Leonardo Pucci: From fashion to photography
To look at Leonardo Pucci’s photographs is to turn yourself into a voyeur. You see bodies, some silhouetted against luminous rooms, in candid postures, states of undress, or even intimacy. Like James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, you feel discomfort, but cannot tear your gaze away. Currently showing at the Robin Rice Gallery in New York, the exhibition titled Episodes (Without A Real Order) opens in Goa today and will travel to Mumbai and New Delhi in the coming months. This is Pucci’s first show, which will be curated in India by writer Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi.
Pucci, whose grounding is in fashion, has worked with Prada and Bottega Veneta, and is currently the leathergoods and footwear division director at Dior Homme. His sensibility, focused on individual loneliness yet alert to discreet details, is reminiscent of the work of Nan Goldin and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. As Shanghvi puts it in his concept note, “The loneliness of his subjects begins to keep us company, if we might let them.” Edited excerpts from an email interview with Pucci:
Where does your interest in photography come from? Are there photographers who formed your sensibility?
I’m a self-taught photographer and I link my first memories of photography to my father. In the 1970s, during the many trips I took with my family, my father would record everything with a Yashica Mat 124G 6x6, meticulously studying the exposure and shot angles. Even today, photography has a somewhat magical appeal for me. It surprises me, like an unexpected narrative which goes beyond technique. But I also carry on a ceaseless search for a sensual touch in composition, in the way the image is cropped, the proportion between elements, the voluptuous yet rigorous use of colours. That’s why if I have to identify influences on my work, I wouldn’t immediately name a photographer. There are two artists who are always present in the back of my mind—Edward Hopper and David Hockney. The way they compose their paintings, the lines, the planes, the way they isolate key elements, light, colours. I constantly try to mix them—stirring, not shaking, like a good martini.
You say your “photographs are like theatrical settings where the real protagonist is the observer’s intimacy and that’s why these shots are impressed in his mind as emotions, sensations and memories”. Can you elaborate?
A theatrical drama led to the origin of Episodes (Without A Real Order). Years ago, I was struck by a performance given by the Italian theatre company Motus. The show was called Twin Rooms and underlined the role of a hotel room, which, though lived in for a brief moment, ends up becoming the fragment of an open story. The idea of an intimate and apparently protected place becoming a possible episode for an emotional narration fascinated me. Gradually, I began to create a photographic project: capturing fragments of real life that provoke a strong narrative, drawing directly from the mind of the observer.
On the one hand, there is curiosity and an intimate attraction to the delicate sensuality of a stolen moment; on the other hand, there is discomfort: He is looking at something he shouldn’t be seeing. How does the observer overcome this emotional strain? Through his own personal narration. He recognizes those episodes as part of an indefinite but familiar plot and immediately starts to develop this scenario, adding his own meanings, tales and emotions, which go beyond the subject itself.
Does your work in fashion intersect with your aesthetics as a photographer?
In the last two decades, fashion has been one of the most important experimental terrains to obsessively redefine aesthetics and communication codes. This allowed me to nourish intense aesthetic research on images but, above all, to develop an attentive and curious eye, a way of observing the world and reality, constantly searching for a synthesis between important details, without losing the beauty of the whole.
Episodes (Without A Real Order) is on display at the Sunaparanta Foundation, Goa Center for the Arts, till 24 May, and will show at the Project 88 gallery, Mumbai (21 June-6 July), before travelling to Nature Morte, New Delhi.