Surrealist photography represents portions of a subjective reality: wrong perspectives, freedom from aesthetic rules, manipulation of shots and photomontages today find a new expression through social media.
In the digital era where the use of post-production and editing software is increasingly evident and at the center of debates, we celebrate the return of surrealism in photography with an interview to Elia Pellegrini.
22 years old, creative and with very clear stylistic ideas, @eliapelle tells us about his passion for cinema and surrealist photography.
Who is Elia?
I have always been passionate about art since I was a child.
In particular, I approached the world of photography because I was fascinated by how such a small machine could capture single moments of time. I started taking the first photographs from an early age and the same thing for drawing.
My family comes from an artistic world: my mother went to the academy, so she passed the more technical part to me, while my father is self-taught and a bit more surrealist. Perhaps in this I took more from him, the craziest and let’s say “visionary” part.
I have always been attracted to the world of science so I had the idea of matching my passion and my art first with 3D graphics and then through photography.
I worked for an advertising agency that allowed me to acquire many specific and technical skills but helped me understand how much my true passion was the world of cinema.
The idea of being able to create surreal, crazy and creative things has always fascinated me. At the time I imagined doing, I don’t know, dragons for Game of Thrones (laughs ed).
After few months, the CEO of Star Engineering, the largest Ferrari customer in Maranello, contacted me and I started working for the automotive sector for a couple of months.
In all this, I never abandoned my social profile and, through one of the models I collaborated with, I came into contact with Lorenzo, with whom we launched into various projects including blhuecreative.com.
You told us what your video-photographic career was born, but where did your passion for photography come from and how did you understand that portraits are the form of expression you prefer?
Let’s say that the passion for portraiture has a particular history.
As a child I photographed anything, really, I’ll have 4000 photographs of clouds (laughs ed).
I also liked analyzing the photos I took. I think I did it because I liked seeing things from different perspectives.
This way to see the reality has evolved into photography of people, since I started photographing an ex-girlfriend of mine in Milan: there I started taking portraits and I started experimenting surreal shots.
It was more like a study to understand what I wanted to do.
With the photos I take now I want to represent dream stories and scenarios that are not easily accessible by anyone.
I would like to show less visible things that are an inspiration to a particular film or pure fantasy.
After that my photography style has changed from portrait to spacious photography, through which I try to tell a story and convey something.
What I would like to do is differentiate myself and leave something to people and I believe that combining my technical skills with 3D graphics and photography is the compromise I was looking for and I think I am pursuing that.
You said you are a film and photography enthusiast, there are great photographers you are inspired by and what are the lessons they left you?
No one in particular. At first Alessio Albi did a type of photography that I like, then over time he limited himself to studio photography.
In terms of cinema I have always been inspired by science fiction because what I am looking for is a sort of “visual bomb”.
In particular I think of “Arrival” and “Approaching the Unknown”.
These films help me create stories behind my shoots so that they are not limited to the “still” single photo. There is always something deep and intense behind it that makes people reflect on the various arguments.
Now you dedicate yourself to what we can define surrealist or science fiction portraits and which conceal a story to tell, a storytelling through the set portrait. What are the details that make the difference in a photo and what are the elements you pay more attention to when you shoot?
In my opinion, color and light management are the main elements to consider.
My way of doing photography is quite impulsive. I’m not someone who takes care of the details but rather let’s say “the soul” of a photo.
There are people who spend months editing and thinking about photographs, I try to communicate something more general.
“My” detail for me is in the light. That single beam that changes everything in the photo, that single reflection in the eye, face or hair that expresses something that is perhaps imperceptible.
When I shoot it’s all very unpredictable. I can’t stand taking well-constructed shots where everything is organized and if I try it never ends well: every time it turns out that I have to adapt and this is always a challenge for me.
It makes you smile how many unforeseen events always happen with me, but this gives that extra touch of the unexpected to my photographs.
As concerns portraits of people, I call it a “compromise factor” because it is what people like and what people want.
Is there a message that you try to convey with your shots?
The main message is to create and experiment more and more which is what I try to express.
My shootings have very different themes ranging from science fiction to surreal landscapes. What I try to convey is to be original, have your own style and play with light.
People tell me that my style is characterized by how to use the lens according to the light source.
What I would like to communicate is that when taking pictures you have to appreciate every light source. Try to build stories of which this is the protagonist.
For me the keywords are light and time: never stop and continue to create so as not to remain static.
Is there a photograph you are particularly attached to?
I take many pics.
The first that comes to mind is that of the girl with the astronaut helmet hugging the guy in the shirt at the beach.
Actually even one of the last shootings I did: it summarizes a lot about me and what it represents me, that is this kind of transcendental and original world that characterizes many of my shots.
When people think of alien worlds they always think of aliens, I wanted something different.
Portrait is one of the most complicated photographic genres because it places two people face to face. What is your philosophy and how important is empathy between photographer and subject for you?
When I take portraits the first thing I ask is not to look into the camera, because my shoots are stories. When the model looks into the camera it seems to me something fake, constructed.
Another thing I often ask is pseudo-acting to involve my subjects so they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
If there is no empathy, if there is a cold and static relationship, it is very difficult to work and create a casual attitude during the shots. As far as I’m concerned I always try to keep it light as if it were almost a movie.
In digital surrealist photography, post-production perhaps assumes a greater centrality. What post-production techniques do you adopt the most and what are the tools to take the perfect photo?
As for my vision of perfect, I think it’s relative. For me perfect means “dirty”.
I think that it doesn’t matter what tools you have but it all depends on how you use them and a lot also on the style you want to represent.
In my experience, the minimum necessary to take “good” photos is to have a reflex or mirrorless camera and a lens. My favorite is a 35mm which is a good compromise between a wide and a zoom. In my case, some LED lights to play special reflections and experiment.
Mostly I edit my shoots in Photoshop. I usually start with 3D graphics (with 4D cinema) since I have the skills, and in addition it allows you to customize editing one hundred percent: I can create and adapt my landscapes to the scene. Then it depends on what you want to represent and what the photo needs.
As for the colors, I always try to work on warm colors.
Sometimes I do 100% graphics and sell it for photos (laughs ed).
If you had to give an advice to aspiring photographers what would it be?
My advice is not to be afraid to experiment. Try to be original.
Do not try to imitate your idols “too much” because you run the risk of making the same photograph but obviously with different results. It is right to be inspired but keeping your own style and vision.
The more you experiment, the more you learn things, the more you improve and the more you acquire your own style that characterizes you.
I think that one’s style is also a mistake, especially for someone like me who is self-taught.
Many people are afraid of leaving their comfort zone instead they have to try, expand, walk around and shoot.
You cannot expect to start and be professionals in one day, the thing that helps you in this sector is the experience.