Giovanni Canclini on “Desert Essentials”
Surrounded by nothing but sand, dirt, and heat, the desert is not the ideal location for most tourists and photographers. The extreme heat and dryness of the desert are usually what turns people off from visiting, as it can reach over 100 degrees in the daytime and in the negatives at night. But it has a certain majestic and serene quality that can lend itself to really unique pictures. Giovanni Canclini captured the beautiful desert landscape from various locations in his series ‘Desert Essential’ while facing the challenges he’d never experienced before.
Born in 1982, at a village in the middle of the Italian Alps called Bormio. Giovanni Canclini’s career path has evolved from a professional ski instructor while studying Economics at the university, to opening his own restaurant and working as a chef there. These days he feels photography is his new passion and what he calls “a game changer to my life”. When asked about careers he said he preferred to talk about his passions and how all his passions have somehow merged together over time to something new.
“When I’m in the kitchen I have this need all the time to transform what’s in front of me, as a ski instructor surrounded in beautiful alpine landscape I have to understand people feelings and fears, as photographer I take picture of what I am. Everything that’s ‘less’ in a picture allows the viewer more fantasy and freedom of interpretation because everyone understands images and words in different ways. As an example, if I think about the word ‘home,’ I imagine my home in a mountain village where I grew up. Someone from New York imagines his ‘home’ completely different from me.”
How did you get into photography?
“I started snapping pics in 2011 with a Canon DSLR and slowly started to grow more and more passionate about shooting. The Great American landscape was a great help to me as I took my first pictures in some of the most beautiful lands of United States like the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, The Badlands, Painted Hills, Oregon Coast, Devil’s Tower and The Great Sand’s Dunes.
I’ve continued traveling during my off time, learning basic techniques and starting to connect those techniques to how to get the images I want. Now I’m shooting with a full frame Canon 5d Mark 2.”
In the series Desert Essential, which desert did you go shoot and what challenges did you face working on that project?
“Those pictures were taken in the Namib Desert and some were also taken in “Altyn Emel”, a national park in Kazhakstan. I shot the desert for about two weeks the first time I traveled Namibia in 2015, and two days in “Altyn Emel” in 2016. Also other two weeks in Namibia during 2017.
The most challenging desert was the “Altyn Emel” one due to the lack of road information and infrastructure to get there, but I think after I camped for 18 days in the middle of nothing in the stunning Siberian “Ergaki” National Park, nothing else can compare to that experience and nothing is and was as challenging as that experience. Siberia can really change people.”
Wow you camped there! How did you navigate in the desert? What was the weather and temperature like when you were there shooting?
“I was used to travel with a friend of mine until 2014, after I’ve meet my wife and I started traveling with her. She also like desert and should be nice to see all the 51 deserts in the world. Another chapter is Siberia, I travelled there for the last time with my friend camping with the help of a shaman woman in Ergaki National Park. Ergaki is settled in the middle between Krasnoyarsk region, Mongolia and Kazakhstan in Altaj Mountain range, one of the most wild place in the world. Nature there is not like in Disney Picture, it is forbidding and adverse, every step was dangerous and far away from any kind of civilization.
Without a proper guide you get lost or maybe attacked by a Siberian brown bear, backpack are heavy as hell (around 40kg)… but is fascinating like anything else in the world, pristine and pure, a walk with your limits and your soul. We really pushed our limits, I lost 10 kg in 18 days, and we understood what was night and the feeling of darkness after sunset and how you feel alone and scared in the middle of nothing.
We woke up early before sunrise for taking picture and waiting for the sun warming our face and refueling our hearth. We arrived in summer with 35 degrees and just after 14 days we get in winter leaving Ergaki with snow and a freezing temperature of -14 degrees, we had just four days of autumn and weather gone really crazy so quickly, never seen something similar, and I live in the middle of alps. I miss Ergaki so much…”
Is there a photographer that inspires you and your work? And are you a self-taught photographer?
“I am mainly inspired by the works of Franco Fontana, whom I consider the greatest Italian landscape photographer.
Yes I am a self-taught photographer but, I have written a lot of books and I have studied a lot historical art at school and by myself. I’m fascinated about the tightness between different artist and they own view, for example
I love the differences between Caravaggio (love it so much) and Guido Reni, the first who focused on the real and human, the second focused on beauties and elegance. I love Caravaggio because we can consider him the first real photographer, he is a painter and doesn’t use a dark room, I knows, but is the first that paints the reality around him preferring drunken and poor people instead angels.”
So would say you’re a landscape photographer mostly? What is it about landscape photography that interests you the most, is it the openness, the lack of people, or colors that attract you?
“I mostly consider myself a landscape photographer, but it’s just an excuse that helps me work over the connection His signs and meaning. If in the future I will need another way to explore this connection I’m going to explore that and use it.
Taking photos of “minimal” landscape with no people and subjects helps me to explore in deep sign and meaning, this helps with any confusion a viewer might have when viewing my work. It’s straightforward but can also be deep.”