As we said in the previous article on Daniele, he’s a deeply curious and sharp author who tries to follow a path for self-consciousness through the photographic process. We had a good chat with him, and there it is the entire talk. Enjoy!
INTERVIEW WITH DANIELE ESCOFFIER
Hi Daniele, tell me something about yourself.
Hello everyone and thank you for inviting me. My name is Daniele Escoffier, I’m 24 years old and I live in Turin. My main interests (besides photography) are reading, martial arts, cinema and art in general.
How did you get into the world of photography? What are your influences?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a strong interest in images and their application in the most different fields. I got in touch with photography during my third year of high school, when I was still studying advertising graphics. I was lucky enough to meet a teacher who worked as a photographer and who, at the time, was teaching us visual communication. One day, taking advantage of the teacher’s absence during the hourly change, my class was making so much noise that even the neighboring classes were amazed. The teacher, entering the classroom and finding that pandemonium, decided to punish us by making us write about optics, depth of field, composition and formats for three consecutive hours. That “punishment” radically changed my life, making me discover my passion for photography. I later chose to continue my studies in the photography section (my school was structured as a generic three-year school of graphics and communication with the possibility of choosing the field of interest for the last two years) and to study the subject until it could become a profession. This choice led me to work for a year as a still life photographer in a jewelry store, then I continued my studies and got a bachelor’s degree in photography and visual arts at the IED in Turin. My influences are quite varied and I find inspiration in the most disparate visual arts. I go from cave paintings to action painting, from Flemish painters to Lupo Alberto (Alberto the Wolf) comics. However, if I have to talk about influences linked to the photographic field and mention the authors that most inspire me, I would start with the great authors of the 1900s such as Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Gordon Parks, Hiroshi Hamaya, Robert Adams and many others. In the contemporary times several influences, but to avoid making another long list of names, I will limit myself to three: Cristina de Middel, Yann Gross and Bryan Schutmaat.
Photos by Daniele Escoffier – ©All rights reserved
What makes you want to use photography as your main medium to narrate the reality around you (and, through it, your inner reality)?
I am an extremely curious person and I often love to explore the places I visit to the point I get lost in them. I have always found photography to be an excellent way to capture the atmospheres and feelings of these places and to try to pass them them to others. What pushes me the most to tell something through photography is the possibility to immortalize certain situations or scenarios that would normally remain unnoticed, making the ordinary interesting and stimulate the attention of people who, observing the images, could find their own interpretation and maybe even discover something new.
Is it correct to say that your photography expresses your personal vision of reality? If yes, can you explain this point of subjectivity that characterizes your work?
Yes, it is partly true. First and foremost, every photograph is a self-portrait of the author. As Neil Leifer would say: “photography doesn’t show reality, it shows the idea one has of it”, and I couldn’t agree more! However, even though I am a dreamer who is extremely attached to a romantic vision of photography I believe that it is an interpretation of reality. Just as Magritte’s pipe is not a pipe, but a representation of a pipe, every photograph is never what it’s in the image, but rather the interpretation and the idea that the author has about the immortalized/captured subject.
A strong sense of marginalization and emotional static stands out from your work. Do you agree with this statement? If yes, how do you conceive this instinctive state of observation? If not, what is your main idea about communication through the images you create?
I quite agree with this statement. Usually, I always try to leave the interpretation of my work to others and I limit myself at most to providing some guidelines about the design thoughts I have adopted for a particular work that influenced me during the development of the project.
Furthermore, one gets the impression that your work bases its imagery on an idea that is almost reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic or what lies on the fringes of the post-human. Can you tell me something more about this aspect? How important is it for you that this aspect is perceived (consciously or unconsciously)?
Wow! This point of view on my work is flattering and gives me food for thoughts. This is exactly what I was referring to when I talked about “letting the viewer have free interpretation”. For me it’s not important that everyone perceives the same message, I don’t want to limit the spectators’ imagination. This post-apocalyptic aspect could be due to the fact that I focus a lot on the traces and the transformations that territories undergo. Anything that can produce retroactive thinking about a past action fascinates me.
One last question about your work: we are moving towards a solution to one of the biggest problems we faced in the recent years, the pandemic, which has been gripping us for over a year now. How much has the pandemic been a block or a source of inspiration for you? How much has your style mutated from the pre-pandemic period to now?
Having been forced to work on my thesis project during the first lockdown and having subsequently graduated online, this question touches me deeply. First, the pandemic was a reason for a not inconsiderable artistic block: since I was used to find inspiration outside, finding myself confined indoors was a great challenge for me. After spending my days reading books and scanning old negatives, I decided that if I couldn’t go outside to shoot on the field, the field would have come to me. I therefore produced “Isle”, an introspective narration representing isolation in the form of a metaphorical “island” in which you can take refuge in order to confront your innermost fears and where to treasure the small daily gifts that life offers. In a scenario like a pandemic, where newspapers, news and social networks overflowed with images of masks, distancing and behavioral norms, I found myself in the need to find peace through a mental journey that allowed me to detach myself from the situation we were experiencing. This way of acting may seem illogical, the result of a person who cannot think in a concrete way; but if the alternative is to make portraits of people with the mask, photography with the thermal camera or projects using screenshots, then I’d rather be taken for a crazy visionary. I think that my style has changed a lot from the pre-pandemic period to now. During the confinement period I had the opportunity to read a lot and to analyze the work of many authors who have inspired me and gave me reasons to what doing photography really means. Before, I was used to shoot in a more impulsive way, I am now moving towards a more thoughtful and reasoned process.
Let’s get down to conceptual details. We are in a period in which postmodernism has captured the vast majority of the photographic movements of new individual artists, each with their own idea. We could speak of unconscious movements, groups of photographers, artists, authors and creators of images that move on the same line even if they don’t know it, or being aware of it but deliberately leaving out the interpersonal networks to proceed individually in their work. Do you feel part of a group, a movement, a network or do you perceive yourself as a single observer of reality? What are your thoughts about the world of artistic production and, specifically, this idea of unconscious interconnection between artistic paths? Do you feel in need to network with other artists?
This is a good question that has no easy answer. First of all, I can say that I don’t feel like an artist; indeed, it’s a term that makes me feel uncomfortable if attributed to me. I would rather be recognized as an author or, better, as a storyteller. In this twenty-first century that is increasingly interconnected and where the practice of photography is an integral part of our daily lives, it has become increasingly difficult to find ways to stand out from the crowd of people trying to establish themselves. I feel that I am still too anchored to the influences that come from the authors I refer to. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that social networking has given us the illusion of feeling closer to each other and part of a virtual global village, but while they allow us to build a larger network of contacts, they also contribute to standardizing languages according to a standardized and inflexible rating index. I don’t consider myself a single observer of reality. The vision that I have of the world around me could be the same vision as a Chinese or South American photographer, even though they grew up in different environments and had a totally different cultural heritage. One must always consider that photography, although it is a vast practice rich in different genres, is still very young. Two hundred years have not yet passed since its birth, and yet we have already gone from nineteenth-century realism to abstract expressionism in the space of a century! Personally, I don’t feel I belong to any particular contemporary movement. Some of my work may visibly recall the American New Topography Movement, but away from that I am trying to keep my stylistic approach as pure as possible. I feel the need to confront myself with other authors and artists who do not necessarily work with photography. I would like to be able to participate in an artist residency that could put photography in contact with painting, sculpture, writing and performing arts.
Do you have any projects you’ve been working on lately? If yes, can you tell us or anticipate something?
I’m currently working on a project about the small rural villages of the Aosta Valley that have undergone depopulation over time to the point they are now semi-abandoned. It’s a project that I officially started in July 2020, but that I have been mentally working on it for some time. In addition to how abandonment is experienced by those who continue to live in these areas, I am focusing my research on the relationship between man and nature and the elements that characterize the rural atmosphere of these mountain territories. Once I have finished this project, I hope to be able to find a publisher that may be interested in the work and publish it as a photobook.
What plans do you currently have for your future work?
I would like to be able to become a documentary photographer and work as a reporter. I’m planning to work as an assistant to a photographer who already works in this field, so that I can learn directly in the field and assimilate knowledge that can be useful for a future job. My greatest ambition