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Gabriele Negri's Intertwined Dreams

A Parallel Planets piece by Erin Nøir - old account

Hello, Gabriele! It’s great to have you here on Parallel Planets. Tell us about yourself as a photographer, before you became one, and if you weren’t one.

Hey Erin! I’m happy to contribute to Parallel Planets with my experiences. I still don’t know if I can define myself as a photographer actually. I can say that photography to me is just the final act of a process of creation, the switch activating the machine. And this machine is made by various parts that needs a central core to make them work together. And that’s me. I ironically call myself the “mastermind” of my artistic entity NimahelPhotoArt. The name comes from Nimahel, which was and old name I picked for a character of a role playing game when I was a kid, much before I started shooting. Since back then I have always been a dreamer. I liked to imagine distant worlds where everything was possible, the laws of reality were nullified, and where mythical creatures dwelled in. Nature plays a big role in this world, being the cradle of life and goddess of life and death. It is present in mostly of my works, and the subjects of my photos interact with it in a symbolic or ritualistic way. A part of this dreaming survived the growing up process, and inevitably poured into my artworks. My art surely represents that child inside of me who never disappeared, and maybe has been kept in the shadow for too long. I am a very pragmatic and practical person, but when I work on my artworks, I feel the child coming out and free myself of boundaries. It became a vital part of my developing process as a person, as a human being, and without it… well I’d rather be dead than living without this. It gives me a balance, without it would mean living with no ability to fully communicate with others.

When did you first venture into photography? Compared to then and now, was there a significant change in your sense of style and/or the message that you’d like to communicate through your pictures?

I started almost by chance. It was back in 2008, I was in Austria with my parents in summer. I was coming out from a hard relationship, and so my parents invited me to their trip among the mountains. My father had a compact camera, and explained me some basic rules of composition. And that was the first time I really tried to take photos seriously. After I’ve seen the results of these first attempts and got back home, I felt I wanted to keep doing it. Fate wanted that my sister had an old reflex camera she didn’t use much, and my father gave me an old book from Andreas Feininger (I guess the English translation is called “Succesful Photography”). So I started learning the basics from the book, while experimenting with the camera. And thus the evil genius was born! During the first years, I just shot to everything that caught my eye, learning techniques and taking interest into various kind of equipment. But at some point I simply got bored of it. I needed something more challenging, and more meaningful. So I tried to contact a model for the first time, and realized my first project “Kissed by Fire”. I was extremely excited by the results and by how it made me feel and I kept going on that way. The final step was starting to work with film, which is what now I mainly do. I also develop and print them myself.

About my style, I can say it completely transformed during the years, and so the message I wanted to give. At first it was just a display of technique, while now I communicate more on a level of feelings. Unconventional feelings, as I like to call them, because they are not so immediate, being my works that conceptual. I like that people need to spend some time thinking about my works, before understanding what they like or dislike of them.

I also tried to do it as a job, but I instantly understood that it is not for me. I don’t work well when I have deadlines, or when I need to work on someone else’s idea. I like to take my time and just doing what I want to do in my own way.

Having seen your works, which are mostly conceptual, I’m curious to know about your process. How do you go about your creative process—from the conception of ideas to the execution of your thoughts onto the photographs?

The first thing I can say about my process, is that I’m extremely slow. I need a lot of time before I eventually start shooting (in January I’ll realize my next project after one year of nothing). This is because I like to take my time to get inspired, and only then I start to plan everything. The things that inspire my concept are mainly events of my life. Some reflection I make on myself or other people, a feeling evoked by a certain movie or song. There are many things inspiring me, but they are just faint hints in the creative process. I don’t really have a precise idea of what I want to do, I just try to stick to feelings. And slowly, in my head, pictures of the scene I want to reproduce start to appear.

I’m also quite a planner. I like to think of many details before the moment of the shooting. Even if I don’t try to be excessively strict, I need some details to better focus on what I have in mind. I also use these details to give directions to the people working with me. I like to instruct them without being too pressing. I usually explain my make-up artist and stylist the idea, then I ask them to tell me what they think about it, and how they would like to contribute to it. I prefer to not to give them precise directions, as I like it to be a collaboration among more artistic minds. I know myself, and know what I can do and what I cannot do, so I entrust myself to people who are surely more skilled than me in make up or styling.

You shoot both in colour and black & white. When do you prefer using one medium from the other? Do you have specific subjects that you only like to shoot in monochrome? Or does it just depend on what you feel like using for that particular moment?

The choice comes along with the concept I want to express. I use colour when I want to represent a dreamy, hazy atmosphere. Black and white is more realistic, negative and visceral. And cold.

How is it like being a fine art photographer in Rome? How would you describe the photography subculture there?

Well, let’s say that I’m a bit of an outcast, so I’m not sure I have a right idea on how the photographic scene is here. I never really cared for it, but I can tell you the impression I have seeing what the contacts I have on the various social media share. I think that there is a very low quality community these days. Most of the photographers are only interested in cheap glamorous stuff, and I see very few people interested in art. If there’s a naked girl it creates interest, otherwise not much. Therefore, it all comes down to how many contacts you have, the more they are the more people think you’re good. My photos do not have a huge visibility, because people usually do not search the internet for this kind of things (but I have to admit I’m very lazy into looking for webzines to feature my works!). Moreover, you have a hard time if you want to see your works exposed somewhere. Like I said before, it’s a matter of knowing the right people, unless you are just content with seeing your works exposed in a pub or club where people go for doing everything else but looking at your works.

Do you mainly use analogue or digital? Why do you favour one from the other? How does photography relate to your personality and your personal stories?

Right now I mostly shoot with film. It took the creative process to another whole level, adding a sense of unexpected. But most of all, there’s nothing better than holding a physical version of my work in my hands. It’s much more exciting than just watching it on a screen, I just hold it and think “I did this.” It’s like giving birth to a part of yourself, I cannot describe it better than this. Digital is still good, but at some point I realized how much I was trying to make digital photos look grainy an “imperfect” like analog ones, so I just make a natural step starting with film. I still use it from time to time, but it is rarely my first choice.

Photography is very connected to my personality. I guess I can call it a self-therapy. I really feel I get more in touch with my subconscious when I do it, and it helps me in bringing it out. But it’s not that I like to tell my story to everyone, I’m just happy to put my feelings out, even if they come in a kind of cryptic way. I don’t care if people don’t see what I see in my works, I just do it because I feel I need it.

Which iconic photographers do you look up to and how do their works influence and inspire yours?

My favorite one is Gregory Crewdson. He really incarnates what I like to do with photography. He’s more like a movie director, building completely the scenery for the photos he wants to make. I think he’s fantastic, because he can bring to life what he exactly imagines. I really look up to him.

I also love Alison Scarpulla. She’s young and very talented, and I take a lot of inspiration from her dreaming atmospheres.

To you, what makes a photograph worth framing and hanging on the living room wall?

It has to be like a window. A window to another world.

Aside from taking pictures and making films, what other creative pursuits are you interested in?

I just stick to photography. I’m a huge fan of music, cinema, and reading, but I never tried to create something else with them. I already feel complete.

If you were to pick 3 for each, what are your all-time favourite books, films (cinema), and songs?

This is the hardest of the questions! Regarding books, my favorites are 1984 by Orwell, The Colour Out of Space by Lovecraft, and Foundation by Asimov. As for movies Breaking the Waves by Lars Von Trier, La Notte by Antonioni, and Le Conseguenze dell’Amore by Sorrentino. Music: Dark City, Dead Man by Cult of Luna, Dying in A-Minor by The Angelic Process, Skin Turns to Glass by Nadja.

In this planet that we're thriving in—
What is your power animal? 

I guess it is the cat. I like cats as for being highly independent, even speaking of wild cats. They do not hunt in packs, and they are very meticulous in choosing their masters and houses. And they are proud and curious. I see myself a lot in all of these traits.

Who is your alternate ego? 

Dr. Jekyll from “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. This fictional character embodies perfectly who I am, forever torn apart between two aspects of my life. The egocentric and the dreamer.

In an alternate universe where photography does not exist—
What would your name be? 

I guess I would keep my name. I like it because it has an ancient religious meaning, though I’m not religious. But I like it to be that ancient and powerful.

What would you be doing instead? 

Assuming that without photography I could not be a movie director as well, I think I would be a painter. It’s the closest thing on how I interpret photography. I could create my own worlds with brushes, colors, blacks and whites.


More from Gabriele Negri: Facebook and Flickr

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