06 Dec The book’s space interviews: Paesaggi
Photographs: Alessandro Dandini de Sylva
Book design: Filippo Nostri
Date of publishing: March 2015
N° of copies: 300
Dimensions: 33×22 cm
Binding: Duodecimo pages interspersed by colored papers
Paper: Fedrigoni Materica Gesso and GMUND Color
THE BOOK AS A PROJECT
Which are the 5 indispensable pictures for this book?
Photographer: The book is a collection of twenty-one Polaroid manipulations that cover a broad time span – 2008 through 2014. Since there’s no immediate narrative connection between them, they’re all as important as each other. Nevertheless, when we were putting the book together, a few key images did emerge that the others gravitate around. The third image is the first of these; then the seventh, the tenth, the fifteenth, and then the last. Each of these images stops you and then forces you to take a leap to continue. Then, by way of landscapes illuminated by multiple suns, you enter into the gravitational pull of the next key image. The colored paper inserts sometimes seem to indicate an end, but the overall harmony of the book turns each end into a beginning. The eye then sets out again on its cyclical course, until arriving at the intimacy and darkness of the final image of the book.
What is the framed structure of this book?
Book Designer: The duodecimo pages interspersed by colored papers. This well-defined structure – which stems from both the form we chose for the book as well as the size of the sheets needed to have the grain running in the same direction – was the clay we modelled. It offered a kind of flexible rigidity suitable for the needs of the content and for making the book work. The sequence fitted perfectly within this structure.
How did you choose the book designer?
P: I’ve admired Filippo’s work for a long time. Some of his books are simply perfect. I’m thinking of Dal Vero by Cesare Ballardini, Dipaloinfrasca by Marcello Galvani, and, of course, La figura dell’Orante by Guido Guidi. His direct, considered approach to the photographic image immediately struck me as the right choice for presenting a pictorial and emotive work like mine. The two opposites merged, and we achieved a harmony that has as much to do with music as images.
What was your approach to get into the photographic project?
BD: Despite the fact that the variety of photography in Paesaggi is very different from what I generally work with, I soon realized that I wanted to tell the story of these photos. Everything fell into place very easily, the way it normally does when a project is right for me. The concept and design phase was very fast, and we soon had a clear picture of the final book. I proposed the idea and we all agreed. The work we did together – over the space of almost a year – essentially involved looking after the finer details.
How did you develop the work on the book?
P / BD: Intense collaboration over almost a year. But, by this stage, we were only working out the finer details of a shared and complete vision. We developed the concept of the book very quickly, but fully fleshing out any project always requires a great deal of effort and ongoing work.
BD: Working with Alessandro was stimulating. He has an open approach that allows great freedom, but he’s also a constant and active presence. It’s very rare to find these two things together. He was the one who convinced us to go with the shadow design for the cover. I had my doubts; it seemed to be a leap of faith. But the result with the overlapping colors was perfect for the book: a perception of a landscape rather than a literal one.
THE BOOK AS A STORY
Which narrative slant did you choose for this book and why?
BD: Initially, Alessandro approached the book as a union of two parts: the Polaroid manipulations themselves and photographs of the sheets of colored paper used as the basis for the manipulations. My idea, though, was to focus on the Polaroids and replace the photos of colored paper with real colored paper. In this way, the cause-and-effect relationship between the two parts is less explicit but more emotional and unfiltered. This narrative approach fitted perfectly with the colored papers that break up the sequence of images. Even though this design has been somewhat overused (and often used for effect only), it would have been counterintuitive not to use it here. We made it an essential feature – the glue that holds the entire book together. Even the colors we chose suggest that the pages aren’t simply there for effect.
What’s the difference between the book and the photographic project slant?
P: The book’s design is completely independent from the photographic origin of the images. In transposing the photographs to the book, we decided to draw a line between the images and the paper medium so as to shed all of the superfluous elements related to the instant film. We did away with the typical white edges of Polaroids and enlarged the images approximately three hundred percent. This made it possible to draw attention to the ambiguity of the work.
THE BOOK AS AN OBJECT
How did you choose the materials and the kind of printing?
BD: The initial idea of the book and the choices we made had as much to do with the sense of touch as with sight. The choice of paper was the most important. The Fedrigoni Materica Gesso paper brought out the sense of uncertainty already present in each image. The feel of the paper was as important as the printing. The same applies to the Gmund Color paper. The dual-layer printing of details of the Polaroids meant that the whole book – from the inside to the outside and vice versa – creates the impression of an abstract perception of the landscape.
How the materials’ choices are connected to the photographic project?
P: The choice of a non-photographic paper for its entirely material quality was difficult – especially considering the liquid nature of the instant film – but fundamental. The materials had to make it possible to represent landscapes abstracted from reality. Emotionally speaking, the book had to create the feeling of landscape. By moving away from the photograph as far as possible, we decided to emphasize the pictorial aspect of the images through the material quality of the paper. The end result is that we’ve transformed a book of photographs into a portfolio of watercolors. From this more removed point, it’s intriguing to look back and reimagine photography – what it means to depict an image and what it means to see that image.
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