The Antihero


Federico Chiesa explores the inevitability of old age by giving an unexpected spin to the lives of infamous villains.

The Freddy Krueger image is my favourite from the series. I was keen to portray him as an aging character, set in an old Italian tavern. I recreated the scene in my studio. The lightning was a mix of tungsten lamps and flash heads, resulting in a long exposure time.

My Assignment

  • Description: To bring out the irony in the transience of power.
  • Duration: I began working on the project in 2012.
  • Notes: Featuring popular icons gives a project the scope to be more relatable to a larger audience.

Growing up in the 80s, in a small village in Tuscany, Hollywood films always fuelled my dreams. I would imagine what became of the antiheroes past the timeline that the movie offered. Would they still be the all-powerful figures that we have loathed and loved in equal measures? Would they regret the choices they made?

My Perspective

Around the time of the Italian economic meltdown in 2011, I was commissioned to create a series around the theme of crisis. However, it was the idea of an identity crisis that appealed to me more. With a certain degree of irony, I began to imagine how a once feared villain would function after facing life’s ultimate enemies—age, decay and death. This was how the initial seed of the idea behind Horror Vacui was sown in my mind’s eye.

Darth Vader’s iconic lightsaber features as a lamp, as I wanted to turn it into a mundane object.

In a way, the photographs are also symbolic of the decline of my imagination and innocence. What I once perceived as a powerful and scary character, was now just a memory of when simple things could propel my dreams. I wanted to portray how these villains had decayed not only in my eyes, but also in their own.

The Process

The production phase took more time than the actual shoot. I started by sketching my ideas on paper. Since I was working with a low budget, I had to figure out the most economical way of recreating the intricate costumes and frames. Luckily, I had lots of friends who were film aficionados like myself.

The backdrop was shot at a local market, while the model, actress Lucia Batassa, was shot in the studio. This was the only image in the series that required extensive editing.

Throughout the entire project, lighting was a key concern, as I had to recreate most of the scenes in my studio. I wanted to obtain a cinematic feel in my images without having to spend a lot of time during the postprocessing stage. Therefore, I made use of many different lighting setups that would best translate my vision. For instance, in the photograph featuring Freddy Krueger, I had to balance multiple flash lights and continuous lights in the same frame.

My Equipment
I used a Hasselblad H3D–39 with a Hasselblad 80mm and a 50mm lens. I also used the Profoto Pro-8a generator with matching Profoto heads. For lighting, I used large soft boxes, strip lights, honeycomb grids, a beauty dish and wide reflectors.

To view more of Federico’s work, visit his page

On Setting Up for an Imaginary Scenario

  • Ask for Help: You never know if a friend might have the perfect location, costume or even skill set that you require for your shoot. So, ask those around you.
  • Attention to Details: People take keen notice of the smaller accessories, props and details in the image, as these elements add complex layers to the photograph.
  • Make the Photo Your Voice: It is important to have an individualistic style with your work, as people need to be interested in the way your image tells its story.