The New Values Photography
A Shared Way

in The Moon is a Lightbulb. 50 Years of IED, Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan 2017

For me IED was the path that led to teaching, a door that reopened to an academic world that I had not experienced since my university studies in Italy and those of photography and visual arts in England.

The use of photography, which quickly evolved into research and artistic endeavours, led me along the path of doing and thinking, along an itinerary that proved to be both analytical and experiential. Since I was offered the opportunity to teach more than 20 years ago, forcing me to study and systematise my thoughts to be able to better process and communicate them, for me photography has been enriched with new values, providing me with a mental and existential view that is deeper and more articulated.

Since then and with the advent of new technologies, photography has been trivialised, increasingly becoming a quotidian and gratuitous activity of instantaneity and oblivion, paradoxically losing one of the most precious things we can cultivate: the ability to “see”. While today everybody is able to take pictures, people are less able to visually interpret Reality, as if by photography’s becoming ubiquitous the language has imploded within the means, making itself invisible to the user.

To the contrary, I think of photography as a philosophical object, a symbolic form of thought implemented through experience, a metaphor of the Real. Precisely in the relationship between Reality and Individual, existence and experience, phenomenal objectivity and interpretive path, today I feel its great necessity and significance, increasingly defined as a discipline along a mysterious path that originates in the visible and the worthwhile leading to deep territories of the subject, of the symbolic and of expression of the self.

This is what I try to communicate to my students: the horizon upon which I summon them is the awareness of how much there is still to discover and know, how what we see and think we know is only a tiny part of the Real. For this I urge them to seek, so that they can find their own way to see and understand, to visually communicate the deepest part of themselves, the least known, the part that guides us, that governs inside, that allows us to implement higher forms of communication.

When I began to teach at IED the school was geared towards the professional model of artisan-photographer and the student population was almost exclusively male. Over time, the teaching of photography changed value and the students have increasingly perceived it as a tool for personal expression, and for some an artistic practice. While fewer want to become photographers, many perceive it as a valuable tool for research, and, for the most intellectually honest, for discovery.

A very significant phenomenon is that the student population approaching photography is increasingly feminine. In my experience this has meant more experimentation, willingness to challenge oneself, to experiment at greater risk, often “flying higher” in the sphere that the Anglo-Saxon world has called lens-based arts.

For me teaching has turned out to be a continuous learning process. I have had magical encounters with young travelling companions whose sensitivity and research I was honoured to accompany towards the discovery of their “own way”, men and women encountered in a profound, existential and symbolic area, where I discovered how teaching is first and foremost a form of communication that is not only verbal: perhaps the most important things are not conveyed through words.

Here are some milestones that define my experience as a teacher along the road shared with my travelling companions:


The Way

“Before man there is a particular way, his own: no attempt to imitate what has already been done and no claim that his own way excludes others from their ways: there is no single way, each must choose his own, and choosing means sacrifice.

[Our achievements] have their real value in that we bring them about in our own way and by our own efforts.

Every person born into the world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique … Every single man is a new thing in the world, and is called upon to fulfil his particularity in this world. Every man’s foremost task is the actualization of his unique … and never-recurring potentialities, and not the repetition of something that another, and be it even the greatest, has already achieved.

Everyone has in him something precious that is in no one else. But this precious something in a man is revealed to him only if he truly perceives his strongest feeling, his central wish, that in him which stirs his inmost being”.
(Martin Buber, in The Way of Man, ed. Qiqajon, Comunità di Bose, 1990)


The Question

Asking a question is more important than offering answers, because the answer is written in the question itself: only from the point of view from which it was asked will the answer be recognised, and this is always personal and heard in a special manner by the person who asked. There from where we question Reality will we receive the answers that await us.


Banal and Exceptional

All that we see and that happens – the banal, the trivial, the seemingly undifferentiated, the residual and the no longer visible – can be captured and experienced in an extraordinary way, symbolising them, interpreting them and learning to communicate through one’s own person, look and experience: our vision. 

“It’s not the world that is poor, it is we who are unable to call forth its riches”. (Rainer Maria Rilke)


The Choice

Every single photograph can be read as an individual choice, an act of recognition, a meaningful gesture extracted from the gratuitousness of everyday life and made unique and necessary to belong to this experience in the unrepeatable moment of individual choice: the divide between the possible and the completed act.

“We are given the opportunity to say everything, in every possible way, and we must say something, in a particular way”.
(Italo Calvino, in: Lezioni Americane, Oscar Mondadori, 1993)


The Limit

Each choice, each path taken necessarily precludes others. Of the endless possibilities offered to us by visible Reality we are forced to define those that belong to us. Only by placing limits can we fully exercise the power of our actions. Just as the frame defined by the edges of the viewfinder poses insurmountable limits on the view, any self-imposed limit is an impediment that empowers, producing freedom. That which we cannot do defines all that we can do, experience and convey.


The Point of View

From where we look we can see, from where we question Reality we will get our answers. The points of view are potentially infinite and we are called to define our own: this point is both physical and mental. We can change it until the last moment, then the image will be totally defined by the point of view from which it will be taken. From there, others will see the world through our eyes.


The Threshold

Photography can be thought of as the place of confluence of two streams, one coming from the inner world, from the unknowable depths of the mind and the psyche, and the other from the outside, from the unreachable existing Reality, unknowable except through the partiality of the means offered to us by our subjectivity. The image is the limit between the inner and the outer world, the point of union and separation, the threshold between two worlds in which one could not exist without the other: all that unites, separates.


The Image

Reading images, interpreting them, experiencing them, feeling where they resonate within. Can an image be considered “fundamental in one’s life”? And if so, what ascribes to it a value that is so highly symbolic? What do we profoundly call image and what natures can it assume: visual, memory, mental, smell, sound, performance? What is our image?

-“[People have] created an image of every thing”
(Wim Wenders: the angel Raphaela to the angel Cassiel in Faraway, So Close!)



The practice of teaching has made me aware that the current bulimic condition caused by the excessive consumption of images is producing a radical impoverishment of the visual experience and an incipient blindness. My educational programme aims to provide tools for searching for a way to slow down and listen to reflect on the value that the image has in our lives, where it resides in our experiential path, indicating ways that make it possible to shift attention beyond the time and place of the image to discover its non-literal value. It is a symbolic field that relates the physical and mental space, giving identity to both: the visible and the invisible are present together in the single Reality.

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible
Oscar Wilde