Gian Marco Sanna (Rome, 1993) is the curator at Discarded Magazine and Co-founder of L.I.S.A. From 2012 – 2015 he studied at the Roman School of Photography where he acquired his techniques using analogue and digital photography.
In 2015 he began attending the D.O.O.R. Academy, experimenting with documentary photography while also working in the area of Malagrotta, Rome. It is here the biggest dump in Europe is located which he shot his “Malagrotta” project on.
The publishing house “Urbanautica” printed his first book “Malagrotta”, which was presented during Paris Photo at Mi Galerie and at Fotofever in 2019. The same project was also exhibited in Rome at 001 Gallery, during the Roman photographic walks, an event organized by MIBACT. It was exhibited at Gallery Lombardi Arte in Siena, the RiBella Art gallery in Viterbo during the Caffeina Event and at Officine fotografiche in Milan.
The “Malagrotta” project won the Bi foto Prize in Sardinia. It was a finalist in Premio Marco Pesaresi 2018, Premio Voglino 2018 and Emerging Talents Contest in 2018.
In September 2019 Gian published “AGARTHI” with the publisher Penisola Edizioni, his second piece about Lake Bolsena which he worked on for five years. The project had already been exhibited at Grenze Arsenali Fotografici Festival 2019 in Verona, at Cascina Farsetti Art in Rome, Parallel Voices 2020 in Greece and the Gibellina PhotoRoad in Sicily. AGARTHI won the Parallel Voices 2020 Photometria Festival in Greece.
Two of Gian Marco Sanna’s prints were selected to be part of the Fondazione Orestiadi collection in Gibellina.
Gian has worked on multiple assignments for documentary photography magazines such as Youthies and SUQ amongst many more.
Where are you from and where are you based now? Could tell us a little about both?
I was born and grew up in Rome. It is a culturally rich city, that gave me the opportunity to find myself culturally and photographically. Here I began to study photography and make my first photographic experiments.
It is a very inspiring city that allows you to walk through the center, enter a church and find the paintings of great artists such as Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Raffaello and others. These artists have also inspired me with the language of photography. Caravaggio being the ultimate expression of painting approaching photography.
Here I founded the collective L.I.S.A. together with two other friends, where we worked on self-produced fanzines and editing our own work, with the goal of not setting limits for ourselves in the language of photography.
I later moved for work to Lake Bolsena, a very fascinating area full of mystery. The lake is a very strong natural element that intrigues me a lot and you never feel like you know it completely. It has unspoiled areas that have also inspired me a lot. This is where my latest book “Agarthi,” was born, a 5-year project about a journey into the otherworldly, under the lake of missing people.
How did your journey into photography begin?
I started photography at the age of 17 when my father gave me an old Pentax. At first photography was an outlet, then it became a necessity to the point that I thought about it 24/7. I really enjoy photographing at night, especially with a flash.
When I started photography I was fascinated by the possibility of giving light to a subject at night and being able to choose its intensity. I started shooting in the Roman underground scene, until one day, looking for a story to tell, I looked out on the balcony of my house and saw a huge mountain of dirt: it was the Malagrotta landfill, the largest in Europe.
I realized that that was my story and I had to tell it. Without going looking for stories far from me that did not belong to me.
I had grown up in that neighbourhood but knew very little about the landfill so I started photographing and investigating, finding real environmental disasters caused by human intervention.
Among other things, I found that the landfill had been built over an aquifer that was polluting the entire surrounding area. The news hit me hard and gave me the impetus to work hard for years on this project.
The work lasted about 2 years and became a book published by the Urbanautica publishing house. This was a beginning for me, I realized that photography, which until then had only been a passion for me, could become my means of expression and convey stories to others that would otherwise remain unknown.
What are the topics that are closest to your heart these days, which ones are you investigating through the medium of photography?
I am very fascinated by the environment and how humans relate to it. I believe that never more than in these times is it crucial to put a focus on respecting the world we live in and protecting ecosystems.
For years we have lived by consuming land and polluting but this is no longer possible. We need to change this attitude, it is necessary to make people aware of the current problems on our planet, to sensitise them to enact with a different behaviours towards nature.
I am investigating the masses and their behaviour, which must forcibly follow the rules imposed by society.
With Paradise I would like to take a broad view of anthropogenic behaviour in the world. Human beings often lead their lives in a totally selfish way, detached from the planet on which they live, totally ignoring the consequences of their behaviour. Like a wolf, unable to feel pity for its prey, humans consume the planet thinking they will die before they see the end of it.
How do you move through the colours in your shots? How do you decide to use black and white? Your beautiful red feels like a necessity…
I have always tried to put a piece of myself, nightmares, fears and happiness, into my projects, and often used the night to express myself best.
For my latest project “Paradise” – I felt something was missing. The work started in Jordan about 3 years ago, just before the pandemic. My desire was to represent, in a conceptual way, the wrong ways that man is living.
Borges said “Earth is a paradise, hell doesn’t notice,” so I started shooting with the red filter to give a sense of exhaustion and saturation of the planet. The feeling of being able to change reality and turn a beautiful landscape into a hellish scene fascinated me greatly, it is as if by mounting the filter a hidden world is revealed to our eyes.
We are hypnotised by a wealth that we would like but which in reality does not exist and we will never obtain, with the same selfishness and stupidity which decided that an insect’s life is worth less than a man’s. We all know that the direction we are taking is the wrong one but we still continue to follow it.
A few months after my trip to Jordan came the pandemic which shocked the world and changed our habits. Now more than ever I think it is important to analyze human behaviour and one colour that has always conveyed denial is red.
I use black and white for those images where I think the world has stopped, as a kind of counterpoint to red. Black and white can be the reality that an individual is experiencing but does not realize the way they are doing it.
So the colours black and white are like a still image of the suspended world.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am finishing my work on Paradise, I would like to conclude the work by giving an overall view of human nature and its relationship with the planet.
Contrasting man with animals precisely to try to get across a system of connection between man and nature and to make the reader understand that society is nothing more than a way created by man to hide his own nature.
But the road is still long and complex…
Could you recommend something you’ve read that transformed your point of view?
Let’s say that the first fundamental approach for my point of view was seeing Caravaggio’s paintings, the ability to use light in that way is impressive.
I would recommend reading “Finzioni” by J.L.Borges but if I had to say one reading that made me think a lot, especially in adolescence, it is “Il Visconte Dimezzato” by Italo Calvino.
This book has stuck with me because it is about a viscount, Medardo, who during the war against the Turks is hit in the chest by a cannonball that splits him in two, thus creating two parts one good and one bad. After various vicissitudes the two sides meet in battle and face each other. The tale ends with the reunion of the two sides.
This book fascinated me because it reflects the essence of man.
Man in his deepest being may have different personalities that can influence his future but they all create the individual for who he is.
And lastly, where can we find you online?