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Giovanna Griffo is an Italian fine art photographer and retoucher. She fell in love with photography when she was still six years old. As a professional, she loves sharing her knowledge to people who want to pursue photography. Learn more about her and her inspiring works in this interview.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am a professional fine art photographer and retoucher. I teach digital photography, digital post processing and retouching in countrywide workshops followed by both professionals and amateurs. I fell in love with photography since I was six years old girl and I used to spend my time inside my father's darkroom: that was the place I loved the most! Developing films and printing was a kind of magic and I have been dreaming about it even when I grew up. I have always lived surrounded by art and creativity, my parents are painters and sculptors and they taught me to love art and to express myself in a creative way.
How would you describe photography? How and why is it important to you?
Photography for me is a boundless expression of sensitivity and love for life. It is a desire to feel more, to get excited even in front of small things. Photography empower your senses: you can discover how much beauty is hidden inside those gestures on which no one cares for, you can feel the light touching you, and the way it transforms
objects around you; it lets you to be conscious that a moment is alive and real only in that precise moment in time you press the shutter, and after a second it no longer exists. I love photography, I do love it so much, it's my life.
You are asking me if photography is important to me. Do you consider breathing to be important? That's it. I love that feeling when something burns inside my head for days, because I have an idea that wants to come to life. I have to keep it in mind, till the end, I have to pamper it for a long time, I have to pay attention, I have to let her grow inside me first, and then, within a thousandth of a second maybe, bring her to life. Photography is different from all other forms of creative art. In all other forms, the process is slower, less impulsive, but in photography... it takes a fraction of a second to bring it to life, a very short time to originate an idea that just a moment before was only in your mind.
And so it happens, sometimes, that within the space of a single click, I give off tension, and pain, and joy; I feel more serene, relieved because now I can finally share it with someone. Nothing like a photograph is more concise and full of meanings that go straight from the head to the heart.
What type of photography and style do you do and where do you get the inspiration for your work?
I do practice every type photography involved with creativity and personal vision. I always try to express my vision in every genre of photography I approach. So it can be landscape, architecture, still life or portraiture but it has to be something more that a bare reproduction of reality. My pictures tell more about myself than about things I shot. Inspiration is everywhere. There is plenty of beauty in the world, so much beauty even in the weirdest places, or in the smallest things, or simply just around the corner of your house. When you feel to be in lack of inspiration just relax, breath, have fun and inspiration is going to knock on your door. Another great way to find inspiration is to have a look at creations of other artists. Browsing through websites like Behance is a great way to get inspired by an incredible amount of pure creativity that can give you a real shock!
Could you share with us an image that you’ve taken recently and talk us through the idea, the meaning behind it and how you shot it?
I have always thought that taking a good picture when you are travelling far from home it is extremely difficult.
You know almost nothing about places you are going to discover, and often you cannot come back another day if weather conditions are not good enough, so you have to be very lucky and try to do your best to get a good picture.
I was travelling around the United States by car and one of my milestones was to visit Mammoth Lakes area in California. I got in Mammoth Lakes very late in the afternoon after a 400 km roadtrip and I was really longing to get a night shot due to the very clear mountain air (2400 m above sea level) hoping to find the best place to have a beautiful scenario for the Milky Way. That evening only 20 minutes of darkness would have been available to shot the Milky Way since moon would have risen just later (you can hardly see the stars with a full moon), so I had to do my best in this short time.
However, taking pictures of the Milky Way it is not that easy:
- You have to scout a nice location having the south side of the sky free (Milky Way rises on the South)
- The location has to be interesting, hopefully with a good foreground, not just the sky as a background.
- You have to pray for clear sky!
It is very difficult finding such a place if you are in a foreign country in a place you have never been before... and you have to find it before it gets dark!
I was so lucky finding this little lake with a nice south side where the Milky Way standed clear just in between the mountains you can see in the background! To realize this shot I shot two different exposures: one very long exposure low ISO during the blue hour, where you can see some light before is completely dark, and one long exposure at very high ISO in complete darkness where you can see clearly the stars and the Milky Way. I used the first shot for the foreground, and the second shot for the background, I merged the two shots in Photoshop.
Most of your photographs showcase positive atmosphere due to its colors. So, I'd like to ask if you are self-taught in post production or was learning Photoshop a part of your formal education?
It is not part of my formal education, I am almost self-taught since I have been using Photoshop for about 23 years and I still love to use it just the as I have loved to develop my films in the dark room a very long time ago!
One of the challenges that most people hear about photographers is not being able to earn enough money. Is it easy to be a photographer in Italy? What are the obstacles you've encountered and how did you cope with them?
Sure it is difficult being a photographer for a living, but it is not impossible. Here in Italy wedding photography is the most profitable photography business, but it is not the one I think suits for me. I love travelling and taking pictures following my aims and visions and I do really love teaching! So I chose to teach photography and postproduction in workshops and I can have a profit also in selling my pictures for international agencies.
Do you think photography is for everyone? Why or why not? And do you think talent for photography is something a person is born with?
I think that some people are more talented than other in looking at the workd around them in a "photographic way" however surely everyone can have fun and satisfaction doing photography and try to improve its own "photographic eye". You can be a born talented photographer or you can become, just following the right path.
It's something about perception and senses and even empathy. If you are able to see, feel, hear, taste, smell, touch what the world is offering you in its innermost essence, then your mysteriously hidden photographic eye will break through! It will be the expression of your vitality, you passion, your sensitiveness.You can train you photographic eye. If you stop just for a moment to feel the world, it will break through your senses and it will show you the most amazing wonders you where dreaming when you were just a little child.
Do you already know what your next large project will be? Could you please tell us a brief description about it?
My next large project will be discovering Iceland and its wonders. Trying to capture northern lights and Aurora Borealis was one of my beloved dreams, and I do really hope to make this dream come this spring when I will be flying to Iceland leading a team of landscape photographers.