For the third interview of Creative Minds, I would like to introduce Giorgio Giussani. I've been following him and his love for analog photography for quite a few years. His way of experimenting with analog cameras and traditional films is refreshing in these days of photoshop and Instagram. Born and raised in Italy, Giorgio lived and studied in London for ten years, traveled the world and is now based in the tropical island of La Reunion.
Core77: You have been in the creative field for a long time, what was it that first awoke your interest?
Giorgio Giussani: I believe people are born creative. Personally, I have always loved "making" things from when I was a kid. I grew interested in graphic design and photography later on, probably around when I was a teenager. I still remember having an old Kodak compact film camera that I loved using. Somewhere along the way, I abandoned the use of film cameras, until nine years ago, when I stumbled upon a bright red Holga camera in a market in Stockholm. I've been using film ever since—I believe that it was that Holga camera that more awoke my interest for analog photography.
You say you used to make things when you were young, can you give us some examples?
A little bit of everything. I remember taking kids magazines and drawing a copy of the cover on a piece of paper. This was definitely one of the things I loved the most. Sometimes I was simply tracing over the magazine to copy a character or a picture; other times I was just trying to make my own characters... Not always successfully, but remember that it definitely was fun!
I've always loved bright colours and today you can see how this translates into my photography... I experimented with paint and colored pencils but never took this any further. You can definitely say that making things with my hands has been a constant pattern ever since I was young.
Does this streak of creativity run in your family?
I am the only creative one in my immediate family, at least when it comes to a 9-to-5 job. I believe that each individual is creative, but some show it and nurture it, others do not. Some members of my family can be creative on some tasks—my mom when she is cooking, for example—but they don't make creativity their way of life. Perhaps some people have a need to always be creative, to experiment with their creativity, while others can be creative on occasional tasks but without having this constant urge to create.
Being the only creative one in the family, did the people around you support your goals and dreams?
I have always been supported by my family and still am. In a competitive environment like the creative one, moral support is very important. It is hard to get into a creative school, to find a job, but also the creative world (well, the world in general) is full of challenges... So support from family and friends is vital, whether you are a creative or not.
What made you decide to leave Italy to study graphic design in London?
I wasn't happy with the education system in Italy. I studied at the Politecnico of Milan, and although it is a good university for architects and engineer I strongly think it is NOT a design school. Too theoretical, too many textbooks and too few sketchbooks. For someone like me, who love making things and experimenting, it was not a great system. I felt like I'd wasted three years studying economics, chemistry and physics, while the only thing I really wanted was to CREATE.
I found the world that I wanted at Central St. Martins school of art. Not many books (of course I did read on my own time but wasn't forced to do so), a lot of laboratories to experiment—printing to textile to film. I was like a kid in a candy store. The education system was based on sketching ideas all the time, it was very creative and very challenging at times. I had A LOT of fun while creating and I really enjoyed my years at Central Saint Martin. A design university for creative should not be boring... It has to be fun and very experimental. I loved it and so far it was the best decision of my career.
After you finished at Central St. Martins, you stayed in London for quite a few years, what sort of work did you work with?
I actually found my very first job in London while I was still studying. It was a great opportunity to start. Just a small agency working as graphic designer, a good school to learn about the reality of graphic design. I worked in other companies in the following years, moving from graphics to packaging to finish on advertising. I didn't want to go back to Italy, seeing that the creative industry over there is not very dynamic—it is too old for the type of creativity I am looking for. London, on the other hand, is a very creative city and there are many opportunities over there. There I developed my skills as a photographer and I also ran workshops in creative photography for two years. I did a couple of exhibitions of my photography and I also published four books. A busy ten years in London!
You got back into analog photography after you got your hands on a red Holga during a visit to Stockholm. How has that influenced your life?
It changed my life completely. Analog photography started influencing my daily job... Sometimes I like mixing them! It changed my life so much that I never leave the house without one of my cameras, just in case I find something I want to take pictures of. When I got my red Holga, I knew nothing about film photography (even though I had used film cameras in the past. They were manual and I was way younger).
I started reading about analog photography and techniques. It was pretty much trial and error for the first few months, but it was very important a to learn the basics of film photography. I started experimenting with slide film, cross processing and achieving the bright colors I love so much. I experimented with double exposures and numerous techniques, including my latest experiments with altering the emulsion of my films with cleaning products like bleach. I sometimes love to destroy my film, I love putting them in the dishwasher or boil them in a film soup. I love the unpredictable effects and the manual process. So I can clearly say that my Holga changed my life in a very positive and creative way.
You talk a lot about experimenting with cameras, film soups, exposure, baking etc, is there anywhere here on the web that we can read more about this?
For my secret recipies I can't give much details. But in blurb.com I sell books about film soups which people can buy regarding just that. Type Giorgio Giussani film soups and you will find it.
In the beginning of your love for analog photography, did you have any plan of where you wanted to go with it?
Absolutely no plan—I just wanted to try that red Holga. After I start learning about film photography, it became nearly an addiction to experiment with different films and different cameras. I bought other cameras, mostly second hand from vintage market and I kept shooting. Nearly a decade later and I am doing exhibition and publishing books of my photography. I never expected that when I began, but I believe it was a natural development. You first fall in love with something and start getting to know more and more about it until it is just part of your life. Now that I know a little bit more about film photography, I know where I want to take it. Eight years ago I didn't have enough commercial experience, but now I can see the potential that film photography can have.
And what sort of potential is that?
A lot of people these days use Instagram. It is very popular and the effects are based on the style of film photography. There is something magical about analog that people love; the grain, the tones. Something that you can't repeat with photoshop or computer manipulation. These effects can't be replicated with a computer.
And how do you want to share this love that you and others have for the effects of film photography in future projects?
I started doing some fashion photo shoots for example. Analog photography is very experimental and great for these sort of photoshoots. Even Lady Gaga loved one of my pictures and tweeted it. We are so used to extremely retouched and photoshopped pictures that analogue photography is like fresh air and a capture more real, untouched emotions .
Now I'm also working on some analog videos projects and I'm planning on publishing more books of my travels and photography.
What made you decide you wanted to publish your photography in a book format?
One of my colleague once asked me " Why don't you publish a book of your photography?" so I looked into options of publishing and I decided to self-publish my books. So far, I published four books: two from my travels, one for kids to learn the alphabet with street art, and one about experimental film photography.
Where did you come up with the idea for the children's book?
It was a random idea I had just before christmas. The book is about learning the alphabet with street art. Street art is very colourful and street artists produce amazing pieces. It is very eye catching. And street art is very popular with adults too, so it is a double win. It is a book for children but also a book for parents to look at street art.
And the two books documenting your travels, what do they represent for you?
Traveling and photography are my main passions. The books about my travels are showing what I discover during my trips. The first book is about London, where my first big journey started; the second book published is about my trip to the nuclear plant of Chernobyl. The collection is going to grow with more books soon: I'm working on a book about my trip to Cuba and one about my Trans-Siberian train travel.
These books are not travel guide books, but rather they show you how I see the world through the plastic lens of my toy cameras.
How do you support the travels, cameras and films?
Cameras luckily are not too expensive as they are plastic toy cameras. Film and processing is probably the most expensive part. Travelling can be cheap... I travel low budget, third class train, camping, hostels... I sell some of my pictures to finance my travelling and I don't go out every weekend, just so I can save money for my travels.
Where would you like to go with your photography? What is your master plan...?
I usually don't make long term plans, but I would love to be able to travel for a longer period of time, 2–3 years, to document a trip around the world. I definitely don't want photography to become a full time job. It is my hobby, in that way I don't have any restrictions. I can do what I want with it! It is very difficult to see where film photography will go as more and more companies are discontinuing films so the future of analog photography is uncertain.
Do you have any suggestion of how to bring it back into the eye of the mainstream again?
I think it will be very difficult to bring it back as mainstream media this days, probably due to the expensive materials and processing. It can survive as a niche market if film producers will realize that. They are still trying to sell films for the masses but only few people will use it. A problem with analog photography is that it is not immediate as digital photography. You need to process film and scan them, while on Instagram you can take a picture and upload it within seconds. I think analogue can survive but we have to work hard as to keep it alive.
Getting back to your process, do you have one?
My process: No, I don't have a specific one. Usually it depends on how I feel. Sometimes I feel like baking my films, sometimes I feel like bleaching them. Usually it is all very intuitive with little preparation before hand.
So what is the next step for you?
My next step is creating new projects here on the Island of Reunion. I would like to start taking portraits of people, something I always find very difficult. I am planning to publish more books and to experiment even more with my film soups.
If you were to give some do's and don't's to people who want to start doing film photography, what would it be?
DO take lot of picture and experiment. DONT think about the result
DO insist even if the first few rolls are not great
DON'T give up..keep trying
DO love analog
DON'T hate digital