Piero Serra: “The Quiet Interface” and “Serra Upon Kingston”
Could you introduce yourself a little bit? Where you are from, where you currently reside at, and what you do as an occupation?
“I’m half Italian and half English, born in England and currently residing in Kingston in south west London. I studied architecture at university and have done it as a job for 15 years. These days I am setting up my own design studio incorporating architecture and product design, another passion of mine – I make amplifiers, turntables, and speakers for hi-fi.
I studied film photography briefly at college back in the early 1990s. Then later at architecture school, I continued to develop my own black and white photos on occasion, although I was more inclined to color film using my little Olympus XA (which was, sadly, accidentally left on a tube train in 2001 and never seen again). I actually lived without a camera at all until about 2011 when I bought a cheap digital camera and realized I enjoyed taking pictures again. I bought myself a digital SLR soon after.”
That’s so unfortunate about your lost camera. Well glad you took up photography again. Now in “The Quiet Interface” series, when was this shot? How long have you been watching it grow?
“The Quiet Interface is a series of photographs taken during the summer here in the UK. The original intention was to document my local environment by taking photographs at around midday when the sun is high and the light harsh. I was getting a bit tired of seeing and hearing about only sunset and sunrise landscape shots in magazines and on social media and Youtube. It almost seems to be frowned upon to make landscape photos when the sun is out, especially in the summer when there are no autumn colors or wintry melancholia – this was my reaction against all of that!
The more photographs I took at this time of day, the more I realized I was being drawn to junctions between the built environment (and construction) and the parks and meadows around here; I think it had something to do with the strong greens, blues, and greys working together.
I don’t really want to be too explicit about what the individual photographs are showing or where they were taken as it’s not actually very interesting, even when it’s not obvious; I think the images speak best for themselves as far as that goes.”
I love the photo aesthetic and am curious about the photos actually. Like the one with the deer in it. How did you happen to get that shot, was it just pure luck?
“Deer are quite common around here. When I took that photo I was mainly looking at the truck which was thundering past but I didn’t think it would make a particularly interesting image. When I saw it later however, I thought it had something, with the powerful red of the truck and the quietly fleeing animal. None of the images are manipulated in Photoshop although I do use Lightroom to change tones and colour balance.
I like de-saturated images, maybe emphasizing certain colours very slightly. For example, I generally prefer an orangey red next to green grass, rather than a deep red, so I altered the truck’s red colour balance towards orange.”
In “Serra Upon Kingston”, there’s a photo of what appears to be a park with benches, where was that shot at? There’s an almost surreal look to it, the size of the chairs and tree appear to not be proportioned.
“Yes, that shot was taken in the grounds of Hampton Court which is a 16th Century palace close to where I live. The day I took it was my 40th birthday, which was also the 500th anniversary of the building so I feel an affinity with the place! We were there for the anniversary celebrations and as we walked through one of the old rooms I saw the beautiful yew trees outside and just took the photo through the window glass.
The chairs do look really tiny – I hadn’t noticed that before – maybe that contributes to the strange atmosphere; that and the fact that the photo was taken through 16th Century glass. There’s a science fiction story I really like called “The Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw about a window with special glass that takes light many years to go through, so when you look out through the window you are looking into the past. Maybe that happened with that photo!?”
The book sounds like something I’d want to read. I’ll definitely check it out. Can you tell me more about the lake?
“The water in almost all those photographs is actually the River Thames. It flows past the end of our road; it’s one of my favorite things about this area. We are quite a few miles from the center of London here but the Thames starts near the city of Oxford (where it’s called The Isis), flows through here, into central London, and onto the estuary and the sea from there. On this part of the Thames, there are many boats and people rowing. I am actually planning a kayaking trip with the camera for next year but I’ve yet to come up with any more details!”
In one of the photos, there is one that appears to be debris or something. Can you clarify what that was and what you thought about it when you took the photo?
“That’s actually one of my favorite photographs I’ve ever taken and one of very few that I have on my wall. Two years ago there was quite a lot of flooding in Kingston and that boat was one of the casualties, although it wasn’t in good condition before the floods either. Before it finally sank it spent a few weeks half-submerged and full of water, and someone had put a sign in the window inside the boat saying: For Sale, May Have Water Damage.
Once it did sink it stayed underwater like that for a few weeks before it was removed. I was passing one day and the elegantly floating sticks, orange life ring and other debris just caught my eye. “
Thank you Piero for this interview and letting us learn more about you and your projects.
“I also learned a bit more about my own work by being asked to write about it, so thank you very much for showing some of my photographs on your lovely website.”