Luigi Fieni

Luigi Fieni

Nationality: Italy
 

Artist's Statement:

Representing the deceiving beauty of nature in a photograph is a way for me to understand how we are actually part of a much wider concept of life. Chasing those moments where beauty gets manifested through the contemplation of the world surrounding us, binds me inexorably with mother earth. It does it to the point that I am not a spectator anymore, rather I become part of it. The beauty lying in the deafening silence of the wind while witnessing the bliss of nature goes beyond what my own eyes can see.

I never had a proper mentor but the books of my favorite photographers. Toscani’s subversity, Koudelka’s intensity, Salgado’s emotions, Fontana’s abstractionism and Ansel Adams’ technique. The artworks of Schiele, Munch and Klimt were a strong source of influence as well. The emotions they could transfer in their photographs and paintings were a testament to me that images should not just represent reality but feed any observer with feelings.

Hence, I believe that fixing the moment of a landscape in a shot is just a spark starting up a fire of emotions. That moment of nature turns into a moment of myself. Each photograph captures my thoughts and feelings drawn within the lines of nature. They blend. In that very moment, they live as one. My work is about chasing those moments where our inner energy gets manifested through the contemplation of the world surrounding us. It is about being in touch with mother earth, being in touch through her, merge with her. It is by far an attempt to represent reality, rather the representation of feelings nurtured through the reflection of our inner landscape when in contact with nature.

Bio:

Luigi Fieni has photographed landscapes, culture, and the artistic cultural heritage of the Himalaya 1999, while working as a conservator of Tibetan art for a project funded by The American Himalayan Foundation.

As his background is mostly painting, his work is constantly trying to merge photography with painting, experimenting on movement, blur and emotions, trying to produce photographs that are as pictorial as possible.

Fieni never had a proper mentor but the books of his favorite photographers. Toscani’s subversity, Koudelka’s intensity, Salgado’s emotions, Fontana’s abstractionism and Ansel Adams’ technique. The art of Schiele, Munch, Klimt and the whole impressionism movement were a strong source of influence as well.

His photographs are featured in books and magazines worldwide like ‘Himalaya: personal stories of grandeur, challenge and hope’ (National Geographic, 2006) and ‘Wonders of Lo: The artistic Heritage of Mustang’ (Marg, 2009) to mention a few. Solo and collective exhibitions have been held in America, Europe and Asia, and his work is part of private collections worldwide, counting prominent venues such as The Manggha Museum (Krakow, Poland) and The Contemporary Art Collection of the Vatican Museums (Vatican City).

Several of his photographs have been nominated in international photography contests, including a second place in the Annual Photo Awards 2014, 2 silver places in the One EyeLand Photography Awards 2014, the selection for the Prize Voies Off 2013, the Black and White Spider Awards, a Honorable Mention in the 7th Photography Masters Cup and a bronze in the One EyeLand Photography Awards 2013.

As a photographer, Fieni has collaborated with The National Geographic Society, The North Face, The Getty Images, The Mill Valley Film Group, Skydoor Productions, The American Himalayan Foundation, The Kham Aid Foundation, HPRC and Bauer Media.

Born in Italy in 1973, Luigi Fieni studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Rome "La Sapienza", and then conservation of mural paintings at the "Ars Labor Conservation Institute" in Rome. He started his career as an art conservator in 1999, assisting in a prestigious conservation project in the Himalaya. He then became the lead conservator and worked mainly in Nepal, Bhutan, and China, restoring ancient Buddhist art and training local people to preserve their own cultural heritage.

His work as a conservator of Tibetan art and his projects appeared in many major newspapers and magazines worldwide, including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, The National Geographic Magazine, and Geo Magazine.

He also appeared in several documentaries including Lost treasures of Tibet (Nova, 2003), Mustang: Journey of Transformation (Mill Valley Film Group, 2008), Lost Caves Temples (National Geographic, 2009), Secrets of Shangri-La: Quest for Sacred Caves (National Geographic, 2009), Royames Interdites (RTS Switzerland, 2012), Les Chemins du Silence (RTS Switzerland, 2012), Mustang - Das Tor Zum Himmel im Himalaya (3Sat Germany, 2013), Mustang, El Último Reino Perdido (Es Docu, 2014), Mustang: Le Royaume Des Peintres Paysans (Via Découvertes, 2015).

Currently he is represented by The Art of Wild Gallery (Germany), PhotoEye Gallery (Santa Fe, USA), Streaming Art (The Hague, The Netherlands) and Pandora Gallery (Bangkok, Thailand). He works as a photographer, for Getty Images and The American Himalayan Foundation, and he devotes his time to photography, to painting and to the preservation of the Tibetan culture.

Interview:

1. WICH IS THE CENTRAL QUESTION IN YOUR LIFE AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?
Do I manage to make you feel what I felt the moment I took that particular photo?

2. WHO ARE THE PHOTOGRAPHERS / OR OTHER ARTISTS THAT INSPIRE YOU?
Toscani’s subversity, Koudelka’s intensity, Salgado’s emotions, Fontana’s abstractionism and Ansel Adams’ technique to mention a few. The list is much longer, there are plenty of photographers who have caught my attention to the point that I would like to have their eyes. In my list there are painters as well, Schiele, Mucha, Munch, Basquiat and Klimt to be more specific, the ones that I believe have mastered the most the art of communicating strong emotions through colors.

3. WHAT MAKES AN EXCELLENT PHOTOGRAPHER?
I believe the camera is a link between what we see and what we feel. When we are able to use that link flawlessly as if it would be an extension of our body then we turn emotions into images. That very mo-ment, as if enlightened, we become an excellent photographer.

4. WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT DECIDING TO BECOME A FULL-TIME PHOTOGRAPHER?
I’m actually still transitioning and I have to say that I like to stay in this Limbo. I’m a Gemini and by nature I need to do many activities at once. So I am an art conservator, I am a painter and I am a photographer. In this optic, the hardest part was and still is trying to find the time to follow up the projects I have in all these different fields. If I had to become a full-time photographer the hardest part would definitely be to manage and quit my other activities and stop myself from restoring works of art and painting.

5. WHAT MOTIVATES YOU IN YOUR WORK AND WHAT IS DEMOTIVATING?
I feel photography is communication; it is about sending a message. Essentially, it is about creating a message. The idea of using such a power through a photograph is either rewarding and motivating the very moment people actually understand your message. There are neither language barriers nor cultural gaps, yet you need to be willing to receive that message. My strongest motivation is definitely to find a way for my work to be as much universal as possible. On the other hand, what I find demotivating the most is probably the need to be able to sell yourself to be successful. I feel that spending so much time on social medias and contests trying to get the attention of the right people is a way to kill the artist all of us have inside. I often wish the art world would behave as in the renaissance when you could get a patron, if you were good of course, and stop worrying about the harshness of living thus focusing your energies only in the creative process.

6. WHAT ARE THE MOST PASSIONATE MOMENTS IN YOUR WORK?
I become passionate every time my equipment is set and I am ready to take the shot. In that moment I feel I’m in synchrony with mother earth, I feel I am part of the landscape, like a tiny pebble or a giant tree in symbiosis with what surrounds me in that precise moment. I feel the infinite as well. The Himalaya is so vast that you cannot appreciate in full what you have in front of your eyes. You simply get lost. The moment you are behind the viewfinder you realize that by isolating sections of the landscape there is beauty to be discovered. Then I am passionate through the journey to go in the field because I love riding horses and that is the most feasible way to roam the Himalaya. They give me a sense of freedom, and the journey to and from each location turns into discovery as well. There was this time when I had to wait quite a bit for the right light to come for my shot that my friends and I realized we were going to be home quite late. We sat on our horses as soon as I took the photo the way I had it in my mind, the sun was already behind the mountains and darkness was coming fast. We were only a couple of hours from the village when everything turned pitch black and all of us got worried.
We were in the middle of nowhere. Then the moon showed up. It was a full moon day and the amount of light coming from that planet after it raised above the eastern mountains was so strong that I could see my shade from the horse while galloping back home. I will never have words good enough to describe the sense of joy, happiness and accomplishment I had that full moon night horse ride.

7. WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES IN YOUR WORK?
The main challenge is definitely to reach each location and have the light and the weather conditions the way I like them to be. I know where most of the mountains I want to photograph are but they don’t usually have an easy access and it takes a good amount of scouting as well as trial and error looking for a path that will lead you to the right location. And then you hope that by the time you’re on the spot setting the tripod and the camera the weather hasn’t changed. You have to foresee the weather, a key factor in many of my photographs, and since there is no internet access up there you have to rely on your own experience. Some shots required days of traveling, scheduled in the months I knew it was most likely to have the weather conditions I wanted, yet I wasn’t sure I would have got the shot until I was actually there. Most of the time I travel by horse roaming far off the beaten path with my equipment, my water bottle and some friends because you never wander alone at high altitudes in unknown places. And you hope as well that your friends won’t bother spending hours or even a day watching the same mountain waiting for the right light to come.

8. HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR ARTISTRY?
I came across photography by chance. I was leading a wall painting conservation project in Mustang, Nepal, and I was required to provide high quality photographs of the advancement of the work. I then bought my first DSLR back in 2004 and used it at work and for leisure as well as to show friends and family where I was living. A couple of years later some of those first photos ended up in a National Geo-graphic book. That unexpected success pushed me to study photography thinking that photography could have been an unknown gift. Unfortunately, I had no time to do proper studies because I was in Mustang as art conservator at least six months a year and it would have not been possible to get any graduation anywhere. I had to find a different way to learn. In the art world of the renaissance when there were no art institutes or academies the only way to become and artist was to look and copy the work of the masters. And that’s what I did with photography. I bought books about the technique and about photographers that I would read by candle light before or after work in Mustang. Watching the masters’ works and trying to make something remotely similar was probably the best way to become a better photographer.

9. WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR PERSONAL LEARNING IN PHOTOGRAPHY THAT YOU WOULD CONVEY TO A "NOVICE"?
Learn the rules in order to know when and how to break them. If you’re too much focused on the tech-nique and its rules you will miss the soul of your subjects. Learn to know your own instinct.

10. WHICH ARE THE DRIVING FORCES FOR YOU PERSONALLY AND IN YOUR WORK?
The search for beauty is the main force. There is beauty everywhere and in every form. We just need to have our mind clear and wait for the right moment for beauty to manifest itself in front of our eyes. Feelings are a second source of driving forces and trying to depict them as images is probably the most challenging quest. And then there is stubbornness, because one way or another I want that my camera becomes the link between what I see and what I feel.

11. WHICH FEELINGS DETERMINE YOUR WORK WHEN OUT IN THE FIELD?
There is an overwhelming sense of calmness when out in the field. The emptiness of the Himalaya together with the sound and feel of the wind are constant mates of every journey I make as a photographer. There is silence and there is devotion when realizing how beautiful this planet can be in all its forms and the way they get manifested. There is reverence for how the impermanence of nature has been creating such natural works of art. There is bliss when acknowledging how time works its magic molding this planet in countless masterpieces day after day, month after month, year after year, century after century.

12. ON WHICH CRITERIA DO YOU JUDGE YOUR OWN WORK AS SUCCESSFUL?
I simply don’t. I’m very picky with my own shots and even if I like my photos the very first time I see them on my computer I always end up criticizing them later on because I could have framed them differently or even changed point of view or I could have just done better. But if I had to, I would judge my work as successful each and every time someone managed to feel emotions from the photos I took.

13. YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC WORK AND THE BEAUTY OF OUR PLANET, NATURE: WHAT CONNECTION DO YOU SEE?
I see myself just as a witness, waiting to catch through my lenses the moment when the elements and the way they interact restlessly with each other to create a work of art. I see myself as part of this creation trying to fix in a shot only a moment in time of this ephemeral beauty that is nature, constantly changing, never the same. I see myself as a container of emotions being revealed in different ways by the sight of nature: I try to link those emotions through photographing the beauty of our planet.

14. ASSUMING YOU WOULD HAVE 15 MINUTES ON A TV BROADCAST AND PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD COULD LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU WERE SAYING, WHAT WOULD BE THE CORE OF YOUR MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE?
There is beauty on this planet manifested in any thinkable form and in many incredibly different ways. It takes just the time to actually stop and gaze at it to realize it’s there. There is beauty in diversity as all landscapes show us a different and distinctive concept of beautiful in every country we visit. By comparison, I see this beauty in diversity in all the different cultures worldwide as well and if we would all spend some time staring at them to uncover their own unique beauty rather than fearing or fighting them there will definitely be more respect on this planet, a better world for sure. The different wonders of nature do not fight with each other; they just coexist. So why are our different cultures not able to do the same?


At Work:

»I feel photography is communication; it is about sending a message. Essentially, it is about creating a message. The idea of using such a power through a photograph is either rewarding and motivating the very moment people actually understand your message. There are neither language barriers nor cultural gaps, yet you need to be willing to receive that message. My strongest motivation is definitely to find a way for my work to be as much universal as possible. On the other hand, what I find demotivating the most is probably the need to be able to sell yourself to be successful. I feel that spending so much time on social medias and contests trying to get the attention of the right people is a way to kill the artist all of us have inside. I often wish the art world would behave as in the renaissance when you could get a patron, if you were good of course, and stop worrying about the harshness of living thus focusing your energies only in the creative process.«






Awards:

2016 | Honorable mention in Nature Landscapes @ the IPA 2016 (International Photography Awards) with the portfolio “Tears of Stone"
2016 | 2 Gold Awards in Open Nature/Landscapes @ the Epson International Pano Awards 2016 with the photos Soul Steps II and Soul Steps IV
2016 | 2 Silver Awards in Open Nature/Landscapes @ the Epson International Pano Awards 2016 with the photos Soul Steps I and Soul Steps VIII
2016 | 1 Bronze Award in Open Nature/Landscapes @ the Epson International Pano Awards 2016 with the photo Soul Steps V
2015 | Monochrome Awards, Krakow, Poland
Honorable mention in Landscapes + Finalist nominee with 1 photo
2015 | International Color Awards, Beverly Hills, USA
Finalist Nominee with 2 photos
2015 | Photo Annual Awards, Prague, Czech Republic
Honorable Mention in Oceans
2014 | The B&W Spider Awards, London, UK
Finalist Nominee with 1 photo
2014 | International Photography Awards, Los Angeles, USA
Honorable Mention in Fine Art
2014 | International Photography Awards, Los Angeles, USA
Honorable Mention in Nature
2014 | International Color Awards, Beverly Hills, USA
Finalist Nominee with 1 photo
2014 | One EyeLand, Chennai, India
Silver in Fine Art
2014 | One EyeLand, Chennai, India
Silver in Nature
2014 | Photo Annual Awards, Prague, Czech Republic
2nd place in Oceans Series
2013 | Photography Masters Cup, Beverly Hills, USA
Finalist Nominee with 2 photos
2013 | One EyeLand, Chennai, India
Bronze in Nature
2013 | Voies Off, Arles, France
Selection Prix Voies Off
2013 | The B&W Spider Awards, London, UK
Finalist Nominee with 2 photos
2012 | Photography Masters Cup, Beverly Hills, USA
Honorable Mention + Finalist Nominee with 2 photos
2012 | Wien International Portfolio Review, Wien, Austria
Special mention to the portfolio Soul Steps by Fotografia Magazine
2012 | The B&W Spider Awards, London, UK
Finalist Nominee with 3 photos
2011 | Photography Masters Cup, Beverly Hills, USA
Finalist Nominee with 4 photos
2011 | The B&W Spider Awards, London, UK
Finalist Nominee with 1 photo
2010 | The B&W Spider Awards, London, UK
Finalist Nominee with 1 photo


Project: Transformations

The way wind and clouds could change the atmosphere of a place by shaping it the way an artist does it trying to paint his emotions on a canvas always amazed me. I imagined these moulding clouds as ephemeral brushstrokes shaping nature the way life shapes us human beings. A relentless transformation, a consequence of overwhelming events, our own emotions’ mirror. I imagined these moulding clouds as a symbiosis of mankind with nature as well, two elements living over one another, the outcome of a perpetual struggle.

I was looking for high contrast scenes to better emphasize this idea of transformation: the deepest blacks merging with the brightest whites had to communicate the sense of merging as well as the feeling of symbiosis. Colors and all the nuances of their transitions were as important as the composition, both of which had to give a sense of brawl as I believe all transformations are.

The idea for this portfolio came during one of my long stays on the Himalaya while experiencing a sense of transformation only by watching the scenery in front of myself. I then decided to put that sensation into a series of photographs. Planning each shot required a lot of time and a considerable amount of horse riding on the Himalayan trails of Mustang, patiently waiting for the clouds to melt with the mountains, patiently waiting for witnessing this feeling of transformation. I don’t consider this portfolio a finished project yet, so I will definitely be looking for more of those moments to be captured.

Project: The space between

In the years I have lived in the Himalaya, I have always felt part of the landscape. It was a strange thing though to realize that, intellectually, I was just a viewer of this majesty of nature, not truly within it. The link I feel with it is unreal, timeless. Whenever I sit and contemplate what lays in front of my eyes, calmness overcomes me and the wind is the only element connecting me to the mountains. I feel like a pebble, part of the scenery. Yet something remains separating me from her, a void I sense but can’t grasp, a space between. I turned my feelings of emptiness and isolation into photographs and The Space Between came to life.

It is a portfolio of images of the shadows that tie us to mother earth. Real but ungraspable. Each photograph creates a space where reality blends with illusion through the unreal beauty of nature’s patterns, her abstract works. That space where reality blends with illusion embodies a distressful feeling of emptiness induced by the dualism of connection and separation these mountains inspire. That space where reality mingles between the authenticity of a landscape and mere imagination. The interaction of time and the four elements with nature merges into an imperceptible space, separating us from mother earth, unable to physically feel her. It becomes the thin line separating us from becoming part of the landscape itself. It is the space between us and nature.

All my landscape images explore the relationship between human beings and mother earth. This body of work rests in that place in between me and her, the link between me and the landscape, visible but too ethereal to grasp. The photographs were taken to arouse an unsettling mood, seeing them and questioning their reality: their sense of distance and proximity, a challenge to touch the untouchable.

Their aesthetic is focused on natural patterns, organised in a balanced chaos, using the colours of the mountains to create a natural abstract work of art. To achieve this, there had to be no sunlight, no direct shades and no sky: every photograph needed to disorient the scale of the mountains and their distance. I knew exactly where to go but I needed the right season when the mountains show off their strongest colours. This happens during the monsoon when the rains enhance every colour the mountains are made of. It was challenging to reach each location during or just after the rain - trekking on foot or by horse on slippery trails was not the safest thing to do on the Himalaya. I haven’t had the time and the means to reach all the locations I wanted to photograph so there definitely will be more to be added to this body of work.

This body of work has been produced exclusively for The Art of Wild Gallery.