Photographer Nuccia Cammara
Interviewed by Mirjana Milosavljević
E-Motion In Vision™: Nuccia Cammara met the “magical eye” when she was just 12 years old. Since then she has spent most of her formative years as a photographer. Throughout the years she has been learning aspects of portraiture, processing, printing and retouching while gaining experience working with different photographers in varied situations. In particular, she has done research on sociological themes focused on gender differences and is co-author of several publications including: “Ritratti in chiaroscuro. Costrutti psicologici delle differenze di genere” Franco Angeli Edizioni (Portraits in chiaroscuro. Psychological constructs of gender differences). Nuccia is an instinctive photographer. Passion and viscerality are the constant driving forces behind her photography. The moment of the shot is pure emotion to be lived with bathed breath; she makes it her own by identifying, merging with the stilled fragment of life, returning it to us and revealing something of herself in the captured image. Giovanna La Bua, president of “Imago Association” (Palermo) says of her: “Nuccia Cammara looks with velvety eyes but even more, she listens to the person she will photograph. Her intimate research produce photographs of strong emotional impact. Her shots are individually telling a story, revealing personal or social situations, moving the viewer and providing a starting point for a debate”.
Nuccia Cammara is based in Palermo, where she continues to create her passionate, cutting edge images. Some of her photographs are part of the heritage of the Photo Library “The Crane” in Valverde, Catania (Sicily). Member of the “Italian Federation Photographic Associations (FIAF) and the Imago Association (Palermo, Sicily), in 2010 she led the research Group “Subjective Photographic Vision”, a training course on the language of photography and subjective vision. She has had several photography exhibitions. Among them: “Quelli del Mare” (Those of the Sea), at Villa Niscemi in Palermo in 2006, “Donna nell’arte 2009” (Woman in the Art 2009), at the Galleria Civica Sciortino” in Monreale. In 2010, with the work “Ines”, she is selected as first prize winner of the “10th Portfolio Together” at the “16 ° Etna Photo Meeting” in Sicily and with same work as second prize winner, ex aequo, of the “Horizon Portfolio 2010″in Italy.
Nuccia Cammara – Photography series: ►Awaiting Metamorphosis
- Mirjana: Hello Nuccia, thank you for your time, sharing your experience with us today. I like to, at the beginning of conversation, give the interviewee an opportunity to briefly, in one’s own words, tell us his/her story. Therefore you are kindly asked to tell us something about yourself and your photography? What motivates you to do what you do?
Nuccia: Hello Mirjana is a pleasure for me to do this interview with you. Well ... I do photography for several years, photography is my deepest voice that expresses what I feel about life, my thoughts, my feelings, my fears, my mood ... everything. Photography is not my job, I am a social worker, but it has become an integral part of my person.
- Mirjana: Thank you Nuccia. You would agree with me that it is interesting to know, and it is very much part of might strong interest, how someone was introduced to a photography, in this case you, and could you please briefly explain what was it that first attracted you to it? Most of the photographers we admire today are producing an exceptional work. What photographers you the most admire to, and have they influenced your style in doing photography?
Nuccia: When I was very young, I think I was about 12 years old; my family had received as gift from relatives a simple small-format camera 135mm. At very first sight, contact with, I felt seduced by the power of that little box. Initially, I took the camera and secretly took some photographs; I put money aside for film development in the laboratory. What stroke me then, it was the camera's ability to make a "copy" of what I was photographing and could stop the time. I took pictures all the time, fascinated by the opportunity to review that piece of reality that I had chosen to capture and that it remained fixed in the rectangle of a paper. Today, after so many years, I can say that it was in those moments that I felt very powerful. Through the photography I could stop time on things and on people. I have hundreds of pictures that reflected my family and my relatives. The photographers that I admire the most, those that are the reason I am still inspired, are the artists that constantly tended to present their products in an interesting way with a poetic photographic background. I would quote some of them: Josef Sudek, Francesca Woodman, Diane Arbus, Mario Giacomelli, Tina Modotti, and then also the greatest portrait painter of all time, Julia Margaret Cameron. About Julia, I am completely fascinated by her distinctive style. She has accepted and embraced a technical error, and this made the strength of her photography, of her portraits, big beyond the limits of the time. In addition, I remain greatly influenced also by the phenomena of the avant-garde movements. They fought against and broke with the patterns of their time and culture, have promoted the development of new visions and innovative ways of making art, such as "subjective photography" (with Otto Steinert) after World War II. Back in history there is always something to learn.
- Mirjana: When exactly did your career start and why the photography is important to you? By your opinion, what makes photography artistic?
Nuccia: My photography, as I understand and produce it today, was developed following the birth of my daughter, and it lasts for about 6 years already. Long before, in 1996, I had the honor to knowing personally a great photographer, Letizia Battaglia. We became friends soon after, and I often went to her house, looking through her books. We usually paid the visits together to the photography exhibitions, and above all we shared long and interesting discussions about the meaning of photography. It was Letizia who has taught me that photography is a representation of what we are and feel, she said "in every photo you've got to be you - Nuccia, the same as I do in every photo of murdered victims of the Mafia , where I try to convey my feelings without being seen’’. In those days I did not understand well her words and this put me in a sort of crisis. I just felt that I need some time for those words to find their meaning inside of me, to get mature within me. Many years have passed since then and today, as I have already said in some other interview, when I take photographs I'm entering a path not traced yet. In this way, the picture itself finds and refines my inner vision that changes and evolves myself both as a human being and as a photographer. I try never to forget, that an image has the power to evoke emotions, bring about changes, inspire us to move on in life following different ways. It is like a process where I find and try to express my inner vision to the outside world, and for me, it is "the journey" that I undertake each time when I take camera in my hands, with every shot I make. I am convinced that, as it is with all forms of artistic expression, what makes a photograph as an art is actually related to the presence of two factors: the message that contains the image and the language used. Both are equally important, and the goal is to reach people with a final product that should be perceived as "Universal".
- Mirjana: What did you do to gain so much knowledge in this area? Do you think that a person must possess talent to capture emotion and expression in a picture?
Nuccia: I am an autodidact, so I needed to learn alone and invest so much in it. When I was very young I was not so interested in tries to see if there were photo clubs in my hometown that could have organized some courses/trainings. I did not know personally anyone who photographed at the time. I thought that there was nothing to help me, so I found myself alone with my photography. I was also very shy. I have studied and experienced the dark room alone, on my own. But now I realize that I have not asked for help from others and it was a mistake because I lost a lot of time on self-learning and researches. Maybe for that reason, today, I can say I have enriched and integrated my knowledge faster because I have developed my technical knowledge through a number of specific courses that I've gone through. There were also many opportunities for exchange of best practices with different groups of photographers, which allowed me to grow my way and that not only being in photography. Among the various courses that I've attended, there were some that have only one purpose and that to expand my photographic vision. For example: last year I have attended a course for manipulations with Polaroid, because I wanted to explore this area too. This does not mean I did it because I wanted to buy a Polaroid; I did it because I wanted to learn. The talent in photography could be noticed, identified right away, because you see the one produces curiosity and desire to experiment in one’s own, special way from the feeling, in instinctive, intuitive way. But I am convinced that there is no need to have that kind of talent to make a photograph, which reflects emotion that could capture the attention of others. I think that a necessary element to make a good photograph is to know yourself, to try to "see" the world as you feel it deep inside of you. I am convinced that it is important to master the technique quickly. Then, through the photographic camera express what you mean, think, understand. There is a time for everything. It is not bad to sometimes start with the scare technique, then, you must try to shoot with a phased approach, where the knowledge of the technical meets with the alternate image.
- Mirjana: Do you have some specific approach when make photos on particular themes and, do you prefer to keep the images realistic or rather let the detail and light create the image?
Nuccia: The themes that I have always preferred to deal with are those related to the existential dimension of man / woman, with particular attention paid to the mood and atmosphere, which intimate or dreamlike. I do not make privileges of any kind. There were times when I've been working on portraits, reportage, and that on the conceptual level, as a part of my research work that I have continued. Even so, I think that all types of photography are pretty much interlinked and what can make the difference are a personal vision and stylistic features that characterizes the work of a photographer. In the creation of my images, for me it is particularly important the time of shooting, and generally prefer the natural light conditions. I firstly go for the elements logistics, location, equipment, type of model, all for the purpose of achieving a certain kind of work. For example, for "Wonderland" my daughter was my model, and she was always dressed with the same clothes, but locations and lighting conditions have been changing for the purpose of shooting. This particular work was finished in 6 months. As it could be seen, in general, I try to maintain a good balance between the realistic elements of the image and light post production work that emphasizes my basic message.
- Mirjana: You are coming from Palermo, Italy, and have based much of your work around this area, documenting the people of the last years. Can you tell us what you find so inspirational about your city and what you hope others can take from your images?
Nuccia: My land has always been perceived as an inspiring for famous and ordinary visitors/guests (Wagner, Goethe, Crowley, the legendary Ulysses, Koudelka, etc...). It was of great inspiration also for the great artists that this land has produced in all field of art and that recognized at the international level (V. Bellini, G. Verga, L. Pirandello, G. Serpotta, A. Da Messina, L. Sciascia, F. Battiato, F. Scianna, L. Battaglia, etc...). However, my country has a story too that tells about much different domination that it has suffered, the mafia including, which also could not be ignored, story from which each of us, sicilian, is impregnated. I am, personally, taking account of all this, and when I take my camera, I feel a particular interest in the discussion of the issue of women in relation to this land but also to the whole universe that revolves around the woman. When I’m saying this, I’m thinking of the Sicilian woman, in her ambivalences, a woman which is fragile and strong, both at the same time. I think about women who have left their mark to repair the wounds of this land, and the women who have offended this same land, perpetuating a familiar type "familistic" that is so typical for mafia families. In the past have done social research "on gender differences", today my research is done with images production rather than documents with written words. I believe that those images are far eloquent than the words, more descriptive and more authentic.
- Mirjana: Your website nucciacammara.it/ is a photographic record / archive of your life there and the ever changing city environment around you, isn’t it so?
Nuccia: Yes ... in this moment the site represent the place where I can also show my work. It has been made not a long time ago, a year ago I think, so that there is so much work to be invested there. I have a huge material to be uploaded still and I hardly manage to find the time for at this moment, because I have employed much of my time currently on some very complex photography projects that absorb much of my time. However, yes I am aware that it should achieve a bigger audience and represent more of big portfolio I have but simply there is no enough time to doing it in a manner it deserve to be done. For this reason, I think we should, for this moment leave this question here because I think I can better respond to your question later on.
- Mirjana: From your story and maybe your point of you, were you considered photography just as a hobby of yours in the past, or was it not a start, a way to express yourself creatively?
Nuccia: Exactly, as I have already explained the photograph for me began as a hobby and with time grew up to all that I have said before.
- Mirjana: Photography has a value. The world needs that value now, probably more than ever. In that order, assuming that an artist wants his/her work to be seen by others, could you, by your own experience and knowledge, say that making art require something between a faith in yourself and an arrogance? Is it necessary to believe that others would find a value in your work? Finally, how do you keep your own focus on what is commercial /profitable from what is not?
Nuccia: You see, Mirjana, I believe that at this very moment in my person and my photography, this aspect is missing, binding of making art as a form of income, (unlike so many people doing with photography for commercial purposes). I find this as okay, but I, personally, and at this moment of my life, I am not able to think of my photos as in profitable terms. I'm photographing for me still and I find myself fortunate enough to have another job for living, which makes my purpose met.
- Mirjana: In your photographs, you have used very dramatic lighting to enhance the overall spooky feel. Can you please tell us something about and if the price of a camera matters in a way, affects the quality of the picture?
Nuccia: I think that behind a photographic work there is always an idea to start. This idea exists for the purpose of the photography project and it is included in it. The purpose of the project is important to decide on everything such as type of camera, whether small or medium format, film or digital, darkroom or light room usage etc... Be that what it may, I think it is not necessary to spend too much money to make a photographic project. Let me give an example... I'm working, a year and a half, on a photography project related to a very important place in Palermo. From the beginning of, I have chosen a camera Holga (Lomography) that despite the very low price, allows me to have specifically evocative images, something that usually characterizes the images made with this type of camera, that work with the film, which I had planned to use. For this reason, I have used this camera, I wanted this effect. Also, in order to work on this project site, I needed the materiality of the film. Therefore, I can say that, in general, the idea, the subject of a work that need to be to realize is more important than the type of machine to use.
- Mirjana: Photographers usually have their own favorite places where taking photographs , so I wonder if you do the same, and if so, where are the places and why those particularly? Most of the time, it happens that a title is pretty much descriptive one. Do you find titles are to be integral to understanding of a work of art? Could you please describe how you usually develop the titles for your works?
Nuccia: I do not have a studio, so that always use an external venues. My locations are situated in Palermo, and those are abandoned places, where you can go and photograph freely (sometimes). If I have to work indoors, I am equipped to my house in order to create a small pose room photo. In line with, for the work I have done in recent years, I have found everything what I needed in Palermo places. Even so, I never used the same places for different photographic projects. And when you ask me for the title, I can tell you that I never think of the title of a photographic work as the first thing to do. Sometimes it happens that I have an insight only and a work in progress. But usually I get the title, magically, inside the ears, when about to end my work. I really like the titles to the "Carver" (Raymond), long titles, which contains the incipit of the story, but I usually end up choosing a short one, which inspired by a detail contained in the photographic work or by an element that proved to be important in entire work.
- Mirjana: Do you believe that film photography would, in the end, be totally replaced by digital photography, do you prefer using film cameras over digital? Do you use any specific equipment to shoot exacting subjects and, if so, why do you think this gives a photographer advantages over others i.e. using digital software to create a similar effect?
Nuccia: I use both the analog camera and digital camera. In recent years, due to the proliferation of digital cameras and their very high performance for a low price, we are witnessing a bulimic production of images, where people are not prepared or educated to take/do the image, while also the supply of cameras (also present in cell) tends to degrade the importance/value of the image. I am convinced that this phenomenon has prompted scholars and lovers of photography to promote the re-use of analog film camera. I think that this kind group of people will be a minority that cultivates the use of analogue and the camera obscura, an elite minority who pledge for. The reason for could also lie in the costs of films, which will increase, as it has happened before, or it reduces the production or stops, as it happened in the case of Polaroid (there's a new and recent project called "the impossible project" that strive to revive the use of Polaroid film). The use of digital camera, certainly presents advantages for the post production, but my choice of which camera to use for a photographic work dispenses with this criterion.
- Mirjana: Portraits, considered as the most common representation of human beauty, are of the highest importance for many professional photographers. The majority of us have encountered portraits that were simply experienced as a magical, such as those we couldn’t help but staring in, all as an appreciation for, and it lasts minutes after minutes. Can you share your thoughts, and experiences on this?
Nuccia: Watching portraits of Julia Margaret Cameron, the great exponent of pictorialism, leaves me speechless and I cannot find enough wonderful words to express what I feel when looking at those wonders. There is something that distinguishes the great portraits from those of average importance. The portrait made by a photographer or a painter always contains a value of self-portrait. Inside the picture there are always those who produced it. I think that in a "big picture" the photographer and the sitter were fused together, as in a large but short circuit, and it is unimportant if the portrait includes more people. An example could be the portrait that Annie Leibovitz has produced with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, where Lennon naked has been hugging his wife. This represents a great portrait. I think that, in doing this one, Leibovitz shot has included something of her there too, a piece of her soul. That picture is not a simple depiction.
- Mirjana: What do you hope to achieve with your photography and what's your dream photography project? Are you currently working on any new projects and if so could you tell us something more about?
Nuccia: I'm not clear as where to go with my photography, but my hope is to bring a strong message , which contains everything in relation to the human world, in all of its beauty and varied forms of its fragility. I know that if this message would reach people, it must be contained within an “magic” image, that makes the viewer of to stop by and enjoy in it for a few more minutes.
- Mirjana: Finally, tell me something about projects you are currently working on and what they are all about?
Nuccia: I'm currently working on two very interesting photo projects for me, but very complex and elaborative. One of the projects is my photographic production made about 19 true stories of 19 women. The work, begun in 2007 and now is at the end. It has developed from a complex path, elaborative, around content of each story. The revision has taken place over the images that I created originally, so that it took quite a long time to bring it to the end. The other project began in September 2010. This one goes through the tracks and the spaces of a famous place in Palermo "Psychiatric Hospital Pisani" which is now empty under a law of 1978 that has provided the closure of asylums, closure occurred only in practice since the early ‘90. I want to tell the story, present the soul of this place.
Mirjana: Nuccia, thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts on how you got started with your photography career, what motivates you and for dedication of your precious time to us !
Nuccia: Thank you Mirjana.