Born and raised in Italy, Amedeo M. Turello studied architecture at the Politecnico di Torino. He has been a consultant for various high-level international luxury brands as well as a freelance art director for luxury editorial projects and has dedicated himself to fashion photography since 1999. His involvement with photography grew from a natural love of the visual arts and from his strong background in sociology, history of art and design. Today, his photographic and creative activity is mainly dedicated to celebrity fashion editorials and portraits.
He is a regular workshop teacher and lecturer for international photo festivals such as Toscana Foto Festival, Nordic Light International Festival of Photography, and the St. Moritz Art Masters. Based in Monte Carlo, he works primarily between the French Riviera, New York, Los Angeles and Milan. Below he speaks about the workshop he conducted at L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie during the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie festival held in Arles.
Q: Can you give us a little background information on the images you submitted? Where were they taken? What was the purpose?
A: We shot these images during the Arles Photographic Festival last year. We shot all of these in the streets in front of L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie. We shot my students and the idea was to show them what I do when I shoot my models during my assignments. I took no more than five minutes for each student and the idea was also to just do a couple of frames for each of them. Also, I tried to show them how a simple wall, a simple background and composition can give an identity and style for a series of images.
Q: What camera equipment did you use to shoot this portfolio?
A: I used a Leica S2 with a 70 mm lens. I use this lens because it is very normal. I really appreciate the quality and standards of the S2 system.
Q: Also what particular characteristics of the Leica S-System do you find especially useful or superior for your kind of work?
A: I like using the S2 because it is absolutely the best camera that has never been created. Maybe it is my opinion only. I am a technician and I have sufficient knowledge of this camera that I feel proud and serious in saying this. I have purchased other brands of cameras and honestly, there is nothing as good as the Leica S-System. There is the quality, of lenses, of ergonomics, of weight and of pleasure of having this tool in your hands. I feel it is a tool that can follow my creativity and inspiration in the most natural way, lets put it like that. Concretely also there are some others aspects like the way S2 is built, as the perfection of the technical standards like with the S2 there is no dust. I have worked in the past with other medium format cameras, even in studio and without changing lenses or opening the memory cards door, I would start at 9 a.m. with no dust and when I finished at 5 p.m. all my raw files were full of dust. The first thing to do after the editing was to ask my assistant to clean many images since we could not send these dirty things to clients.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?
A: One day in Switzerland Jean-Jacques Karatchian stole my Hasselblad and since I thought that I lost my camera, he let me borrow a Leica S2. It was a strange way to start, but it worked and I thank him to have done this!
Q: What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
A: I have a cool approach. We are not heart surgeons. So if after a day, we don’t produce any image, it is fine as nobody is dead! However, photography represents to me a way to express my vision of the contemporary world, or the past or the future.
Q: I admire your cool, matter-of-fact approach, nevertheless you are very serious about your photography. How do these two seemingly opposed concepts manifest themselves in your work, and do you think it’s essential that both are present at the same time or at different times?
A: I mean it is very important that your work is consciously done, with engagement and knowledge, in a very professional way. I believe all must be done in a good and best way (we should discuss what is good or not, and this is an all another story). But also it is important to understand that the responsibility and the work of a photographer is important but not absolutely fundamental. The world can survive without it. So we should always keep this in mind. We should sometimes also try new ways of expression and experiment with new approaches since making a mistake as a photographer will never generate a disaster to the others. Most of the time we pay ourselves for our mistakes in terms of money, prestige, credit, etc., but we rarely generate trouble for others. Or at least the others, who do not appreciate our work, can avoid to exhibit, publish, or deal with our images.
Q: It is fascinating that the images in this portfolio comprise a kind of etude to demonstrate to your students that a simple background and composition can create a sense of identity and style for a series of portraits. How did you come up with this idea, and what are some of the methods or concepts you used to create a sense of individual identity and way of being in the world, which certainly comes across quite powerfully in these images?
A: For me it is all very simple. I have learned for many years to work in easy context and with simple but strong elements. I always try to create image that are like that. Part of my background is from industrial design and architecture, so probably all these things have unconsciously conditioned my natural way to see through the lens of my camera. The methods are naturally a part of me. It is always what I try to show to my students: try to be yourself and in this way you will naturally find your own style as part of your identity, part of your way to be. I also tell them to not try to copy. This to me means that you are trying to be someone else and this can work for one image, maybe, but cannot represent you in the future for a long and successful body of work.
So in these images that I did with my students, there are a series of very simple concepts, as colors, as background, as expression and body posture. All these to me already create a lot. We only shot few frames for each student and we did all these portraits in probably one hour.
Q: How would you describe your photography?
A: I think it is a kind of mix between fashion and a kind of reportage since I shoot fashion and models, not with a common fashion approach, but more as reportage. My models have to be always related to the context and also part of it. They are real women but always in a real alive composition. It’s a fake reportage since all is planned and set up, but with the imagination and composition as they are in the frame of a movie or a sequence of life. Real or not, that all this can be.
Q: There seems to be a close relationship here between art and artifice, that you draw certain aspects of real life to create something that conveys a feeling of authenticity even though it is “fake reportage.” Would you agree, and can you say something more about how you came up with this approach, and what it means to you?
A: In the last years, many photographs that had become icons have been discovered as fake! Basically many images that the world believes were created from the talent of masters of journalism and reportage are set carefully built up. So I feel now that the work of photographers working in fashion, it is more clear from the beginning without anything fake to discover. Today after all this talking about the fact that we discover how many fake reportage images are in the media I always ask myself: is this image of disaster of war, of social disease, how real is it…? Maybe the photographer has moved the dead bodies in order to have many more of them in the frame, or he asks a child to be in front of someone dead in order to accentuate the drama of the image? Again, all of this makes me feel now that the work of photographers working in fashion maybe fake, but at least the viewer knows this from the beginning and at the end is more respectful of the viewers!
I feel my work is fashion yes, but is close to reportage in the sense that my fake characters are real and in a real context, streets, walls, landscape, etc. and not a studio set. Doing so the knowledge of art, history and literature becomes very important; that goes from the original set where my models are located up to the hair, make-up … and of course outfits that dress my models. Even the typeset and fonts of the title to me become important.
I am looking probably for the same authenticity that movie directors are looking for. It is important for me to research how to present this in the best way. Of course, all of this in order to make people dream, to transport them in a world of illusion, of escapism, that have to be of course logical and coherent.
Models become important as they are like acting in these virtual stories and sometimes it is even more difficult than in a movie, since there is not dialogue, there is not music and there is not the camera movement that is able to give dynamic and narrative pathos. This is one of the reasons why I would love the next Leica S to have also video options!
Q: How do you think your background in architecture, design, and publishing has influenced how you work as a photographer and shaped your career? And how do you still manage to keep a hand in these activities while functioning as an acclaimed high-end professional fashion photographer?
A: My background is fundamental for what I do now. The background of each of us is fundamental and is the main source for our style. Anything you do in life is a result of your past experiences and definitely also photography. In creative terms, if you don’t have any background you aren’t anybody since you are only a product of academic studies or theoretical approach. Probably my past experiences in school and also in work have shaped my way to see and reproduce, with my photography, the reality around me, in a way that can easily be discovered. I am close to design and publishing and definitely to architecture. Photography represents today one of my last experiences, but not the last since the last is video and film. I will say that my way of composing my images is the most evident aspect of my background. The rest is more related to my research and analyses of when I research locations, subjects, styling, etc.
Thank you for your time, Amedeo!
– Leica Internet Team
Learn more about Amedeo on his website.