Stefano Vigni was born in Siena, Italy in 1981. He focuses on long-term documentary and reportage projects. The first of his 3 books series on Italy, “20000km”, has been published last year. 20000km is a photography book on the italian landscape seen from the road. He also teaches Self Publish at IED in Milan, Photography for the “Conservazione dei Beni Culturali ed Archeologici” at the University of Siena, and Digital Photography at the Siena Art Institute. He’s the founder and director of Seipersei, a new publishing house for independent photography books.
First, I have to ask: How was the idea for “20000Km” born?
The idea came to me when I was on the Via Aurelia while working on another project. The places I had to photograph were more or less all on the portion of the road where the famous movie “Il Sorpasso” (by Dino Risi) took place. All the images from the movie, of that, now disappeared, neorealist landscape came to my mind. I started to take photos of those symbols we still have of that period in Italy, together with other images that shows the immense overdevelopment and drastic changes our country has been going through.
How did you decide to communicate your considerations with the photographs?
For every road I tried to use a different photographic technique. I decided to photograph the old roads with a double exposure, to make the viewer think about the passing of time, with images of the classic symbols that represent those roads ( the maritime pine for the Aurelia, the cypress for Cassia). I’ve overlaid the images of the new. Other new born roads’ images have different treatments: for example the introduction of the book dedicated to the Salerno-Reggio Calabria. I’ve chosen the black and white, given the more reportage-nature of the topic.
Are the graphic elements of the book part of the project?
The street signs in the book are not drawn, they are photographs. It’s a “trait d’union” between the roads. I wanted to communicate to the readers the materiality of the street as they were living the journey experience.
“The book wants to be the experience of a journey: it takes us through the roads in Italy as we were passengers looking outside the car window”
Roads are the arteries of a countries, they show the qualities and flaws of a nation, after traelling 20.000 Km, what’s your opinion of the italian territory?
The italian landscape is vaste and vary, the differences between the regions are astounding. Between the 60s and 80s the country suffered a lot for the overdevelopment, but Italians didn’t learn much from it and kept on abusing the country carelessly building in unthinkable places. There are still areas were this didn’t happen, for example the portion of the Cassia, in Tuscany, in the Val d’Orcia area. Where the respect to nature is so strong the landscape in the area become part of the Unesco World Heritage Sites. We should learn from other countries and progress respecting the nature.
Did you try to make clear your opinion on the subject in the book or is it open to interpretations?
The book wants to be the experience of a journey: it takes us through the roads in Italy as we were passengers looking outside the car window. The lack of real landmarks, makes the reader think to be arrived somewhere without knowing where exactly. This feeling of disorientation is typical of a traveller, not to arrive to a destination but to experience the journey. There are different keys to interpret the book, the most important ones for me is the “on the road” experience and the will to incite a critic observation of the surroundings.
“We should learn from other countries and progress respecting the nature.”
Have you completed the project or will you keep following the evolution of our territory?
20000km, is the first book of 3 about Italy. The second volume “Derive, Italian in Crisis” (“Derive, l’Italia in crisi), was launched last December, it talks about the “abandoned Italy” through 9 reportages shot between 2008 and 2013. It’s another critic work but different from 20000km: it has a reportage cut and talks about the biggest problems in Italy and how badly they have been managed after the war. From the Costa Concordia tragedy, to the earthquakes in Emilia and Aquila, to the mafia infiltrations in the construction industry…but that’s another book.
The book has been published by “Seipersei”, publishing house you founded in 2012, how difficult is today finding work in the photography business?
Photography has been changing, similar to when it took over painting. A sort of industrial revolution, it happens in many sectors, like music, not to talk about the big changes in the economy. Seipersei started with the goal to translate instelligent photograpohy projects into independent books, to answer to the need of change in the photography and publishing business. It’s an ambitious project that tries to deepens his routes in the Italy we have today.
“Italy is beautiful, and we take it for granted to much, I drove those roads with new eyes.”