Leonardo Pucci, born in a Tuscan town of Pisa in Italy has lived almost all over the world working in the best fashion houses ever. Prada, Bottega Veneta and Christian Dior are to name a few. Today he lives between Paris and Rome and has let his artistic soul take over the arts. Pucci will be exhibiting his very first photography exhibition “Episodes” in Robin Rice Gallery in New York from March 21st until May 6th.
There are a few key facts about this show which made this interview a lot more interesting for me. Firstly Leonardo’s works have all been shot in different parts of the world. And the opening piece of the exhibition was taken in Istanbul. To be more specific it’s the Şişhane neighborhood of Istanbul. And the image tells the story of a couple having sex. Secondly, all of Leonardo’s works were shot spontaneously. “They are stolen moments in the lives of individuals or couples caught unaware.” as he puts it. Thirdly, they were mostly all taken at dusk or at night.
“The idea that you are looking at something you shouldn’t be seeing provokes a feeling of curiosity and emotion, paired with a subtle discomfort or shame” states the artist about his photography. We were lucky to have the chance to talk to Leonardo before his first solo show about his new series of works, his time in Istanbul and more.
Can you tell us a bit about your relation with photography and why you chose photography as a discipline in expressing your art?
I’m a self-taught photographer and I link my first memories of photography to my father, an amateur photographer. In the ‘70s during the many trips I took with my family, my father would record everything with a Yashica Mat 124G 6×6 meticulously studying the exposure and shot angles. That black contraption with its two glass eyes seemed magical to me: he would look into that little window on the top and the box would capture things. Even today photography has a somewhat magical side for me, something surprising, an unexpected narrative which goes beyond technique.
In this series, all the works are telling a different story. What was your focus in forming this series?
I think the strong story-telling draws directly from the mind of the observer. It’s a potential story that is kept in his dreams, his desires, his memories and in the need to have his story told. That’s why for me the goal was to capture and crystallize instants of real life in a way to create a sort of canvases that everyone can recognizes, adding their own meanings, tales and emotions which go beyond the image itself.
How many artworks are there in this exhibition?
There are 21 different images. The opening is the 21th of March, the Spring Equinox, and so I thought 21 was a good number for my first solo-show. I’m kind of superstitious!
Why night and dusk? What’s your relation to darkness in your art?
At night everything is suspended and amplified. In the darkness if there is a noise, a movement, a shadow, my attention is taken immediately and I tend to focus much more on detail than in the day when the landscape distracts me.
My images are stolen moments of intimacy of individuals or couple. Eventually it’s at dusk or at night-time that you feel protected and at ease in your spaces. It’s when you get rid of constrictions, conventions, bans. If you notice even your body moves different than during the day.
Your art is mostly based on hidden feelings being revealed. What is your point of view towards the society and its hidden norms. Do you believe that anything actually is hidden? Or is it more likely to be unspoken?
We are strangely experiencing a sort of second Victorian age, a period cloaked in respectability and morality, but instead full of scandals, transgressions, contradictions and secrets. So the problem is not so much what is hidden but what is unsaid or censored. Everyday more and more we often reach self-censorship and this can only be dangerous.
Images are very international. You have travelled and taken “hidden” feelings and made them art in different cultures. Is there any you would like to mention as the most controversial in the context of the culture it’s been shot in?
I would say “Carson 1:23 pm”: a US flag woven from a Navajo tribe in New Mexico hanging next to an empty chair. Some stars are missing if you compare to the official flag. It is for me the clear image of a country that is struggling to deal with itself and its origins. A country that is going through a deep identity crisis.
Were all these works composed for your exhibition or is there any that are pure spontaneous?
All my images are totally spontaneous and all subjects are totally unaware of being photographed. That’s why these images induce a vague tension in the spectator: knowing that you are looking at something you shouldn’t be seeing may provoke curiosity, emotion, a feeling of discomfort. But in my shots this turmoil is temporary because the observer’s personal narration takes over immediately with great force.
One of your works in this series takes place in Sishane in Taksim. How did you feel in Istanbul?
I took this picture in October last year when after almost a decade I came back to Istanbul for a long weekend to visit some Turkish friends. I found an intriguing city, an eclectic mix of new urban energy and traditional heritage, an evolving metropolis full of fascinating new driving forces… a bit like a Star Wars interstellar bar…
Would you be interested in doing an exhibition in Istanbul?
I would love to exhibit in Istanbul. As I already said I found this city full of new and exciting impulses. A perfect sparkling venue for my Episodes.