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August 2, 2011
An exclusive two-part interview with the visionary Roman-Iranian photographer
- Text by Tommaso Fagioli
Let me introduce you Arash Radpour, Roman photographer and film-maker, born in Tehran in 1976 and moved to Italy with the whole family at only four. This biographical detail is significant because Arash’s works seem the exact result of the two cultures he belong to: the Persian one, linked to the sacred (and the profane), the ritual, the ornamental; and the Mediterranean, with a natural predilection for plastic harmony, composition, bodies and faces, especially of women.
An instinctive and visionary artist, he rarely schedules his sets in advance, leaving much space to momentary intuition, as for the original series of portraits (then collected in the project "Surface") he realised in occasion of the 66th Venice Film Festival, where he managed to render celebrities including Nicolas Cage, Ewan McGregor, Terry Gilliam, sidereal and hieratic. Recent works account a participation in the beautiful photographic book "New York: A Photographer's City" (2010) published by Rizzoli, and the honour to exhibit alongside Karl Lagerfeld.
Satellite Voices: What is your family background?
Arash Radpour: My parents have different cultural origins, from my mother's side dating back to northern Russia and Central Asia, while my father belongs to a solid bourgeoisie of Persian noble descent.
SV: When did you decide to become a photographer?
Arash Radpour: Browsing through my father’s magazines since a very young age, listening to his comments and absorbing the love for the glossy images. During one of my visits to Rome I was donated by my maternal grandfather, Roman, a Zenit. That same summer my uncle explained me the composition and the functioning of the camera. We organised a holiday to the Amalfi Coast, my first shots were telling of Sorrento sunsets, flowers and weeds from the walls of Pompeii, a beautiful smiling portrait of my aunt Lili having lunch in Capri. I was only 12-years-old, all those photos are still collected in my mother's holiday album.
SV: What kind of education have you received?
Arash Radpour: I studied at the Istituto Rossellini in Rome, on technical texts by Ansel Adams. Above all, it was the study of languages to interest me. On this point, Professor Pieroni, who still holds the Chair of photography, was decisive and filled us with lots of stimuli: painting, comics, illustration, sculpture, graphics, movies were the subjects on which we studied and were interrogated, then back to shooting. At the time, my whole world was in black and white, entirely handled in the darkroom. Then I looked through a Martin Parr’s book and it got back in colour.
SV: I find the dramatic intensity of your shots inheriting the example of the great masters of Renaissance - what is your relationship with high art and painting?
Arash Radpour: Respectful and confidential, like I imagine it is for most of the Romans.
SV: The women you depict are often lustful, carnal, even heinous – what is your relationship with the feminine?
Arash Radpour: They look rather unaware of it to me, seduction is part of a game that comes natural to them, I encourage this complicity to which they willingly partecipate. The effect that this causes in the observer is another thing. Anyway, for me the feminine represents the Enigma par excellence, to which I undeniably have an erotic relation.
SV: What is your working method?
Arash Radpour: First I choose the place that will be the stage of the story, then the subject that is rarely professional. It all depends on the degree of empathy that I will have with him or her, because at this point I do not know yet what I'm going to tell. The level of improvisation is maximum but methodical, and it belongs to my stylistic hallmark.
SV: Reveal us a secret of the trade…
Radpour Arash: I do not know if it can be considered a secret, but during the trip to the selected location I always stop by to look for an object that will accompany the model, something that will belong to the work as to become the key point of it, a link that will enable us to take off from reality, break with the environment and with the theme, break their linearity.
SV: What work you wished you have done?
Arash Radpour: “Prenez soin de vous” by Sophie Calle, I would say an impossible task for a man.
Check back for part two tomorrow...
Images: Khargoosh (self portrait), Roma 2010 (up); Hildegard Von Bingen Choir, Como 2009 (mid); Cala Inferno, Ponza 2007 (down)
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