"Even playing ping-pong is a pretext for investigating a possible magical realism: I am interested in finding meanings and connections in everyday actions that refer to a symbolic reality."

How did you get into the world of art and photography?

I was lucky enough to be born into an artistic environment: my mother is a music teacher and my father has always drawn, painted, played music and photographed. My brother is into fantasy and video games. In this amazing mix was me. As a child I would randomly pick a volume from the bookshelf and stare for hours at paintings of classical nudes with a feeling of forbidden pleasure. Making art was natural, as was music, fundamental to my life. It is no accident that the titles of my photos are often song titles or lyrics that refer me to a specific atmosphere.

I only began to become familiar with the camera after university when I had the opportunity to work for the Carla Sozzani gallery as an in-house photographer. Later outside the strictly working sphere, I collaborated with independent cultural realities such as Macao, Standards and Buka. Here I photographed concerts and live shows, went backstage and was lucky enough to be close to artists I had always considered gods.

Which photographers and artists have influenced your imagery?

The artist who made me fall in love with contemporary art is Felipe Gonzales Torres with the work Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) where a mountain of colored candies piled on the gallery wall invited me to come closer. I remember that still with the candy wrapper clutched in my hands just picked from the pile, I was thunderstruck by the small caption explaining how the total weight of the candy 80kg, was the weight of Torres' partner at the time of his death from AIDS. At that moment love was materially inside my mouth, sweet and sticky.

Cinema also plays a key role in my work, in particular I mention two of my favorite films: fetish: Shin'ya Tsukamoto's A snake of June with its perfect images, the blue and water present throughout the film, the psychological play between the protagonist and the photographer; and 1984's Dune directed by David Lynch. Other sources of inspiration that have influenced my images come from the painting of Domenico Gnoli: his being a "classical painter" in a form of abstraction of reality, and from music, the sounds of the Cocteau Twins. In photography, the list is endless, but surely Japanese photography is my fundamental visual reference: from the masters Kenro Izu, Nobuyoshi Araki and Rinko Kawauchi, to the latest trends Maise Cousins, Juno Calypso and the uncanny Torbjorn Rodland.

Sara Scanderebech - MAGIA, Alla Carta n.17, 2021
Sara Scanderebech - MAGIA, Alla Carta n.17, 2021
Sara Scanderebech - Iceblink Luck, 2020
Sara Scanderebech - Iceblink Luck, 2020
What drives you toward new work? What interests you to investigate through your research as a photographer and visual artist?

Slicing vegetables, washing one's hair, caressing each other's bodies, and even playing ping-pong are the pretext for telling a possible magical realism: I am interested in finding meanings and connections in everyday actions that refer to a symbolic reality. The reality without magic in which we are often immersed does not interest me.

I am interested in investigating the intangible relationship between things, between people and between things and people; discovering the other world: drops of liquid on a marble surface. A microcosm of reflections and organic forms that become for a moment elements of another world, creating an interference in the material reality, pretendedly ordered and known.

Often I don't care per se about the subject I am photographing, it could be animate inanimate, ugly or beautiful, it doesn't matter at all, I just try to capture its ambiguity and the emotions it conveys to me. Something extremely familiar and simultaneously alien a bit like when you look closely at your toes.

Sara Scanderebech - Le planete sauvage, 2020
Sara Scanderebech - Le planete sauvage, 2020
Sara Scanderebech - Le planete sauvage, 2020
Sara Scanderebech - Le planete sauvage, 2020
Bagni and Le planete sauvage are your latest projects that reveal another vision of Salento, far from the common imagery of commercial and tourist visual stereotypes. How do you perceive the reality of your homeland? What suggestions did it convey to you so as to give life to these two works?

These are two photographic projects born out of a re-in love with my homeland. In fact, only recently have I been able to better understand its potential and I am almost moved when I feel that something is moving, especially artistically. In both I did not want a geographical reference to be clearly perceived but rather I was interested in conveying sensations that flood the five senses and that I myself for the first time in a long time was able to internalize and feel.

Everything here is physical and carnal: the slow and motionless passage of time, nature is aggressive is almost scary. The cracked red earth, the sharp stones, the thorns of prickly pears, agaves, asparagus plants, the thorns of urchins. Everything penetrates you and if you are lucky a little piece of her remains inside you forever. 

I tried to tell these feelings in La planète sauvage, taken in my garden and a few meters beyond my house in Torre Suda. Here I am interested in the perception of the place as an alien planet: a place that I have always had before my eyes and that, yet, hides such a complex microcosm that lives and transforms itself independently of the action of us humans with its rules, its architecture, its hierarchies. 

Even in Bagni, geographic location is not important. It is the intimate almost universal relationships that interest me and the details: the feeling of being a few steps from the sea without ever seeing it (the gashes between the rocks, the wave of hair, the shadow of the glass, a stone). Everything is one matter. Details of the same design.

What differences do you notice between your early days and today?

During my art studies, I hated photography. I did not conceive of it as a true art form, but only a mere technique of representing reality. I was interested in painting and was attracted to the installation forms of artworks. Kind of like video games: why play a soccer simulator when you could be a shamaness commanding volcanoes, throwing fireballs and leading her tribe through 25 planets in a planetary system you've never seen? (I'll offer a glass of primitive to the person who guesses the video game).

Later I realized that photography is also a way to create images and imagery, when I started comparing it to painting and drawing I found my key. I made choices, I had to abandon so many paths that I still like, but I think energies have to be focused on one goal to really succeed.

Sara Scanderebech - Abstract plants, 2020
Sara Scanderebech - Abstract plants, 2020 - courtesy the artist
Sara Scanderebech - Ping pong stories, 2020
Sara Scanderebech - Ping pong stories, 2020 - courtesy the artist
Sara Scanderebech - Microcosmos, 2020
Sara Scanderebech - Microcosmos, 2020 - courtesy the artist
The medium of photography is inextricably linked to two aspects: the aesthetic and the sociological-anthropological. How do these two components live in your research?

In both my personal projects and fashion editorial works, my aesthetic research is very much related to sociological and anthropological aspects. These aspects do not prevail one over the other but are connected and I think that through my photos I try to tell in an appealing and pop way something that is actually not so fascinating or interesting at a first glance.

La fotografia di moda infatti mi da questa possibilità di ricerca dove cerco di scegliere persone che conosco come modelli, così da avere la possibilità di andare a rintracciare quel  rapporto persone-oggetti di cui parlavo prima. Il nostro sistema visivo non è l’unico modo con cui possiamo vedere e per questo cerco di portare avanti attraverso la fotografia, un’indagine sugli infiniti livelli e connessioni tra immagini e significati del contemporaneo.

What are your future plans? Are you currently working on any new projects/works?

At the moment, in addition to collaborating with artists and stylists whom I respect a lot for different projects in the fashion sphere, I am curating the communication and bookshop section of Paradise the Marsèll concept store in Milan. As for personal projects I am currently working on a series of shots on the theme of self-pleasure, an idea born after participating in the Savage exhibition curated by Jacopo Miliani at Otto Zoo. I would like in the future to teach I would like to analyze and develop the use of social media in the art world.

Sara Scanderebech - Marsell, digital campaign, 2020
Sara Scanderebech - Marsell, digital campaign, 2020 - courtesy the artist
Sara Scanderebech - MAGIA, Alla Carta n.17, 2021
Sara Scanderebech - MAGIA, Alla Carta n.17, 2021 - courtesy the artist
written by 

Sara Scanderebech was born in Nardò, Salento, Italy. She moved to Milan to attend the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. After graduating in Visual Arts, she worked as a photographer for the Carla Sozzani Gallery. She is currently active as a digital curator and content creator for a fashion brand. In 2019, she was the official photographer of the German Pavilion during the Venice Biennale and exhibited at the Otto Zoo Gallery in Milan in the group show Savage.
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