Settled into the grey couch in the room where we prepped to discuss her creativity, the power of the sun, casting through the large east-facing windows, was beginning to fade, allowing for the evening to come into its own.
But even the dimness of the daylight could not overshadow the glow that emanated as Emma Fiacchini sparked up to share her creative journey. We talked about her passion for photography and the creative process that drives it. For every word she uttered, I took note so I don’t miss a thing in her story to be shared.
Introducing Emma Fiacchini
Emma Fiacchini traces the beginning of her love for photography to her early ages. Then, as a young girl, she would peruse her mother’s art books and draw inspiration. “Nobody in my family was interested in photography so, perhaps, my passion didn’t start at that time but those manuals made me realize the incredible power of an image, of the story that they tell, of its composition and colors,” she told me.
As she underwent her high school and university educations, the Italian did not lose sight of her passion for photography. Instead, she enrolled and took classes, first in her hometown, Arezzo, and then on to Florence. At 18, she was already taking up assistant roles for a number of photographers in her home country. Since then, her focus has been on learning about different techniques and styles of photography.
In 2018, the 23 years old had her work exhibited at the Biennale Arezzo & Fotografia where she connected with a German photographer from Berlin that offered her the opportunity to assist him on a project in Italy, and a subsequent internship in Berlin. In 2020, at the height of the covid pandemic, she followed her dream and moved to Berlin to start a new journey.
Emma the Photographer
What type of photographer would you identify yourself as? Your technique, style, etc?
This is a question that is very difficult for me to answer. Probably the most honest would be that, as in my personal life, at work, I don’t like putting myself in a box. I believe that the key to learning more, in every context, is to stay open.
Having said that, I can strongly affirm that what makes me most happy with what I do is to tell stories. I know it may sound like a cliché but building a narrative path through frozen images is like achieving the impossible. And having access to an otherwise unknown story is a gift.
In order to do that, I use different techniques. Sometimes I have a cinematic eye and approach in terms of composition, colors, and light. Other times I like working on a specific aesthetic, based on the person I have in front of me.
You talked about the subconscious contrast of green and red in your style…
I am very attracted to color contrasts in photography. I think they bring out an intense range of emotions that have a predominant role in the narration of the image and give it specific connotations. I find the contrast between red and green the most powerful one.
Often used in movies, I think it produces a sense of inner darkness and angst that I find very interesting. However, even photographs that show one color predominance are equally fascinating; focusing on a specific emotion and feeling linked to the color used.
Personally, in my style, I very often use chromatic predominances of red, green, or blue. I believe that those are the colors that represent strong feelings.
The image right above is one of my most recent pictures. I was coming back to Berlin with a friend and we stopped the car as soon as we saw this: an army of wind turbines standing on a thick layer of fog. In this case, for me, the predominance of blue creates this sense of darkness and insecurity and I honestly love it.
You did mention expressing your mood through “photographic emotions” instead of a selfie. What are some images that depict that?
Well, let’s say that some photographers use self-portraits to tell about themselves. For me, it’s always been
easier to show who I am through pictures that don’t physically show me. I am actually working on a project like this and, looking at the photos I’ve taken, I see myself in each one of them despite my physical absence in the pictures.
The concept is that we are many things and these things, people, landscapes, or whatever other small detail of our lives can show who we are. I was actually amazed by the fact that so many people who saw my project, without an introduction, understood that it was about me, that I was telling about myself.
However, that is not what I expect people to see. Actually, I always hope that every picture or project that I create speaks differently to different people. I always want them to see something in it without me saying what it is supposed to represent. Below is one of my “selfies”, part of the project that I mentioned above.
You wanted to be a war photographer, what changed?
Yes, when I was younger, I thought about becoming a war photo reporter. As I previously said, telling stories that others don’t have the opportunity to experience and see with their own eyes is an incredible privilege.
I thought that becoming a photographer operating in countries experiencing war was the only way to do it and I was wrong. There are so many stories that deserve attention and they just need to be discovered. Today I realize that, in the past, I couldn’t understand the real consequences of being a photo reporter that stays for long periods of time in war zones and I would not want to fully commit to that kind of job anyway.
I came to this conclusion, thanks to my current relationship with my girlfriend. I simply love her and I could not build a life with her while risking mine. That does not mean that I will never do a war photo reportage, it is an experience that I keep wanting to do but at the moment that would jeopardize my happiness and I have no desire to do it.
What is the most intimate photographic moment you’ve had with a model/subject?
It was with my grandfather. He passed away in 2019, after a long battle against cancer. In the days leading to his death, I remember I wanted to take some pictures. He was still feeling good and I wanted to have that memory of him like that. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to do that.
He passed away on December 8th. I was there in the room with him, silently I grabbed my camera and took
some pictures of him. After almost two years, I’m still grateful I didn’t stop myself. Those photos are the best gift that he has indirectly given me.
You have your next big gig, what’s your go-to photography gear?
Many flashcards. You never know how many pictures you are going to take or what kind of problem you could have with your memory card and unfortunately, I experienced how easy it is to find yourself in a bad situation if you don’t have enough.
Then, of course, my Nikon D3X or NikonD800 equipped with a 24-70mm 2.8, 80-200mm 2.8 and my beloved
50mm 1.8 for some nice portraits. Other than that I would need batteries, lights, a reflector, softboxes, tripods, and some additional small equipment based on the kind of work I’m expected to do.
Pick one country for a photoshoot session…
Definitely Iceland. I’d love to see nature, the vastness of the landscape, the colors. I have already the pictures in my mind!
And Emma the Human
You did mention, besides photography, you express your creativity through other mediums. Please throw more light
My mother has always loved painting and I simply wanted to be like her. I soon started drawing with her and reading her massive art books. This passion grew in me and I kept taking drawing and painting classes until I moved to Berlin.
In Italy, in the past, I was mostly devoted to traditional techniques, mainly, but a few years ago I started working on learning how to draw and paint digitally. Very recently I have started mixing painting and drawing (both digital and traditional) with my photographs.
Another part of my creative journey is connected to music. I have been playing guitar, singing, and writing music for some years now.
I honestly think that music saved my life several times, sometimes there is no thinking involved. I just detach my brain and play music and it’s the most relieving feeling I’ve ever experienced.
I have played with a band for a while back in Italy but since I moved to Berlin I started focusing more on my
own personal journey as a musician – writing my own songs. It’s crazy how sometimes I thought that drawing and making music would have distracted me from focusing on photography.
In some ways, it worked in the opposite way. Having other mediums to express myself other than photography allows me to never put too much pressure on it, and by doing this it never gets boring or suffocating.
And what is your biggest fear when juxtaposed with your ambitions and dreams?
I’m afraid of getting stuck. It happened to me in the past that I was unable to produce results because I felt this deep fear of failing. That really paralyzed me and almost sabotaged my work. It was a frustrating feeling and it stopped me from seeking new opportunities because I thought I wasn’t good enough to achieve certain results.
Obviously, I was not aware of the reason why I would behave that way but I understood it over the years, and once the problem became clear to me, I was able to work on it. It is one of those fears that, at the moment, I would describe as irrational, since it is not part of my reality anymore but the ghost of it sometimes still haunts me.
Which photographer and/or creative inspires you and drives you to carry on?
Honestly, I can’t tell you any particular name; that would be an incredibly long list. I’d just say all the creatives who throw themselves into this jungle and try hard to do what they enjoy. Ideology and ambition inspire me more than anything else. Even though, obviously, another type of inspiration comes from the art itself.
I think I’m inspired by some type of art that is not conventional, must be provocative in some ways. Also, I recently noticed that artists and directors influence my photography style and vision more than other
How was it like, moving to Berlin at the height of Covid?
Berlin has been my salvation, despite covid.
That said, I don’t deny that the pandemic was definitely debilitating. I moved here to have more photographic opportunities but, initially, I saw many closed doors. However, I continued to work, shifting my focus to post-production techniques and studio photography.
It has been the best choice I could have made. I didn’t let myself down and I acquired great skills and knowledge
and I could not imagine how helpful those turned out to be, in the following months when I started
to work again.
Having lived in Berlin for over a year now, what is the contrast between Italy and Germany for your creativity?
I would start by saying that Italy is a country that, although not large, shows profound differences at every level: So, I can’t probably speak for every person there and my experience is only mine. But what I can say is that Berlin definitely unlocked my inspiration.
Berlin, unlike my hometown and the area where I grew up, is open to constant artistic development, it encourages creativity itself and does not compulsively look at the past.
I am not just talking about photography. The mentality of the people here influences my work positively and I have never felt like this in Italy. The traditionalist and closed-minded culture of my country has suffocated me and consequently my creative output for years.
What do you imagine the post-covid world to look like for creatives, especially photographers?
Honestly, sometimes I try not to think about it (laugh). My fear is that it will be increasingly difficult to manage certain types of jobs and projects. This could impact many creatives, particularly if their work involves people.
In my case, it could affect the way I manage my photoshoots and my relationship with my clients. I usually like to meet them before taking the pictures, this allows both parties to get to know each other and consequently feel more comfortable during the photo shoot.
Many people do not imagine how even replacing this type of human interaction with a phone call can affect my job. In some cases, it’s so important to establish a relationship with some people before taking pictures. Some of them open up about their lives and they need to trust me which is something that requires time, effort, and real interaction. I simply hope that the situation will partially go back to how it was.
For photographers on their way, like you, what piece of advice can you share with them?
Just don’t give up because of your background and the people around you. It’s definitely not always easy but in the end, nothing is. Pursuing our ambitions is a duty that we all have towards ourselves.
Surround yourself with different people that are willing to understand and support your journey and if you live in a context where you feel like you can’t express yourself there, leave. It could be hard or even not possible but if you have a chance don’t think too much, nothing is certain, trust your instinct, and don’t stop.
You are very lively about your relationship and how it makes you “very happy”.
Definitely, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been! I met Josie, my girlfriend, last May in Berlin and she literally is everything to me. She embodies the idea of that love that you don’t know exists until you find it.
She is a source of inspiration both for me as a person and for my work and she believes in who I am and
what I do completely. I could really say countless things about Josie and our relationship, she’s just incredible in every way, and sharing every day with her makes me learn more about myself. I’m extremely grateful for having her in my life.
Interviewer: Emmanuel Ibok
Graphics Producer: Mu’azu Jiyah