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Taking Photos – Making Photos


Photographer, photojournalist, movie maker, and artist: beginning July ninth, the variety of his oeuvre can be revealed within the exhibition Taking Photos – Making Photos. Alberto Venzago is amongst Switzerland’s nice photographers. Regardless that he now lives again in Zurich, he has been a globetrotter for many of his life. He has lived on varied continents, with restlessness being the each day norm for a few years.

Venzago got down to change the world along with his Leica. Whether or not photographing the Yakuza in Japan, revolution in Iran, youngster prostitution in Manila, voodoo in Africa or portraits of celebrities in Zurich, Venzago switched effortlessly between completely different fields of the medium. Over the various a long time of his profession, his photographic cosmos has included reportage, documentary, business and staged work, in addition to movie. We spoke with him about his work and his life.

It’s, actually, superb that that is the primary time {that a} complete retrospective of your work is on show…
Sure; though I don’t just like the phrase “retrospective” a lot – it sounds an excessive amount of like step one in the direction of an obituary.

However why has it taken so lengthy on your life’s work to be granted this huge exhibition?
I all the time spent my time wanting ahead. I by no means had time to look in my archives and undergo the negatives and slides. The subsequent undertaking was all the time extra vital. In actual fact, I used to be all the time on the transfer. I lived in Australia for 2 years and Tokyo for 5; almost ten in New York Metropolis. I returned to Africa, repeatedly. I made movies. Switzerland all the time figured as an island the place I might get well from the world. And now, ultimately, I’ve had the time to have a look at every thing once more, to organise and digitise my work. Because of the journey restrictions imposed by covid, and an extended yr of labor, every thing is now almost prepared. Sitting in entrance of all the photographs, the concept of creating a guide once more emerged – a guide that might be extra like a kaleidoscope, made up of all of the items of my work. After which, in a really synchronistic method, I used to be approached by the museum – I can solely as soon as once more thank the voodoo gods for that.

You have got taken lots of of 1000’s of images. The choice for the exhibition and accompanying catalogue reveals your extra vital topics; but in addition contains many footage unpublished as but. Can you continue to keep in mind the very first image you took?
I used to be all the time an autodidact. I started to slowly really feel my manner into it, after I was fifteen. I photographed the ladies within the neighbourhood. Later I took footage of bands. My first fee was for the Swiss youth journal Pop, which was just like Bravo in Germany. I used to be completely focussed on Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Stones; I used to be totally fascinated by that life-style. I skilled the ability of images; it turned a door opener to the world. And I had entry to the musicians, as a result of they realised that I understood one thing about music.

Nevertheless, your life had revolved round classical music as much as that time…
Sure, I grew up in a musical household. My Italian father was an architect and my mom got here from a German household of actors and artists. My father was obsessed with enjoying violin, and we carried out as a trio, with my two yr older brother Mario on the piano. I performed clarinet and studied on the conservatory. Nevertheless, a bike accident put an finish to my profession. I needed to rethink every thing, which I now contemplate a stroke of fine luck. My brother turned a conductor. My movies are about music; I’ve accompanied many orchestras, in addition to my brother. Consequently, I’m able to transfer between each worlds, which all the time delights me. To at the present time, music is likely one of the nice driving forces in my life.

What occurred together with your images after the accident?
It was very late after I truly began to take images severely. It was solely after I emigrated, as a result of I didn’t need to go to the navy service; and likewise to not jail. I used to be first in Australia; then I went to Japan, passing by Timor and Bali. I steadily realised that images was greater than a pastime. I turned extra critical, dedicated, and my life as a “involved photographer” started.

Which reportage from that period is most vital to you?
The Iran reportage was very impactful. That was the place I recognised my signature for the primary time. I wished to do a narrative in regards to the Islamic Revolution, from the angle of these affected, fairly than that of the Western media. The chance was monumental; however then, I received the ICP Infinity Award and have become a Magnum nominee.

With a Leica?
Sure. I purchased my first Leica shortly earlier than my time with Magnum Photographs. Afterward, the Leica M6 was to develop into my working software. I really like Leicas. They’re small, strong, and the lenses are sensible. These days, I all the time have a Q2 available; earlier on, it was the M6.

One in every of your finest identified collection, which you photographed with the M6, is the excellent reportage on the Japanese mafia – the Yakuza. How did you handle to achieve the group’s belief?
I used to be all the time fascinated by darkness; and in Tokyo I noticed these darkish Mercedes limousines. Then there have been the gangsters, who seemed like one thing out of an American movie from the fifties. I established the primary contact after six months. I labored on the collection for over 5 years. On the time, I used to be the one photographer to get so near the Yakuza – a hippie from Switzerland, nothing much less. A Japanese particular person wouldn’t have been ready to try this; however, as a foreigner, I used to be in a position to. Typically, a thousand members met in a room or attended a funeral, when the varied clans got here collectively, I used to be all the time the one non-Japanese particular person there. They appreciated me. I had lengthy hair and all the time had fairly ladies with me. I used to be, fairly merely, completely different. Possibly fairly like a canine on a lead, who’s allowed to be in every single place; so shut that they not paid me any consideration. With the Leica, taking discrete images was by no means an issue.

Did the Yakuza need to see the photographs, or get copies themselves?
I all the time introduced footage with me; one thing I in any other case by no means do. They had been stunning silver-gelatin prints that I had made in a laboratory in Paris. However they by no means went over effectively. It was solely after I photographed the Yakuza in large-format and studio lighting that they had been glad. That’s the best way they appreciated to see themselves.

How did the change come about, shifting from photojournalism to free work; from “image taking” to “image making”?
There was nothing however this stressed life. Accommodations; by no means having time to linger anyplace. I wished to vary the world by my footage; at instances wishing my M6 was a loaded Colt, after I photographed probably the most horrible issues. However usually nobody printed them. I got here to grasp “C’est pas un picture juste – ce juste une picture” (It’s not a simply image – it’s only a image). So then I seemed for my very own topics.

You additionally had nice success as a business photographer.
Promoting allowed me to finance the large reportages. That was nice, to be paid 100 instances higher for ads, which seemed like photojournalism on the time. I all the time knew it was only a means to an finish; by no means the aim of life. The key was to not let your self be seduced; to not develop into a slave to your individual creativity.

Do you’ve a photographic want that you’ve got but to fulfil?
Oh, that’s tough; I don’t know. There are nonetheless so many concepts…

Nicely, to begin with we now have your work within the exhibition and {the catalogue}. Many thanks on your time.

Alberto Venzago was born in Zurich on February 10, 1950. After learning Remedial Training and Clarinet, he turned a self-taught photographer in his mid-twenties. He loved fast success, shifting effortlessly between business images, photojournalistic documentary and free creative work. His quite a few picture books embody YAKUZA, Inside Report in regards to the Japanese Mafia (1990); and Voodoo: Mounted by the Gods (2003), which complemented his movie of the identical title. He made varied movies, together with Mythos Gotthard: Der letzte Streckenwärter (The Gotthard Fantasy: The Final Observe Warden) (2008) and Mein Bruder der Dirigent (My Brother the Conductor) (2007). He was a cameraman on a variety of documentary movies, similar to Wim Wenders’ Invisibles: Congo (2007), and Jagdzeit – Den Walfängern auf der Spur (Searching Season – on the Path of the Whalers) (2009). His most up-to-date giant picture undertaking titled One – Seduced by the Darkness was produced along with his associate and muse, Julia Fokina. Discover out extra about his images on his website and Instagram account.

A portfolio in LFI 4/2021 affords perception into the photographer’s oeuvre.

Leica M

The Leica. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.



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