Category Archives: PERSONAL

Storytelling and exploration

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This post is a little peek into my thought process and editing method. Like most other dabblers in some form of art or another, I have developed through the years something that I feel is my personal style and have built a workflow that enables me to attain the results I want without going crazy or broke.

I had the pleasure of shooting again with lovely Tanya and she arrived bringing her boyfriend Seth, a couple of suitcases of stuff and, totally randomly, this bat hat. As she was getting her make up done, I started to test the light: while I normally use the model (i.e. if I need to check on how the clothing/makeup looks under the lights) we took a couple of portraits of Seth wearing the hat just to have a laugh and then moved on to serious business.

Here it is, static pose and “why me” expression typical of boyfriends worldwide.
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Fast forward a couple of weeks later, I’m working on a completely different project and after a day spent editing wedding photos I decide to take a break and sort through my personal shoots: the first couple of photos that pop up from Lightroom are the bat hat ones and there was something in there that I didn’t see when we were taking them: maybe the fact that it was 2 am, but my first thought was “here’s a guy who’s having a really bad trip”, followed by “let’s make it even worse”… I just had to decide what was happening to my subject and why.

Setting the scene
Lately, I’ve been trying more and more to incorporate storytelling elements into my photographs and I found that finding an answer to the classic Five W of journalism is the best way to have a clear direction towards the final result. This method is easy to do on your own and it scales well in team projects because once the character and situation is decided, everyone involved has a clearer insight on what to do to obtain that particular result.
Workwise, I always start with Lightroom: in this case, I tweaked the RAW file colour balance to obtain a bluish tint, desaturating the skin in the process, then moved on to Photoshop for the real work.

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The outside mirrors the inside
I wanted to show that the young man in the shot had been lost in his personal world for quite a while, detached from reality both in mind and in body, so using a couple of underground cavern shots I assembled a corridor made of jagged edges of a sickly blue and red palette enveloping him like an aura. The hat and gray shirt reminded me the costume worn by Max in the “Where the wild things are” book (and the fact that I have a row of figurines from WtWTA displayed next to my workstation only heightened the idea), so the editing had to make him look more vulnerable and childlike.
The eyes are always the focus of headshot portraits for me, so I am particularly picky on how I edit them. In this case, the eyes/sockets had to match the two colours of the background without being too over the top, so red puffy eyebags and sunken in bluish eyes were a natural choice.

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Keeping content-coherent
I briefly toyed with the idea of giving him a badly torn ear: the colours, wavy lines and haunted stare started to remind me of the Van Gogh self portrait. I know I wanted something gorey and disturbing, so I started googling infected wounds and worms. The results were starting to look hideous (in a good way) but I found out that the ear was stealing the show as my eyes were constantly looking towards that portion of the shot, obscuring the face… that to me was a definite no, as the eyes were my focal point, so I scrapped the levels and went back to the whole ear.
The risk is getting lost in unnecessary details just because they look good rather than aid the storytelling: no matter how good it might have turned out, it would have resulted in a weaker portrait.

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Never forget your beginnings
Before I close everything up and export it, I usually spend a couple of minutes away from the computer and then once back I cycle through all the levels and groups, looking one last time to see if the choices I made are coherent. That’s when I decided to add a blurriness to the edges of the shot to enhance the “woah, he’s tripping” effect as well as a slight vignette to (guess what?) steer the attention towards the eyes.

A fun not to close this rambling post: the original title I gave the photo was simply “Bad trip”. However, without having told him about my work process, Seth called it “Where the wild things are on a bad trip”… nerd telepathy or just having hit the mark with what I wanted to show? You decide!

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Filed under PERSONAL, PHOTOGRAPHY, PHOTOSHOP, TUTORIALS

Golden haze

When springtime comes round the corner, I have this little tradition of doing “spontaneous” outdoor portraits… it usually goes like this: days get longer, I start seeing the sun firsthand and not through an office window and I get location wanderlust. These searches always end up with somewhere I just got to shoot but due to the short lifespan of springtime locations, it must be executed in record time. Cue me doing the rounds of social media asking for guinea pigs willing subjects, something I usually don’t like to do as I always dread what is going to pop up from my inbox.

This year was no different, but it sure was easier to organise as I had the perfect spot right on my doorstep: the garden in my apartment complex has three huge Forsythia (always have to Google the spelling on that one!) bushes and they were just about to go in to full bloom… I just needed to find the perfect girl to fill the tangerine yellow wig lying around my house from another shoot and got lucky on day one of my search when Miss Sorry volunteered.

Obligatory plug: Miss Sorry is also a fab photographer, so if you like tongue in cheek photos of lovely ladies with lots of tattoes and not that many clothes, be sure to check her out!

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I also took the time to finally test properly the Lens Baby Composer I got for Christmas -yes, I took my sweet time, I know! It’s a nice trick lens if you like the soft focus effect and the mad blurring, but it takes a hell of a time to get used to and to focus properly!

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Creature II – Goddess

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The second creature of my triptych was actually the last one I shot chronologically… but I posted “Wraith” at a time when I was experiencing creative setbacks and was both mentally and physically drained, so I find it fitting to showcase “Goddess” when things are slowly beginning to look up again.

I was looking to portray a kind of beauty that was classical in movement and posture but had somewhat of a feral quality: lucky for me, I knew just the girl… I shot lovely Sara in the past and she was the perfect fit!
Another major inspiration for this is the work of Italian painter Saturno Buttò: I’ve always loved his use of dramatic light and rich colour palettes, but I find even more interesting how his paintings have always a time dichotomy, showcasing modern concepts/feelings in a baroque framework.

Model: Sara Briar Rose
Horns & headdress: Resplendor Atelier

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Creature I – Wraith

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It’s been a difficult, tiring period for me and the escapism that I usually seek elsewhere sneaked into my photography… an initial project of taking “just a couple of beauty shots” morphed along the way into something else entirely. When I finished editing, instead of cleancut glamour what was looking at me from the other side of the screen were three creatures from another time, more myths than women.

I am happy to start the new year with Wraith, the first instalment of the project born through the collaboration with make up artist Archa Make up as well as italian designers Videnoir and Resplendor Atelier.

Model: TanyaBat
Make-up: Archa Make up
Styling: Videnoir

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Silent devotion

After a week of being buried in kleenexes and aspirines thanks to a bout of the flu, here I am with another update. I have several sets to publish and I am so hideously behind schedule, oh my!

I love shibari photos that take it up a notch and aren’t just snapshots of people tied up like quarts of meat: there’s a poetry and beauty to the act that sadly is lost in many of the shoots I see, so when I had a chance to work with talented rope master Andrea and with my friend and muse of many years Ilaria I was determined to do the medium justice.

My first thought was to use the ropes as metaphor of the ties binding a woman to her loved one in a difficult relationship, but I also wanted to use either flowers or plants to soften the scene and give it visual depth. Ajisai (hydrangeas) have a special meaning in Japanese culture: their everchanging colour represents an unquiet spirit and to me was a perfect counterpart to the shibari.

Photographer: Anna Lucylle Taschini
Model: Ilaria Sea of Sin
Makeup: Sabrina Alberio
Shibari & vintage kimono: Andrea Ropes

More from this set can be found on ArtAbout Magazine.

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A little background story about the flowers and the lenghts you sometimes have to go in order to create the vision you have in mind. I live in Milan, so there’s a distinct shortage of green spaces. However, I am lucky to live in a residential area where most of the condos have gardens with flowering plants, including my coveted hydrangeas.

Of course, while technically not illegal, being seen picking flowers is a big social no-no, so this meant that the day of the shoot I woke up at 4:45 am, armed myself with a pair of heavy duty scissors and an Ikea bag and slinked away through the neighbourhood on a mission to get as much flowers I could without defacing the bushes by overpicking: this meant getting 3-4 flowers max from each and then moving on to the next. After two hours and several trips around the block without a problem (other than when I decided that the plants in the middle of a busy roundabout where the perfect shape to complement the hydrangeas so I had to jump in plain sight for a while and got honked to death by each passing car) I had enough material to fill the set -or at least, the bathtub while I waited for everyone to show up!

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Filed under PERSONAL, PHOTOGRAPHY

Updates and a couple of questions for you!

Today marks the end of my summer holidays so I thought it would be fitting to give a little facelift to my online presence -getting ready for the fall season so to speak. As far as the blog goes, I am quite happy with my WordPress arrangement so the only novelty here is the updated signature logo on the header.

I revamped the logo a couple of months ago, making it more similar in style to my actual handwriting (though still keeping it different from my proper signature, I really don’t think that 100% accurate signature logos should exist online!), so here it is in all its curlicued glory.

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The rest of the novelties here are more content-driven and here’s where the question to you reader come out: right now, I am posting only completed photography shoots that I think are portfolio worthy: the downside is that updates are rather slow to come by.
Starting from september, I am implementing a weekly posting schedule with the goal to post twice a week by the end of the year, so I would like to have some feedback on the type of non properly photographic updates.

What would you like to see me writing about?

A) Do it yourself/backstage posts (such as the making of costumes and props, but also more personal ones detailing what goes on in my mind during the process).
B) More technical aspects such as shooting and editing
(kind of like this post about shooting non caucasian people)
C) Lifestyle/object related post that deal with my materialistic cravings (such as this post about CMYK designer goodies) or with particular exhibitions/events I attended (like this Mi Art fair post)

Let me know what you think!🙂

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Filed under DESIGN, PERSONAL

Female chauvinist pigs

It’s been a while since I did a Book & Nail post: the constant diy that a new home brings forth has reduced my nails to stubs and frankly, I’ve been neglecting the poor things too long! It’s also ironic that I’m giving in to “girly girl” urges immediately after finishing this particular book, but hey… that’s life.

This time I’m going for Ghetto barbie nails
Fake glue-ons with minimal square cut, hand drawn and with a matte topcoat.

Also, a minor disclaimer: the sort-of-feminist musings that follow should be taken just like that… I’m not denouncing anything or pointing fingers here: as a matter of fact, I am probably planted firmly in the chauvinist pig category myself.

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I picked up Female Chauvinist Pigs during my last trip to the USA in a small bookstore that was basically the living room of a private house, with floors bent by the weight of books stacked everywhere. Used bookstores in holiday spots are strange places and they often surprise me with what people choose to read on their vacation. This particular store was indeed a gem… the memories of an englishmen in Florence during the times of the “Mostro di Firenze” case? Rare occult books? One on insects in criminology? Best of all, not a single Dan Brown or Sophie Kinsella book in sight… who knew that a two-road-town could attract readers like these?

Going back to Ariel Levy’s book, I picked it up from the shelf just to have a good laugh at the cover: unassuming clipart design coupled with Impact title and a 100% magenta background? What was the designer thinking? It looks more like a mockup than a final draft.

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Amused by the title and the blurb on the back, I decided to pinch my snobby designer nose and buy it. A winning idea, as it turned out that the standardized bimbo clipart and blaring “meme” font were particularly well chosen to fit the content, an intriguing analisys of how raunch culture and porno-isation are getting more and more popular with women of the western world, flattening alternative avenues of expression. I won’t review it in depth but this Guardian article sums it up quite nicely.

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Female Chauvinist Pigs deals mainly with the current situation in the USA, but considering that mass culture and the internet have made Italy little more than a dumping ground for trends, I believe that it applies very well to our situation…. in example, you can see Sex & the City mentality in the spending habits and in the proliferation of fashionista blogs that are little more than cries for attention.

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The cult of pornstars-as-mainstream-stars is taking hold here as well: I heard more women than men fawning about Sasha Grey’s visit in Italy and I strongly doubt that all of these were fans of her career. Rather, it’s just another facet of a trend that sees women capitalizing on raunchiness in order to be placed on the same plane as their male counterparts: “I like tits & ass just like you, therefore I am cool and interesting, I am one of the guys”.

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It’s interesting to note that, the more women are acting like men, the more they mimick and idolise an extreme form of female sexuality that is mainly man-driven… and while Levy focuses or porn stars and strippers, in Italy we have only to look at the current events to see the bunga bunga girls in action -in a minor way, one could also make a case for the proliferation of the met-art / nude model scene too.
In my work in advertising and in photography, I have been very lucky with my collaborations and have generally met incredible girls, but there have been times when I came in contact with people of that ilk and I am reminded of how certain subcultures (especially when social media is concerned) thrive on raunch and are used by women as a way to feel empowered and exercise an amount of superiority that wouldn’t be possible if the sexual element was removed from the equation… and that, in my opinion, is something that makes it hard to be taken seriously in any other way.

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Filed under BOOKS & NAILS, PERSONAL