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Interview: Fabio Sgroi speaks to in[+]frame

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Fabio Sgroi

Fabio Sgroi became to be interested in photography in 1986 while he was working for the newspaper 'L'ORA', and collaborating with other photographers such as, Letizia Battaglia and Franco Zecchin. Fabio has been focusing his research mainly on his island, Sicily, but also in different Mediterranean countries, Eastern Europe and around the Balkans. In 2000 Sgroi started to photograph with a panoramic format, exploring urban landscape in many different cities in Europe with focus on archeological and industrial sites. His work has been exhibited in collective and solo exhibitions in Italy, Europe and America and have been presented in several photography festivals such as: Diaframma-Kodak - Milano,Artget Gallery, Museo Etnografico - Belgrado, Leica gallery - Sölms, PhotoBiennale - Mosca, Biennale Photographique - Bonifacio, Centre Mediterraneeen de la Photographie - Bastia, and Saba gallery - New York.


- What do you believe characterizes your work?

I work by instinct, I walk in the streets and I take photographs and I am not interested in labels; in reality I filter what I do through my visual conception trying to capture the mystery of life in a picture.

- We noticed that you exclusively shoot in black and white and you use film. What makes you avoid color?

When I started in 1986, I was working for Letizia Battaglia and Franco Zecchin in the daily newspaper ‘L’ Ora’ in Palermo. We mainly worked with black and white films and there was also an old box-camera. The reporters would call us to carry out various tasks and we developed and printed the films for the newspaper. I came in close contact with photography immediately, with a click, and we had to narrate through the images what was happening and to make it known to the public. The atmosphere in the office was inspirational and the studio was a meeting point where I was introduced to the basics of photography. I have started to use the digital technology lately, for different reasons, with its pros and cons, considering the cost and the limited availability of film which made it impossible to keep on working in the traditional way. I only still use film in panoramic photography, but the versatility of the digital film is the new reality and one should act according to his time.

Considering the use of color, which may be more or less saturated, the black and white photographs and the graduations of the grey spectrum render the image I work on out of the dimension of time, where I reinterpret the subject in my own way and in accordance to the traditional way.

Fabio Sgroi

- You take photographs of people, events and landscapes with the same effortless way. How do you perceive the difference between landscape and anthropocentric photography?

To be honest, I cannot see great difference between shooting a live scene and a landscape; my approach is the same. The only difference is that the former includes living human beings while the latter does not; but the search for the subject and the composition is the same in both cases, and the human element constitutes just another part of the landscape. The greatest part of my photographs is the result of a personal quest. The earth is full of memories and the human passage is obvious. I shoot everything that interests me, sometimes just to remember the moment, but the light and the composition are always fundamental in what I do.

- Has the way photograph changed over the years and in what way? What are the most important lessons you learned all these years?

In a way, my approach has become ‘digital’ too. The use of a digital camera allows you to photograph and shed light upon otherwise dark conditions, something that was impossible to achieve with an analogue camera. What’s more, I am not fond of big cameras and ‘stratospheric’ lenses, and I prefer smaller mechanisms. I think that if you like doing something – anything - you should continue it throughout the years, immersing yourself in the best possible way in order to achieve the desired result, working with stability and endurance, overcoming whatever may be standing as an obstacle to your vision.

- On what ground do you choose photographs for a book, an exhibition or even your website? Do you make the selections by yourself?

Fabio Sgroi

I usually do everything alone, not out of jealousy or selfishness, but living in Cecily I do not come in contact with the world of photography often and, whenever I can, I work instead of pursuing a career.

- How difficult is it for a photographer like you to publish your work or to obtain publicity and recognition in general?

Fabio Sgroi

I have always worked for myself. There were times when I chose to live in places where I could work, for example in Marsiglia. I obviously had to compromise in order to live, carry on my research and also work for the Museum of Modern Art in Palermo. To tell you the truth, when I see what is published I am tempted to see my works on sale and well promoted because I think that, with few exceptions, many of the works published do not deserve it, and probably their promotion was for the publisher’s own benefit. There are many photographers today and I do not know if the publishers are interested in promoting someone who cannot contribute financially to the production of his book. In the last years, the independent publishing houses are plenty, but even there I would still have to fund and promote my own work, and this is where I would say that enough is enough. I usually do not take part in paid photography competitions and I rarely participate in any others. Over the years, I have held several exhibitions through my personal contacts, but I have neither a gallery nor an agency that represents me or ever presented me. However, this attitude may contradict my will to stand out. I would like someone to fall in love with my work one day and passionately devote himself to choosing, with my help, the most representative of my photos.

- What are your plans for the future?

Many of my projects were born from scratch in Palermo and Cicely and I persistently continue to work on them, though somehow differently than before. I have worked a lot in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. I have some new ideas, among which a self-focus on Italy. I should also put in order all the new digital archive, which, unlike the analogue archive of contact sheets and small prints, I keep solely on hard disks. I just love shooting and that can be done anywhere!

>>View selected photographs of Fabio Sgroi here


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