Italian-born, NYC-based photographer Francesca Galliani has shot for some of the world’s top fashion titles, and has an assignment with Vogue Italia later this month. She uses colour to scrawl words on monochrome photographs to create images that, she says, have a deeper level of meaning.
‘Movement has long been one of my preferred subject matters,’ says Galliani. ‘I’m fascinated by bodies in movement, dance, rhythm, music – to me, all of that is an expression of joy and of life. So when I find that feeling in a culture that has gone through decades, even centuries of severe trauma, it touches me in a special way, and an extraordinary story starts unfolding between me and my subjects.’ This story is the subject of the Italian artist’s second mixed-media exhibition in Dubai, entitled ‘Beyond Rhythm’, at Showcase Gallery until Saturday November 10. Here, she explains how it all comes together.
How did you get started in photography?
I had always loved to draw, since I was a child, but I wanted to learn how to use my camera. So I took a class at an art school in Washington DC. All I wanted to do was take photographs and be in the darkroom. At the end of my class my teacher took me aside and urged me to keep developing my talent. She told me, ‘Everybody can learn the technique, but not everybody has the eyes to see.’
How did you discover mixed media?
While getting my degree I couldn’t understand why I had to take all these classes that had nothing to do with photography: figure drawing, painting, two- and three-dimensional design, study of space, colour theory, art history and so on. Little did I know how essential it was for my development. I started with photography, then, being so passionate about playing in the darkroom, I experimented both in there as well as post-print. I cut negatives and combined them, and used different papers and developing techniques. After 25 years of using strong chemicals, though, my lungs started to hurt, which led me to slowly reinvent myself. I scanned my negatives, printed them in larger scale on canvas and applied acrylic paint, oil pastel, charcoal, graphite and elements of collage. I like to isolate words and add them to the image; I believe they complement the essence of my images.
Where were the images shot and how did you find the subjects?
These images were all shot in Angola. I spent two and half months there to shoot a commissioned coffee-table book on the country. The subjects were mainly discovered by organising shoots with different dance and capoeira companies.
What memories stand out from your trip?
One of my favourite memories is being in the desert, sleeping in tents under the most beautifully moonlit sky, overcome by my romantic fantasies of African nights, only to find out in the morning that the tents were full of holes. Everyone but me seemed to have been aware of this, including my writer, who spent her night in the Jeep, knowing that the area was full of deadly snakes.
What drew you to NYC?
Besides the beauty and energy of the city itself, to me it is the only place on earth that truly celebrates the uniqueness of each member of society, no matter how ‘different’ they are.
Would you ever consider using Dubai subjects in your photos?
Absolutely. I’m actually planning to shoot a body of work on local subject matter during my stay here and I’m very excited about it.
Exhibition: ‘Beyond Rhythm’, until November 10 at Showcase Gallery, Unit 35, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 379 0940).
Artist: Francesca Galliani.
Price of works: Dhs19,000 to Dhs45,000.