An interview with the photographer Giuseppe Lo Schiavo, between London and Calabria

There are many Calabrian talents around the world, dedicating themselves to many different fields: culture in general, medicine, law and so on. Our region has always provided a remarkable human capital, and for this reason this web-site has a whole section dedicated to them. Giuseppe Lo Schiavo, a London-based Calabrian photographer, is one from those ranks. He proves his talent through his images, through visual projects of great effect that have earned him recognition by the foreign press: such as BBC, the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Wall Street International. In spite of this, Giuseppe still nurtures a feeling of great affection for his region. Born in Pizzo Calabro (province of Vibo Valentia), one of his latest works has brought him to Iceland.

In one of your Facebook posts, you pointed out that people who leave in Calabria usually owe their success to their passion and talent. Do you see a great divide between cultural sensitivity and opportunities for success in Calabria, when compared to the structural system in the rest of Italy and the world?

I think the possibility for success is largely dependent on our own resources: we can’t keep putting the blame on a structural system that is indeed almost non-existent. We need to fight with our own sensitivity and try to achieve success with an eye turned to the future rather than the past (and I believe this principle should concern the whole of Italy).  I think our region has a lot to offer in terms of concrete possibilities: our territory is metaphorically green, and we are the ones who should cultivate it. We mustn’t wait for the others to come and ask us… we should rather be bold and voluntarily promote our own idea of what art is.

To what extent have your past and childhood in Calabria influenced your works?

The place where I was born and grew up undoubtedly had a bearing on my artistic path, as the experiences we keep within ourselves are the ones that always manage to influence artistic and professional choices. Calabria is full of paradox and contradictions. It withholds beauty and absurdity, light and darkness. These contradictions are often cause of discomfort, and from this state of discomfort come the most remarkable discoveries, in the artistic field too. Calabria is like Fontana’s white, clean canvases, whose beauty is broken by a gash in the middle.

Do you ever think about moving back to Calabria? In order to give your contribution to change, import new ideas and points of view that are vital in the field of photography. I am partly referring to your project “I stay here”.

I don’t think I could move back as of now. I often think about it though. In spite of what they say, the quality of life in Calabria is higher than in many other metropolises of Europe and the world. I may go back to live there in the non-near future. I always try to contribute from afar to the cultural renewal of my region. I take part quite often in local exhibitions and try to keep myself informed on what goes on here. One can also be part of a revolution from the outside. In London, they still think of me as the “Calabrian artist”, and I am proud of it. As of now, I am taking part in an exhibition at the MACA, the Museum of contemporary art in Acri, where my works are in the good company of those of 20th century masters such as Fontana, Klein, Spoerri, Rotella and many more, which I consider a great honor. On October 17, an exhibition of some of my works, together with those of two other national artists, will open at the Ellebi in Cosenza. You are all welcome to come. As you can see, my works are still there. Our bodies are nothing but vehicles.

One may call your works eclectic, as they present a mix of influences from many artistic periods  with a sheer avant-garde momentum. What do you foresee in your artistic future?

You are right, there are many references to the history of art in my works: from 15th-century Flemish art to the historic avant-garde movements of the 20th. We may say that even though I work in photography, I draw inspiration mainly from the painting currents of the past. I have many ideas for the future, and perhaps I’m trying to get closer and closer to the – always relative – core of truth, to the explanation of the relationship between man and nature. I am becoming an existentialist… reading Rousseau has been invaluable aid through this ongoing process, which I hope will bring me to new experiments.

Tell us about your last visit to the USA.

I am always happy to go back to the US, despite my not being a big fan of American culture. I have just come back from Loas Angeles and, believe it or not, it reminded me a lot of Calabria and Southern Italy, especially when it comes to its climate and plants. I have eaten at one of the most interesting restaurants in today’s industry: Bestia. It is an Italian restaurant whose chef comes from Israel. Do you want to know what their specialty is? Pizza with nduja. And the chef told me it was self-produced, as was the case of many other products, because their climate and soil is quite similar to Calabria. They know about us throughout the world, all we need is to acknowledge this fact. Besides eating pizza, I have had the chance to meet important personalities from the artistic scene, and I’m planning to set up a very important project, to be exported to Washington DC in 2016/17. But I can’t say more about it now. As for the rest, I presently live in London, but if you look for me in Calabria… you will find me.