We had the chance to take a peek at the life and creative history of Italian photographer and graphic designer Gianluca Mainiero

He still lives in the same small town in central Italy since he was 2 years old where he currently works as a graphic designer and photographer. After high school, he attended an experimental design institute, entered an academy of fine arts, without finishing his studies. 

Like any drop out worthy of his salt, his knowledge and technical training gave him the props to start working without having to have a degree, and as he felt the need to become financially independent he started grinding and grinding to land a stable job.

“Unfortunately I still knew nothing or almost nothing about the world.” He confesses genuinely.

“So year after year, I kept gathering formative and important experiences of my life from both a professional and human standpoint. Today I keep taking chances, alternating failures and successes through an endless series of attempts. I always try to be better and learn more about art and photography. That’s what keeps me going!”

Here’s what he had to say about his art, current projects and creative inspiration!

When did you first get attracted to photography?

I fell in love with photography as a child and immediately got addicted: I was attracted to the black and white images that my grandfather had taken in Africa as a young man. Then I started following my dad in the dark room where he developed the pictures he took as a hobby. That got me really excited.

There, under the red light, on the sheet of paper immersed in the development bath, I could see various moments of my family’s life coming to life, almost magically.

There I realized that the essence of photography is its relation with time: taking a picture means nailing the fleeting time to a rectangle of paper, a time now past that was reduced to an instant, a time that would never return. 

All the photographs I would see as a child, were the testimony of the fact that the people portrayed in them had been happy and the reality had been perfect, even for just a moment. 

That’s when I knew I wanted to be a photographer.

Was there a turning point in your artistic journey?

When I was younger I was studying to be a photojournalist. I was interested in discovering the world and looking at its beauty every day, even in the most dramatic situations. But it was after reading the essay by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier “The morning of the magicians” (original title in French “Le Matin des magiciens”) that I began to ask myself questions about my surroundings and started developing a passion for documenting reality through photography.

What artists inspire your own art?

The films and Polaroids of Andrej Tarkovskij, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the comics of Moebius and Alejandro Jodorowsky, the words of William Blake, the works of the Pre-Raphaelites, all the Italian Renaissance, Tuscany, Mediterranean cuisine … and much more.

Top 3 photographers you would love to collaborate with

The only photographer with whom I absolutely love to start an artistic collaboration is Francesca Woodman. I believe that with her images she managed to go beyond all appearances and make “the essential visible to the eye” as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry would say. 

Is there anything you are currently working on that really excites you?

YES! I’m developing a project that was born after I discovered a film, exposed but not yet developed, inside a camera from the 1950s I bought at a flea market. The thrill of seeing these images for the first time, was the spark, the strike of lighting that inspired this project. 

So I started looking for and collecting photographs, negatives, slides, forgotten memories belonging to random, anonymous people. Each time, I instantly recognize the inner power of such images and bringing them to life makes me feel responsible towards the people and the moment portrayed in them: I’m almost taking on the role of the new guardian of these moments and times that seemed destined for oblivion.

What do you feel is the most urgent issue for humankind today?

I believe it is essential to resolve an ethical and cultural issue of the environmental and social impact generated by the modern fashion industry. It’s one of the most polluting global industries and oftentimes the lack of transparency regarding the conditions of workers is clear, a lack of transparency that often conceals serious exploitation. 

What I can do now is choose better products as a consumer, choose whether to buy clothes made with full respect for the environment and people, or to give up on fashion.

Photo: Courtesy of Gianluca Mainiero