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A New Gaze: A Conversation With Stefano Galli

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In examining photographer Stefano Galli’s images, you’ll notice an attention to detail. He isn’t creating elaborate sets or perfecting the styling of a client but is instead documenting a scene that is happening or a place that exists in this city: the image zooms in on something that has caught his eye. There is a feeling of juxtaposition to his work, a tension between the place and the person or object and atmosphere.

It’s a reflection of Los Angeles, too. A city of extremes and opposites, often fascinating in their juxtaposition, Galli has been able to (literally) zoom in on these subjects to show how funny and interesting our city can be. To get an idea of where he is coming from and what is the motivation behind the work, we had a little chat with the artist.

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Being a “recent” Los Angeles transplant, what drew you to this part of the world? How does it compare to previous settings you’ve lived in?

I wanted to move to the States starting at an early age. I grew up strongly influenced by American culture, studied it through movies, books, magazines, music and other fashions…but I needed to see it myself, I needed to experience it…to breathe it! That dream came true about three years ago.

I am naturally curious and I’m attracted to differences and oddities. I like to observe, to get close but remain neutral and objective. I was born and raised in Italy, and have since lived in Denmark and England, but I would say that America – the crazy lifestyles, traditions, cultures and set ups here – are the most inspiring and interesting to me.

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A lot of your work deals with defining the Californian experience and landscape through objects. What draws you to this? Is there a materialism embedded in our culture?

My photographs are an extension of what my eyes witness daily. The “things” that surround me, my encounters, the details, the objects, the banal and simple things embedded in my everyday life, are what I like to shoot and are a reflection of my mood and state of mind.

Certainly the world I’m living in today has a very strong materialistic form, this reflects and affects my visions. It is a necessity for me to record all these aspects in order to understand, analyze and archive them. It’s like ongoing research. I find my subjects to be beautiful and like all beautiful things, they deserve attention and respect. I manifest this in the form of a photograph.

I spend a lot of time driving and it makes me feel like I’m “leaving the world behind me”…seeing it zipping through my window. So I park, I step out and walk a lot, getting closer to signs, walls, billboards, paints, flowers, cars, bumpers, lights, dents and a myriad of other interesting “creatures” that hide / roam the streets, back alleys, buildings, parking lots, houses…of this city. Sometimes what I’m looking for is right on my doorstep, other times, far away in the remote deserts of Southwestern states…It’s about getting close and looking wide, looking at the everyday with a different lens.

Some of your work has an incredible otherness to it, very much as if your gaze is from a researching studying a recently discovered group of people. Is there an alienness to our culture? Or are others aliens to our culture?

The strength of my work comes from being a stranger to this country, it allows me to look at things with a different perspective. This “alienness” is very important and I have to be careful not to adapt myself too much…otherwise I might lose the capacity to see things the way I do. This alienness however, should not be confused as naivety, I know what works for me and my purposes. I’m careful not to conform with whatever society I am in and I always seem to be a step beyond the comfort zone.

In order to keep photographing this way, I must not find myself in a “friendly” environment, I must keep my vision pure and objective at all times and my curiosity peaked at the highest level, constantly. This is why for instance, I find photographing in Italy extremely difficult … I don’t have the same layer of unknown that separates my camera from my targets, as I have it here in America. I can’t let L.A. become my “home” yet… because “home” means a place to relax and when I relax I don’t create. It’s a constant search, an obsession, a thirst that hasn’t been satisfied yet…

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Ultimately, do you find that your photography of this environment is to highlight oddity or to alert non-locals of points of interest, things that they may overlook as mundane?

I hope that one day, when this body of work is complete, viewers will enjoy my photographs as a sort of catalog of all the “things” that surround them, as a guide to places they already know. Even the most basic object can raise attention and become interesting if represented in an original way. We live in a world saturated with images and videos, we flip through them online and on social media at breakneck speed…everything has been photographed over and over, and so we are constantly looking for “new” pictures, new styles, new ways to represent the same things. Well, I’d like to take a step back, slow down and reconsider my approach. Each shot. Dedicating my time to capturing moments, physical places, people and things in a way that otherwise might be missed.

What’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects or features we should be on the lookout for?

Lamerica! Is a visual narrative, a series of postcards from a journey, which indeed is what the film is intended to be. It consists of a series of lengthy shots of a tableau nature, each appearing to be a more or less random cross section of American reality, but which in total invoke a highly emblematic picture of the USA.
I’ve already shot the southern States. This upcoming Spring I will hit the road again filming the mid-west all the way to the east coast and back. I’m aiming on having a “clip” from every single State.

I’d like to consider this project as a nation wide extension of my photographic work and since I needed to give it a “voice” I decided to film in stead. I’m also working on a book project entitled Cerberonauta. This is a story about a man from another planet who lands in this world. Here he strives to adapt, with all his strength and perplexity… Is he gonna make it ?

You can follow Stefano on Tumblr.

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