I’m excited to announce this month’s featured photographer: Antonio Aleo. Antonio is an Italian photographer I’ve been following for a while and I love his natural approach to landscape photography. His mastery of forest photography and other complicated scenes is inspiring in itself. In this interview, you’ll get to know more about Antonio and his journey through photography.
Start by telling us a little about who you are and how you got started with landscape photography.
I was born and live in a small town in southern Italy, in the Calabria region, a land with 800 km of coastline and 70% of hills and mountains in its hinterland.
I began to take an interest in photography in 2010. Before that my attention was turned to the world of painting and music, but as a lover of the figurative arts, expressing myself in art through images brought me closer to the world of photography. So I bought my first used SLR, which in fact transported me to a world that is new to me.
My interest in nature and the landscape was born and have its roots in my homeland Calabria, a territory with a very strong naturalistic identity, influenced by poor industrial and housing development. My proximity to the naturalistic places of my land made me emotionally more sensitive but also temperamentally stronger. Nature photography made me appreciate solitude and freedom, the love for small things; in a forest, I feel free from all oppression and chains.
You’ve stated that you have found great inspiration in the masters of landscape photography from an early stage. How has this early attraction shaped you into the photographer you are today?
I have always been fascinated by photographers who have made the history of photography, not only of landscapes but also of documentary and warfare. I believe that the simplicity and emotional research of these photographers with a sensitive soul are fascinating and timeless.
So rather than being inspired by the artistic form (which has found its shape over the years), I let myself be inspired by their emotional and interpretative sensitivity.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I often wondered how my photographs were related exclusively to landscape photography, but over time I realized that the only thing that really interests me is to express my feelings, the essence of my life, and events through the elements of the landscape (from the smallest element to the largest).
The intimate landscape is probably the most accentuated style in my images, even if I consider myself independent of any definition.
What do you look for in a scene? Talk us through some of your approaches in capturing a portfolio-worthy image.
Walking in nature amplifies the senses and sets you free. By training the mind and the senses we will be able to observe nature also from an artistic and photographic point of view. I believe art and creativity are innate gifts, which take shape when we dig deep into our souls.
I have always associated my photographic approach to psychography, better known as ‘automatic writing’, a phenomenon born in the mid-1800s to allow through writing, in a trance state or in a conscious but unaware way, to bring out the writer’s unconscious thoughts. This also happens in my photographic approach, where the camera replaces the pen. Along the mountain paths, I try, with my camera, to bring out the most remote and deepest corners of my unconscious from the landscape.
Each image is therefore linked to another and as a whole, all my photographs fit together in a continuous force. My photographs of nature tell about myself.
You also do both wedding and editorial photography. Are there any similarities in your approach to these and landscape photography?
Nature and landscape photography helped me to develop a constant search for detail and interesting elements present in a scene, calculating the separation spaces that I will insert in the composition to have an orderly view of the scene; research that I undoubtedly also use in other fields and photographic works.
In wedding photography I prefer to have a less laid back and more instinctive, gut, documentary approach, always maintaining a link with simplicity, searching for elements, details, and moments in common with my naturalist and landscape approach.
This also happens in other photographic genres, albeit with some compromise dictated by the wishes of the client, with whom I always try to establish a great collaborative relationship.
Forests are amongst the most difficult natural scenes to photograph but you seem to have mastered this genre. Tell us a little about how you’re able to organize the chaos in such scenes.
Probably tidying up the chaos I had in my head also helped tidy up the chaos inside my woods. Hehe, of course, I’m kidding, but there is also a hint of truth in this.
Going to the woods for a long time makes you become one with these places. You study sounds, smells, you find out about the species and habits of a wood, you understand its characteristics and morphology until you find order in the chaos; in my case, it all happens naturally, instinctively, probably also the result of experience in places that have now become my second home.
How important is post-processing in your work?
I find that post-production is the finalization of a photograph. I am of the opinion that you have to work hard to get the most out of shooting, but I am not a Taliban of post-production, except when it is used destructively to create artifacts, invent or modify the elements present and not in the scene at that moment.
Personally, I prefer to keep a more natural approach, working on color correction, contrasts, tonal values, to give the image the same sensation perceived in the shooting phase. I never take more than 10 minutes to post-produce an image.
What are your top 3 tips to photographers who are just getting started?
First advice: observing photographers of all kinds, not only of nature, serves to expand the cultural background. The important thing is not to emulate and not fossilize with a single photographer, but to look for one’s own photographic identity.
Second tip: let yourself be overwhelmed by events and turn them into photography. Imagine the photographic sensor as a canvas on which to paint our emotions.
Third advice: Don’t rush the stages. I believe that as in any discipline, the experience is also fundamental in the field of naturalistic photography. The most common mistake in approaching nature photography is to burn all the traps in the shortest possible time, in order to satisfy one’s ego and obtain maximum glory. Personal research made of determination, perseverance, a study of the territory, pays off in the long term as well as making your work unique.
What is one piece of equipment you always have with you?
I keep 2 Sony mirrorless cameras (A7R3 and 6400), a 24-105 zoom, the 100-400 telephoto lens, ND filters, a polarizer and Leofoto tripods in my backpack. As you may have noticed I don’t have an ultra wide angle photographic lens as I don’t think this is necessary in my photographic approach and in my landscapes.
What’s next for Antonio Aleo?
After years of work I finally completed my photographic project with the creation of the book: HYPNOSI.
Through images, through the woods, and through nature, HYPNOSI tells an introspective journey into the depths of my subconscious, which took place years ago with the help of this meditative technique to overcome some anxiety problems. So the photographs in the book are the result of detailed research of the same places seen and perceived in a state of a hypnotic trance.
Now comes the probably most difficult task, looking for a publishing house that supports the making of the book, aware, however, of the difficult period of the pandemic we are all experiencing, which has also slowed down the publishing productivity of publishing houses. Obviously, if among the readers there is someone interested in supporting the project, they can contact me through my website or receive updates by subscribing to the newsletter.
Thanks again to Antonio for taking the time to give us an insight into his life and photography. Make sure to visit his website, Facebook or Instagram to enjoy more of his images.