabio Severo: There have been many excellent photobooks, I'll just make three examples, each of a very different kind: All the Days and Nights by Doug Du Bois, an outstanding example of photographic narrative; Winter Stories by Paolo Ventura, for its dedication to literally create piece by piece a fantasy world; and last The Great Third Front by Chen Jiagang, where each image is an amazing tableau summing up all the history and the territory the book explores, an amazing lesson of photographic language.

Interview by Gianpaolo Arena