Interview with Simone Bossi - ISPLORA

Sensory landscapes: interview with Simone Bossi


Light, shadow, the unconscious, freedom. We immerse ourselves in the sensory landscapes of Simone Bossi, architect and architectural photographer, where the photographic image acquires a changing and ephemeral depth, capable of exploring the layers of space with intensity, measure and emotional involvement. A magnetic relationship links photography and spaces, vibrations in tension between man and architecture.

Your journey starts at the faculty of architecture, then moves on to photography. How did this passion start?

For many people the faculty of architecture represents an idea of rigidity, I actually believe it’s a vast world where different and collateral roads of equal level and interest merge. I studied in Italy, Spain, lived and worked in some firms in the Netherlands and Switzerland, an aspect that has certainly extended my basic geography from the very beginning. I never considered not being an architect, almost with a form of extreme "rigidity". A quote from Tarkovsky's film Stalker comes to mind: “When a tree is growing, it's tender and pliant. But when it's dry and hard, it dies.” During my final year at university I worked for a photographer in Milan, Paolo Rosselli. We spent entire days on one image, it was really intense. That is where that I felt "the transition" between architecture and photography. And it wasn't collateral or light. My luck was that he was extremely thoughtful and silent, a feature that is actually fantastic, because there were traces in the air, but since there was no real explanation, all the work was carried out internally. This led me to modulate it on my person, with great respect for "subjectivity". Like a walk in a new city, you don't know what attracts you, but you start to “breathe it” in. It was my first real breath of photography.

What is your research through photography?

Photography itself almost attracts me more as a user, because it allows me to enjoy space, to understand it, to be a part of it, to condition my mood, to project all kinds of feelings onto this experience. For me it’s never a goal, it’s a means, a tool for the knowledge of space… Which is basically knowledge of oneself. It's almost a metaphor, isn't it? It’s a discovery of something through oneself and of oneself through something, but that's an aspect I've begun to understand over time.

And how does the first shot take place?

For me, shooting is a liberation. Then, working on film, the first shot is very long, the first shot is a disaster, it's beautiful. It's like when you relate to a person for the first time, that is the measure.

It’s almost a proxemic relationship with the space you’re in, it’s about giving the right distances.

Yes, definitely. This work expands and contracts. The first photograph is an accordion. And then there are the spectators, the lights, shadows that move, change. This is what drives me physically, it’s a very deep emotional involvement.

Do these performances have any points of contact with your personal research?

What interests me is spatial experience, which can be anywhere. So work and research are probably the same thing, I don't feel the need to distance them. Thus a consequence emerges, while respecting myself: unconsciously I attract a type of person who probably has contact points with me. The more I respected myself, the more I approached projects I liked a lot. Almost like a magnetic attraction. Again, there can be no rigidity.

So you don't have any real visual references?

I’m very fascinated by the issue of subjectivity in various artistic fields, even the musical one. Sound is incredible: when I hear music lovers talking starting from the concept and story behind a piece of music, I realize it’s a really vast universe. They talk about temperature, landscapes, color… It’s something that can’t have a tangible, physical result. These are strong experiences. Then I have some visual references, but it’s mainly the artistic-conceptual expression of aspects that have nothing to do with the image. And this is interesting because it’s an open approach.

Do you look for particular conditions to take a photograph?

The question is: should I only take pictures if I feel a particular condition? No, photographing a project is like photographing a person, photographing oneself, photographing the architect. There is a particularly complex psychological world behind a photograph and it’s amazing how space reflects all this. Even the architectures we don't like reveal aspects that then make us re-evaluate everything.

So through psychological research you obtain an aesthetic research.

Yes, and this depth fascinates me. If you "listen" very well, having photography as a consequence and not as a purpose, you can understand how much you should go "in". And you get in with your camera, with your eyes… You are interested in that specific detail because you see yourself in it, you are able to project yourself. There is a lot of unconscious and it is a very difficult, tiring but spontaneous relationship.

You speak about architecture as if it were a person to look at, to listen to, but the human figure rarely appears in your photos, why?

Initially I had many myths and reference models, even very different from each other, to draw from. Then slowly, knowing myself, I realized that trying to become what you’re not doesn’t work. I prefer my questions, my insecurities, my frailties and changing these states over time, after all we are all shadow and light. So the presence of people started to interest me for these more unconscious and psychological aspects.

Would you consider it a presence-absence?

I would say it’s firsthand presence. It’s the fact of bringing myself to the last possible line in front of the photo, so that I can be free to project myself into it. I’m not even interested in visually describing an objective thing, but rather a totally subjective reasoning. We all have our own imagination, our own history, our own structure. I’m interested in activating the mechanism whereby those who experience space through my photography go in a direction that is most likely also very different from the one that prompted me to shoot. Freedom. This is the human presence in my photography.

Perhaps because in the construction of an image, everyone dwells on what he/she is capable of "absorbing".

Yes, that’s right, it’s a bit the next level of what we’ve said so far, it’s all linked to the concept of "identification". Everyone sees what he/she knows, what he/she is. And it's unbelievable. In this expression of the unconscious there is something very powerful hidden in these situations and it fascinates me to work in these conditions so that whoever receives the image is able to identify with the situation of that moment through mine, while building a completely personal path. All this can be expressed in a method, an approach, a theory. However, practice is subjective, so the result is always unique.

A text by Vittorio Lingiardi comes to mind, “Mindscapes”, psyche of the landscape or landscapes of the psyche.

Yes, that's right, an observation I always make is on what processes make a new image take root in my imagination ... And unfortunately I can only do that on myself. How does that image have the strength to be so incisive to remain there? And, similarly, by what process, in the construction of an image, do we retrieve fragments from the imaginaries of our "previous eras" that have lain dormant, still? This is why I’m fascinated by the idea of being able to be an author - a builder of images - and being lucky enough to leave one or two images in someone's mind.

Do you think the time dedicated to shooting on film affects the process of building the image?

Yes, it's a bit like a journey. You have to reach a remote place and you can choose whether to take a plane that can land there or take a car, four friends, and get there in a month. You get to the same place, but the experience is filtered differently. So the technique derives from the consequence of an approach. I’ve learned to respect a sort of bio-rhythm and I find, in my speed, that the very approach to film can respect it. Compared to digital I find that film cleans the way I see things. With digital you have three options in front and you shoot all three. The theme of postponing choice is somewhat a child of our contemporaneity. Always questioning, replacing ... With film, you not only choose one, but also maintain the defect if you have it. And a whole series of mechanisms related to the aesthetics of imperfection start. Maybe it wasn't the best shot, but in that moment you felt it was and your choice takes on an importance that goes beyond the shot itself, it’s full of depth. The process isn't just during the shot, it's a living process and it ends at some point. When the film runs out, you have to decide: either you put another film in or that's it. And if the light is gone, it’s over. This is why I call it performance.

It’s an experience that carries a physical, emotional, human charge.

Yes, the richness of this profession sometimes also lies in the richness of the diversity of experiences you have. Some time ago I went to Nepal to visit some Buddhist monks and photograph their dormitory. I walked there, got lost, got stuck in the monsoon for three days in the fog. Cows, donkeys, dirt, mud, slope, sweat, fog. It was amazing. Ten days later I was photographing a luxury hotel. For me, digesting these "visual and experiential shocks", which I then translate into memories, is very intense.

Last question, is there something, a direction that you would like to take in your future? Even latent, not necessarily linked to architecture.

It’s a difficult and easy question at once. It's easy because the honest answer is "I don't know". Just like everyone else, I may be fascinated by jobs, situations, places, cities, but I believe it’s not important where the experience is identified, because I’m interested in the experience itself, even if I don't know what it is. I'm more interested in understanding what will happen again on a sensorial and perceptive level and how this will project itself and this can happen in an infinite number of ways. So basically, if I had to give an answer, I would be interested in looking into the listening part, I would like to photograph the other senses, understanding, for example, how much I will evolve in refining my ear and how this will allow me sooner or later to reveal new and unexpected images.


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