We’re featuring this series as one of our favorite entries to the previous #FotoRoomOPEN call. (By the way, we’re now accepting submissions for a new #FotoRoomOPEN edition: the winner will get a three-month mentorship with London-based Wren Agency. Submit your work today).
Incredibly Close by 31 year-old Italian photographer Valentina Casalini is a series of urban photographs shot in a suburban district located in the northwest of Milan. The district is called Quartiere Triennale 8 (usually abbreviated as QT8) because it was conceived on the occasion of the 8th edition of the Triennale di Milano held in 1947; at that time, QT8 represented an advanced and experimental example of urban architecture planned around light and green spaces. “Contrary to what I usually do I decided to photograph this district even before visiting it, because its exceptional conception was enough to make me curious” Valentina says. “Once I finally walked through its streets I felt kind of euphoric and at the same time I experienced a sense of detachment, as if I were in an island very far away from the rest of the city, both in space and time.”
Valentina was impressed by the “timeless atmosphere” of QT8: “You can almost touch it. It’s easy to recognize that, unlike most suburban areas, this district was designed with a considered approach, but what I find most interesting about it is the contrast between how futuristic its original conception was and how remote and solitary it feels today. It is probably one of the areas in Milan with more green spaces, and it’s definitely well connected with the city’s center via public transport, yet when you’re there it feels like you’re in the countryside.”
The first few days that she started working for Incredibly Close, Valentina visited QT8 at different times of the day, simply photographing anything that caught her attention. “Initially I had ideas for at least three different projects, but then I started to edit the images I was taking and stopped to think about what was essential for me to show, and the pictures that seemed more interesting were the ones I had made at dusk. Apparently I was attracted by the intimacy of the lights from the windows and the street lamps but I didn’t want to get too close. I felt like I was a firefly drawn by the lights while everyone and everything else around were sleeping.”
“My goal was to make images that looked suspended in time and space” Valentina continues, “to the point that you can’t tell where they were taken, whether in Italy or anywhere else. I guess all my personal projects are always about how I feel in a specific place, and QT8 made me very nostalgic, so I was trying to also communicate that feeling.” Some of Valentina’s references for Incredibly Close were the works of photographers Robert Adams and Gerry Johansson, and that of film-makers David Lynch, Andrej Tarkovskij and Richard Ayoade.
Urban spaces are Valentina’s main interest as a photographer: “In the last few years I’ve lived in several cities and I’m definitely attracted by different urban scenarios, but I’m also interested in how we experience the city and how the environment around us can influence our emotions and behaviors. We should all take architecture seriously and understand that we can be affected even by something like the color of a house’s walls. A home is the first kind of space a human being experiences—I find it very fascinating to
try to understand how our perceptions of houses and other shelters shape our thoughts, memories and dreams.”
The main influences on her photography have been contemporary artists such as Paul Rothko, Agnes Martin, Ad Reinhard and Constructivist art in general, as well as photographers like Lewis Baltz, Guido Guidi, Stephen Shore, Robert Adams, Thomas Demand, Sarah Moon, Deborah Turbeville and Dirk Braeckman. Some of her favorite contemporary photographers are Annick Ligtermoet, Weronika Izdebska and Trine Søndergaard (“They are all from Eastern Europe and I really find their sharp and nocturnal atmospheres so incredibly attractive“). The last photobook she bought was American Winter by Gerry Johansson and the next she’d like to buy is Minimal Hardscapes by Rachelle Mendez.
Valentina’s three words for photography are:
Choice. Consciousness. Intimacy.