His pictures tell a thousand tales, so does his varied experience. Born in the Tuscan town of Pisa in Italy, Leonardo Pucci is currently with fashion house Christian Dior. He earlier worked with Prada and Bottega Veneta. But between fashion and photography, he loves photography more. “There is something magical in this art,” he says.His debut show, Episodes, opened at Robin Rice Gallery in New York, before travelling to Goa’s Sunaparanta Arts Centre, where, he fell in love with the Indian dish Chicken Junglee and Indian cuisine became his second favourite after Italian. In its final leg, the show reached the Nature Morte gallery in Delhi and was open for public from July 25 to August 4.
You cannot but be awed by this self-taught artist’s debut exhibition. The silhouettes, the dark night, the glowing signs, the muted lights—all make you feel as if you have walked in unannounced into someone’s private moment. It almost makes you want to apologise, avert your eyes and take a step back. Elaborating his theme—Episodes—Leonardo says that years ago he was struck by a performance given by the Italian theatre company Motus. The show underlined the role of a hotel room, which, though lived in for a brief moment, ends up becoming the fragment of an open story. “Since then, the broader idea of an intimate and apparently protected place becoming a possible narration fascinated me. I developed the desire to create a complete photographic project around this concept: capturing fragments of real life, crystallised moments that provoke a strong story,” he adds.
Leonardo links his first memories of photography with his father. “In the ’70s during the many trips I took with my family, my father would record everything with a Yashica Mat 124G 6x6 meticulously. As a child, that black contraption with its two glass eyes seemed magical to me,” he says.Later, in his teens, he was given a Minolta SRT101 by his father. Ecstatic, he used it on his trip to Berlin—“the photographs were a disaster, but I did not give up”. Today, Leonardo loves to shoot with a Leica M9 mainly at dusk or night without a tripod, though he maintains that he himself feels uncomfortable in front of a camera, “even though I am handsome!”
His take on photography owes a lot to theatre. “When we see a theatre it is like looking in a mirror—a reflection in which we see ourselves, what we would like to be, what we expect to see, our pre-visions. In the same way, in my images I try to tell a story without saying everything. Through a careful play of atmospheres and colour calibration, I subtract concreteness from the subject. It is the viewer who reconstructs the ‘space’, and sees it, feels it, and experiences it,” he says.
Leonardo, who loves to indulge in candid photography, believes spontaneity enhances a delicate sensuality which spreads as a ‘fil rouge’ through his pictures. But he stresses that his images are not “novels of solitude”. “It’s more a feeling of indefinite fluctuating atmospheres to embrace the imprecision of fragments of everyday intimate moments. It’s at dusk or at night-time that you feel protected and at ease in your spaces. It’s when you get rid of constrictions. It’s when you are alone with your intimacy,” he adds.
Having worked with some of the biggest names in fashion, does fashion aid his sense of photography? “For more than 20 years, I have been able to nourish my eye for beauty and conception. Fashion is one of the most important experimental terrains to obsessively redefine aesthetics,” he says.