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Taking Photos – Making Photos

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Photographer, photojournalist, movie maker, and artist: beginning July ninth, the range of his oeuvre will probably be revealed within the exhibition Taking Photos – Making Photos. Alberto Venzago is amongst Switzerland’s nice photographers. Despite the fact that he now lives again in Zurich, he has been a globetrotter for many of his life. He has lived on numerous continents, with restlessness being the every day norm for a few years.

Venzago got down to change the world together with his Leica. Whether or not photographing the Yakuza in Japan, revolution in Iran, youngster prostitution in Manila, voodoo in Africa or portraits of celebrities in Zurich, Venzago switched effortlessly between totally different fields of the medium. Over the various a long time of his profession, his photographic cosmos has included reportage, documentary, industrial and staged work, in addition to movie. We spoke with him about his work and his life.

It’s, the truth is, wonderful that that is the primary time {that a} complete retrospective of your work is on show…
Sure; though I don’t just like the phrase “retrospective” a lot – it sounds an excessive amount of like step one in the direction of an obituary.

However why has it taken so lengthy on your life’s work to be granted this huge exhibition?
I all the time spent my time trying ahead. I by no means had time to look in my archives and undergo the negatives and slides. The following challenge was all the time extra essential. In truth, I used to be all the time on the transfer. I lived in Australia for 2 years and Tokyo for 5; practically ten in New York Metropolis. I returned to Africa, repeatedly. I made movies. Switzerland all the time figured as an island the place I might recuperate from the world. And now, ultimately, I’ve had the time to have a look at the whole lot once more, to organise and digitise my work. Because of the journey restrictions imposed by covid, and an extended yr of labor, the whole lot is now practically prepared. Sitting in entrance of all the photographs, the thought of constructing a e book once more emerged – a e book that may be extra like a kaleidoscope, made up of all of the items of my work. After which, in a really synchronistic method, I used to be approached by the museum – I can solely as soon as once more thank the voodoo gods for that.

You’ve got taken lots of of 1000’s of images. The choice for the exhibition and accompanying catalogue exhibits your extra essential topics; but additionally consists of many photos unpublished as but. Can you continue to keep in mind the very first image you took?
I used to be all the time an autodidact. I started to slowly really feel my method into it, after I was fifteen. I photographed the women within the neighbourhood. Later I took photos of bands. My first fee was for the Swiss youth journal Pop, which was much like Bravo in Germany. I used to be completely focussed on Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Stones; I used to be completely fascinated by that way of life. I skilled the facility of pictures; it grew to become a door opener to the world. And I had entry to the musicians, as a result of they realised that I understood one thing about music.

Nevertheless, your life had revolved round classical music as much as that time…
Sure, I grew up in a musical household. My Italian father was an architect and my mom got here from a German household of actors and artists. My father was enthusiastic about enjoying violin, and we carried out as a trio, with my two yr older brother Mario on the piano. I performed clarinet and studied on the conservatory. Nevertheless, a bike accident put an finish to my profession. I needed to rethink the whole lot, which I now take into account a stroke of excellent luck. My brother grew to become a conductor. My movies are about music; I’ve accompanied many orchestras, in addition to my brother. Consequently, I’m able to transfer between each worlds, which all the time delights me. To this present day, music is likely one of the nice driving forces in my life.

What occurred together with your pictures after the accident?
It was very late after I really began to take pictures significantly. It was solely after I emigrated, as a result of I didn’t need to go to the navy service; and likewise to not jail. I used to be first in Australia; then I went to Japan, passing by means of Timor and Bali. I step by step realised that pictures was greater than a interest. I grew to become extra severe, dedicated, and my life as a “involved photographer” started.

Which reportage from that period is most essential to you?
The Iran reportage was very impactful. That was the place I recognised my signature for the primary time. I wished to do a narrative in regards to the Islamic Revolution, from the angle of these affected, fairly than that of the Western media. The chance was monumental; however then, I gained the ICP Infinity Award and have become a Magnum nominee.

With a Leica?
Sure. I purchased my first Leica shortly earlier than my time with Magnum Photographs. In a while, the Leica M6 was to develop into my working instrument. I like Leicas. They’re small, sturdy, and the lenses are sensible. These days, I all the time have a Q2 available; earlier on, it was the M6.

Certainly one of your finest recognized sequence, which you photographed with the M6, is the excellent reportage on the Japanese mafia – the Yakuza. How did you handle to realize the group’s belief?
I used to be all the time fascinated by darkness; and in Tokyo I noticed these darkish Mercedes limousines. Then there have been the gangsters, who appeared like one thing out of an American movie from the fifties. I established the primary contact after six months. I labored on the sequence for over 5 years. On the time, I used to be the one photographer to get so near the Yakuza – a hippie from Switzerland, nothing much less. A Japanese particular person wouldn’t have been ready to do this; however, as a foreigner, I used to be in a position to. Generally, a thousand members met in a room or attended a funeral, when the varied clans got here collectively, I used to be all the time the one non-Japanese particular person there. They preferred me. I had lengthy hair and all the time had fairly women with me. I used to be, fairly merely, totally different. Possibly fairly like a canine on a lead, who’s allowed to be all over the place; so shut that they not paid me any consideration. With the Leica, taking discrete images was by no means an issue.

Did the Yakuza need to see the photographs, or get copies themselves?
I all the time introduced photos with me; one thing I in any other case by no means do. They had been stunning silver-gelatin prints that I had made in a laboratory in Paris. However they by no means went over nicely. It was solely after I photographed the Yakuza in large-format and studio lighting that they had been happy. That’s the way in which they preferred to see themselves.

How did the change come about, shifting from photojournalism to free work; from “image taking” to “image making”?
There was nothing however this stressed life. Inns; by no means having time to linger anyplace. I wished to alter the world by means of my photos; at occasions wishing my M6 was a loaded Colt, after I photographed probably the most horrible issues. However usually nobody printed them. I got here to know “C’est pas un picture juste – ce juste une picture” (It’s not a simply image – it’s only a image). So then I appeared for my very own topics.

You additionally had nice success as a industrial photographer.
Promoting allowed me to finance the massive reportages. That was nice, to be paid 100 occasions higher for ads, which appeared like photojournalism on the time. I all the time knew it was only a means to an finish; by no means the aim of life. The key was to not let your self be seduced; to not develop into a slave to your personal creativity.

Do you might have a photographic want that you’ve but to fulfil?
Oh, that’s troublesome; I don’t know. There are nonetheless so many concepts…

Nicely, to begin with we now have your work within the exhibition and {the catalogue}. Many thanks on your time.

Alberto Venzago was born in Zurich on February 10, 1950. After finding out Remedial Schooling and Clarinet, he grew to become a self-taught photographer in his mid-twenties. He loved speedy success, shifting effortlessly between industrial pictures, photojournalistic documentary and free creative work. His quite a few photograph books embrace YAKUZA, Inside Report in regards to the Japanese Mafia (1990); and Voodoo: Mounted by the Gods (2003), which complemented his movie of the identical title. He made numerous movies, together with Mythos Gotthard: Der letzte Streckenwärter (The Gotthard Fable: The Final Monitor Warden) (2008) and Mein Bruder der Dirigent (My Brother the Conductor) (2007). He was a cameraman on a lot of documentary movies, akin to Wim Wenders’ Invisibles: Congo (2007), and Jagdzeit – Den Walfängern auf der Spur (Searching Season – on the Path of the Whalers) (2009). His most up-to-date giant photograph challenge titled One – Seduced by the Darkness was produced together with his companion and muse, Julia Fokina. Discover out extra about his pictures on his web site and Instagram account.

A portfolio in LFI 4/2021 presents perception into the photographer’s oeuvre.

Leica M

The Leica. Yesterday. In the present day. Tomorrow.



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