Into the Outdoors by Giacomo Brunelli
Giacomo Brunelli delves deeper into his relationships with the camera, himself and his love for nature through a series of self-portraits.
- Description: To photograph my shadows as I interacted with my environment and explored my presence in it.
- Duration: Ongoing since 2010
- Notes: The landscape was a major part of each image. I would start with it and find a way to fit myself in.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved being outdoors. I grew up in the countryside near Tuscany, Italy where I was surrounded with greenery and animals. The project began one day when I was looking for an animal for my series of photographs titled Animals. When I looked down through the viewfinder, I found my shadow falling on the road, with a picturesque mountain in the background.
To me, it looked very beautiful, almost like a performance. I started to make funny poses to see what the shadows would look like before settling on one that I photographed. I did not give this image much thought, but when I came back to the print later, I realised that it had the potential to be a wonderful series, much like Lee Friedlander’s 1960s self-portraits.
As I took the project forward, I wanted my shadows to be projected on natural surfaces and not in an urban environment. Along with this, a natural landscape was crucial to the entire setting. I wanted to give depth to my shadows with things like soil, tree bark, rocks, plants and so on. In a way, I wanted to add a tactile dimension to the shadow. The shadow needed its own personality.
What I wanted to bring out with this, was the feeling that I was completely immersed in nature. Through the images, I could examine my position with respect to my surroundings. When I am in the countryside, I feel small and almost fragile against the immensity of nature.
To get such a sharp shadow, I needed a lot of sunshine. So, most of these images were made in the summer months in Italy or UK. While I made some images when I was out shooting Animals, I realised the photographs were better when I set out to shoot just the self portraits.
I started the project in 2010 and as I went along, the photographs changed. I found that as I projected the shadows on different surfaces, I came up with ideas where I looked decapitated or half-eaten and so on. The camera that I used for the series had a viewfinder that allowed to me see my pose. I would experiment with different positions and surfaces until I got the best result.
With these images, the biggest challenge I faced was getting the shadow to stand out from the background. It is an exercise. I had to think of a very dark, almost black subject that had to pop out and look distinct. Another thing I had to consider was the surface. It couldn’t be too black, too grey or too dark. I had to find a balance in shooting the images and processing them in the darkroom.
I printed the images in two sizes. The bigger ones are almost life size and are like a projection of me when I stand in front of them. The smaller ones, on the other hand, are more intimate.
As I went ahead with the project, I was able to see what I could do with myself by turning the camera within. My portraits reflected how I was a part of the landscape instead of just casting a shadow on them.
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Better Photography.
The camera I used was a Miranda Sensomat which had a viewfinder at the top. I used it with a 50mm lens and Kodak Tri-X 400 film. For the prints I used standard chemicals, paper and a very old enlarger.
On Making Portraits with Yourself as the Subject
- Find Your inspiration: It could be a genre of photography, a certain place or anything. Immerse yourself in it and document your relationship with it.
- The Binding Factor: Several self portraits either have a consistent component while several do not. While you figure what works the best for you, it could be interesting to have a singular factor that binds all the photographs together.
- Use Your Equipment Creatively: Each piece of equipment has its own characteristics that could help you make unique portraits. Explore different ways you can hold, modify or lodge your equipment to get interesting results.
-As told to Natasha Desai
To view more images from Giacomo’s work, you can visit his website www.giacomobrunelli.com