Now freelancing in New York, well-travelled photographer Samantha Casolari grew up in Italy but has lived in Paris, Milan, Geneva and Uganda. Having moved to Brooklyn in 2003 to pursue a Master’s degree in International Affairs at Columbia University, she's since been working as a full time photographer for the past four years, and shot for clients such as Nike, Uomo Vogue, Dossier Journal, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Pig Magazine, and many others. Her work has been exhibited in several galleries worldwide and was awarded with prizes such as PDN Photo Annual, Premio Celeste, Talent Prize Museo del Corso, International Photography Award, American Photography 24, International Reportage Award. Dazed caught up with Casolari to find out how she got into it and what's to come next.
Where are you from/based?
I am originally from Italy but I have been living in NY for almost eight years. Mostly in Brooklyn.
What's your background as a photographer?
I am a self-taught photographer. I got interested in it many years ago, when I was living in Paris and discovered Bresson and all the Magnum photographers. I shot a lot during that time, but I would have never thought I could have made it the main part of my life. Four years ago that is what happened: I quit everything and start shooting professionally.
Do you have any current projects? If so, what are they about?
There's a couple of projects I have started to plan with one of my best friend and criminologist here in NY. Pimps in NJ and Jamaicans deported out of the country straight out of prison. But it is something we have just started discussing so I can't say too much...
What do you try to achieve with your photos?
My main objective is to tell stories. They could be real or imaginary ones, or just portraits, but there must be a series of images telling a story. I don't usually take pictures for the sake of it, unless I am experimenting with film and/or light. And I don't shoot everyday because I need to have a story I want to tell. The other ideal aim behind my images is to reveal the mystical and magical part of those realities or the one immediately surrounding us. The beauty hidden where we rarely look at. A way to look at the world in more than one standard direction and to show how enchanted, dreamy and surreal it can be.
They often tend to be quite soft and emotive, do you feel there is anything that links them all together?
I think it is the fact that I have always been a daydreamer. I am never really there with my mind, and it is something that always bothered me quite a lot, to be constantly 'spaced-out', especially when you are amongst people because it makes you feel very awkward. The moment I stopped trying to change it and 'fix' it, it become part of my images, and I kind of made peace with it. I guess I incorporate a lot of myself in those pictures.
What equipment/film do you use? What do you like about the equipment/film you use?
I have a Nikon FM10 for film and a Pentax ME SUPER that my dad gave me. I have a NIKON D80 for digital, but I am looking to upgrade. I also have a very old Yashica Mat that I found in a local market in Mumbai. It does the most amazing effect! The film cameras are obviously my favorite and I love to be able to use light with them in ways that a digital camera would never allow me to. It is expensive but it's worth all of it. And film definitely shows the world the way I see and perceive it.
How do you choose your locations?
I don't usually choose locations as you would do with a fashion story. I shoot where ever I happen to be in that moment or where the story is taking me. If I have to take a portrait, I want it to be the most environmental, so I look for places and corners that can represent the best the person I am shooting. Or where he/she can be the most at ease to reveal who he/she really is.
Are you inspired by any particular films? Art? Literature?
Music. I would say that music inspire me more than even other photography does, maybe because I played violin for many years, before photography. Any kind of music, or the one I am obsessing about in that very moment. These past months it's been all about Spacemen 3. Some films and art pieces inspire me but it is mostly music. And although I love books, they've been one of the most important part of my life, I can't say they are my source of inspiration for when I take pictures.
What about other photographers?
So many to mention them all. And they've certainly been that school of photography I have never went to. These are what comes to my mind right now: Luigi Ghirri, Nan Goldin, Robert Frank, Antoine D'Agata, Eugene Richards, Pieter Hugo, Jehad Nga, Alex Prager, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Serge Leblon, Guy Aroch Jason Nocito, Mark Borthwick.
I just finished printing my first (little) book, which was so much work and it took the whole summer to make, so hopefully a story to shoot and fall in love with and then a really long vacation...