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A chat about the world of female reportage with Irene Ferri

What does it mean to be a photographer, but above all a female photojournalist in Italy?

By Elisa Grasso

When I met Irene this summer during a stage of her IT∀LIA project, I was immediately struck by her work as well as by her wonderful person.

Her imagery can be so kaleidoscopic and paradoxical and at the same time so alive, real and fluorescent that it cannot be forgotten, perhaps because they are too accustomed to the idea that only delicate and satin images correspond to female photography (but especially the wedding pictures) crudest ones to male photographers.

So I decided to have a chat with her deepening the discussion, finding her in every single word of her answers.

Spoiler: Don't expect pastel-toned photos with little flowers, glitter, and powdered sugar.

Hi Irene! Describe who you are through the first words that come to mind without thinking about it. 

An anomaly. An alien. A Lady Gaga groupie. Oh yeah, I'm also a photographer. ☺

I know you do a lot of things including a personal branding photographer and a teacher, but what does it mean for you to be a female reportage photographer in Italy? 

It means being able to be one of the faces of change.

I can't stand the photographic technicalities carried out by a category (precisely that of photographers, 90% of them men) that for many years has been self-referential and self-centered.

For me, photography is getting muddy, getting dirty with life. Get in touch.

How do you think the Italian reportage scene for women is compared to the male one? 

I suffer very little from “paragonite” so I take very little inspiration from other photographers because I believe that looking too far out will distract you from your art. But I must say that since I virtually met Salento Death Valley and The Rainbow is Underestimated (both men) I feel less alone in my madness. In my opinion it is very important to re-evaluate “ugliness” in photography. And I'm happy, as a woman, to be able to do that. Gabriele and Piero have succeeded but from me, who am a girl, one always expects a more “sugarcoated” photographic product, coated with sugar, romantic, soft. Here I want to subvert these expectations.

I want to shout to the world: I like this decadent building. To me these leftovers of food on the table drive me crazy.

Has it ever happened to you that you don't feel taken seriously for choosing a creative job? If so, how did you react? 

If I had one euro for every time I was told: “Do you want to make a living as a photographer? And without having weddings? Greetings my daughter” today I would be Scrooge de Scrooge.

Honestly, it has always entered my ear and left the other. Since I was a child I had been drawing with potatoes on the walls (to the delight of my mother) and I was dazed by watching TV commercials (not cartoons, commercials). I have always known that working in art and communication would be my destiny. Could it be that they are Gemini?

A sincere advice to those who want to pursue an artistic career: eyes on your paper, and move on.

Do you perceive the differences between the Irene shot in Italy and the Irene shot in America? 

Yes, of course, but because I'm different depending on where I am. The American Irene is very spiritual, very centered and "in the flow".

The Italian Irene is very Italian. And I deliberately leave this sentence open to interpretation.

 
 
 
 
 
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🇺🇸 Even more than taking pictures of Italy, I’m interested in capturing italianity. - - 🇮🇹 Ancora più che fotografare l’Italia, mi interessa catturare, immortalare, rappresentare l’italianità. - State molto tonnati perché nelle prossime settimane vi porto con me nel Centro-Sud Italia, dove scatterò per il mio progetto ITALIA e continuerò a dare un volto alle vostre parole. Da più di un anno mi state inviando racconti tramite il mio sito rispondendo alla domanda: “Cosa ami ancora dell’Italia? Cosa ti lega a lei? E se sei lontano, cosa ti manca?” - Grazie a chi ha contribuito e a chi continuerà a contribuire nelle prossime settimane 🙏🏼🖤 - - #nikonitalia #nikoneurope #rivieraromagnola #cinesomnia #magnificomagazine #apricotmagazine #realismag #shootfilmunder1000 #palepalmcollection #saturdaysmag #onearthmagazine #senekamagazine #littlerivermag #italia_project

Un post condiviso da Irene Ferri Photographer 🇮🇹🇺🇸 (@ire.ferri) in data:

Is there a habit, a gesture, a particular ritual that you can't give up when you're about to shoot? 

I turn on Spotify, put the headphones in my ears and isolate myself from outside noises. It seems absurd, but to be able to see the world better I need to listen to certain songs on repeat. Marracash, Rocco Hunt, Lady Gaga, Ex Otago, Gazzelle. Generally sad songs. I discovered Cosmo recently and it makes me fly.

Is there something you want to photograph more than anything else but you still haven't been able to find? 

I would like to re-take this photo. I did it in 2013 at the end of a party house in Los Angeles with a non-professional camera. I would like it of a better quality.

Or maybe this is okay, you tell me. ☺