Giulia Degasperi · These Dark Mountains

Oct 18, 2021

Giulia is an Italian photographer whose work is primarily focused on the lives of marginal communities and the exploration of the dynamic human-nature relationship. With engaging and insightful images, in her series 'These Dark Mountains' Giulia portrays the lives of Alpine farmers during the pasture season, moving away from the romanticised vision of the Alps and showing the solitude and extraordinary labor required to farm in this environment.

am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?

GD - Hi! Thank you for inviting me to talk about my work. My name is Giulia Degasperi and I was born in 1992 in Trento, a small town surrounded by the Alps in the North-East of Italy. From a young age, I’ve always been passionate about books and foreign cultures. For this reason I decided to study Modern Languages and Literature at the University of Trento. After finishing my studies, I moved to Berlin in 2015 looking for new perspectives. There I discovered my passion for photography and started a new Bachelor in Visual Communication at the HTW. With the photography series “These Dark Mountains” I successfully concluded my studies in November 2020. Today, next to my personal photographic projects, I am working as a communication designer in Berlin.

 

am - How did you start in photography?

GD - My first encounter with photography was in 2015, right after moving to Berlin. As I was starting to feel discouraged and lost in the new big city, I decided to buy a cheap 35mm camera and began experimenting with the analog process. I started working in a photo lab and I was spending days at the library devouring photo books and visiting art exhibitions. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t only the magic of film photography and silver halides that was fascinating me, but also the potential of an image to tell a story. Soon the camera became the best way for me to engage with my surroundings and to identify and challenge the prejudices of our present day society. During my studies, I started photographing in a documentary manner across subject matter, from everyday scenes and portraits to spare landscapes. My work has always been primarily focused on the lives of marginal communities and the exploration of the dynamic human-nature relationship.

am - What is ’These Dark Mountains’ about?

GD - ‘These Dark Mountains’ captures the lives of people working in the Italian Alps. Coming from a small town surrounded by mountains, I have always wondered what does it feel like to live and work up there, in such a stunning but also dangerous and rough natural environment. Especially after moving to Berlin, my fascination for a life still tied to nature’s rhythm started to grow. The natural landscape which I left behind, and which used to be what I would call “home”, turned into something distant. I began to question the reasons for my choice to leave and the reasons of those who decided to stay.

The project took place during the traditional pasture season, in which alpine farmers move with their livestock from their permanent settlements in the valleys to temporary settlements in the mountains. This ancient practice, which created one of the most species-rich and diverse landscapes in Europe, is now increasingly threatened by factors such as abandonment and climate change. Through photography I wanted to explore the realities of alpine pastures beyond their physical allure and document the ruthless solitude and extraordinary labor required to sustain life at nature's fragile edge, in a place where the cycle of life and death is present from dawn to dusk. In a series combining the strange and nostalgic look at a life that I might never live, I wanted to question the act of escaping from contemporary society and the myths and hopes built around nature.

 

am - In general, what inspires your work?

GD - Being primarily a documentary photographer, the inspiration of my work mostly comes from the encounter with a special place and its people. And by special I mean a place that is seemingly dull, but where I feel there’s a potential to tell a compelling story which questions our preconceptions and beliefs. It can be anything, from a small suburban town, to an isolated village, or even just a specific landscape. Usually I come to such places pretty casually and they simply catch my attention. Many times it’s not even a place but simply the encounter with a person that will inspire me to tell a story. The more I engage with that person or that place, with empathy, openness and understanding, the more I feel inspired.

 

am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?

GD - At the moment one of my favorite photographers is Andrea Modica. I love how her work is a quiet and gentle exploration of human nature and desire. The photographs are at once mysterious and intimate, tender and unsettling, avoiding any kind of romantic idealization of nature and life. Her images have the power to slow the viewer down in a fast-paced society, bringing us back to a sort of primordial state disconnected from the contemporary turmoil. Another photographer that keeps inspiring me is Alec Soth. What fascinates me the most about his photography is his ability to combine documentary style with poetic sensibility. I strongly admire Alec Soth’s genuine curiosity towards the people he encounters. His touching work always motivates me to be more open towards strangers. Other photographers that I particularly admire are Dorothea Lange, Mark Steinmetz, Robert Adams, Mimi Plumb and Luigi Ghirri.

 

am - What is your favourite photo book?

GD - My favorite photo book at the moment is 'Jasper' by Matthew Genitempo. 'Jasper' is a photographic series about the solitary inhabitants of the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri. The images show misty mountain landscapes, cluttered interiors and portrays the men inhabiting the dark woods. I find intriguing how the ideal of well-being and peacefulness associated with living surrounded by nature is replaced with a sense of isolation and anxiety. This concept is what also inspired my series “These Dark Mountains”, in which I wanted to unveil the mystery from the human relationship with the landscape, a place we dream to escape to and become a part of.

 

am - Thank you very much for your time and contribution to analog magazine.

All images © Giulia Degasperi

 

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