Into the Outdoors by Giacomo Brunelli

 
Sometimes I would photograph just my head. At other times, I would shoot just my body or make an image where I looked decapitated. It was a way of reconstructing myself in pieces. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

Sometimes I would photograph just my head. At other times, I would shoot just my body or make an image where I looked decapitated. It was a way of reconstructing myself in pieces. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

Giacomo Brunelli delves deeper into his relationships with the camera, himself and his love for nature through a series of self-portraits.

My Assignment

  • 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.
With every print I made, I had to ensure that I did not lose details in the shadows. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

With every print I made, I had to ensure that I did not lose details in the shadows. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

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.

I made this image close to the place I was born. The clumps of soil were piled together and ended up looking like rocks in the image. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

I made this image close to the place I was born. The clumps of soil were piled together and ended up looking like rocks in the image. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

My Perspective

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.

It was midday when I made this image. It looked like the tree trunk was a part of me, as the formations looked like internal organs. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

It was midday when I made this image. It looked like the tree trunk was a part of me, as the formations looked like internal organs. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

The Process
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 made this image with the idea of my metamorphosis into a porcupine or a hedgehog, because of the spikes of the plant. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

I made this image with the idea of my metamorphosis into a porcupine or a hedgehog, because of the spikes of the plant. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

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.

I found a haystack to shoot my shadow on. Due to its curved shape, only half my shadow showed up,creating a split looking image in camera. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

I found a haystack to shoot my shadow on. Due to its curved shape, only half my shadow showed up,creating a split looking image in camera. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

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.

The form that my shadow took, looked the Etruscan vases that were made hundreds of centuries ago. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

The form that my shadow took, looked the Etruscan vases that were made hundreds of centuries ago. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

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.

The birch trees were almost shining in the background, which is what drew me to this setting in the first place. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

The birch trees were almost shining in the background, which is what drew me to this setting in the first place. Photograph/Giacomo Brunelli

My Equipment

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

Tags: Conceptual, Giacomo Brunelli, Italy, landscape, Lee Friedlander, photography, Self Portraits, shadows, UK)