We’re chatting today with Sara Lando, an Italian artist and photographer who I stumbled upon while browsing Flickr. What attracted me to Sara’s work were her collage pieces, truly inspirational and far beyond anything I was doing, both compositionally and conceptually. The minute I saw her work, I knew I wanted to talk with her, so please give Sara a warm welcome.
Standard question first, but give us a little background history.
I was born and raised in a small town in the north of Italy called Bassano del Grappa, near Venice. I moved to Milan to study Design, spent the last year of university at RISD in Providence (RI) and came back a photographer. I lived in Milan for 10 years and then moved back to Bassano when I got married. I’m a small town girl at heart.
How did your creativity start? How old were you when you started doing art, how did it begin and flourish?
My parents are both artisans. There’s always been fabric, wood, tools lying around the house, I loved playing with those and no one ever forbade me to do that. They never pushed me towards a creative direction, but they fed my imagination with stories, games, books. I had a vivid curiosity and they kept on encouraging it. I had imaginary friends, I loved to draw, I loved to build little things out of paper. My favorite thing to do was to create little dioramas into showboxes and cut small holes so that you could look into the box and visit another world.
What were you doing before you started pursuing/selling your art? What is your most successful venue for selling?
I used to work in an advertisement agency as a graphic designer. I still do commissioned work for clients: that pays the bills so that I don’t actually have to sell my personal projects for a living. Knowing I’m not depending on it to survive, gives me creative freedom.And to be honest I still don’t know where I stand when it comes to the market of art. Photography as a medium isn’t made for limited editions, IMO. It doesn’t make sense, to me. I believe I’m more of an artisan than an artist, so there is stuff I make for money and there is stuff I make for love. I’m a hooker with a heart of gold
Any areas of art promotion/sales you want to pursue that you haven’t yet?
I would love to explore the book medium more. I love how intimate is a person’s relationship with a book, much more than the one they can have with something that is hanging from a wall. I already make little books with my work but I’d love to add a deeper tactile dimension to them.
What would you say was the tipping point for your success? Was it a gradual success or can you pinpoint a certain series of events that launched your business?
I would hardly say I am successful, actually. Having my name thrown around a lot isn’t success. Being asked to be interviewed for magazines, having someone write about me and publish my work, even making money from my work isn’t really success. I’m still working on finding my distinct voice, something that make people long for what I do when it’s not there. I’m just a vague blip on the radar right now, I don’t think anything I have done so far will be remembered in 10 years. It matters to me, but I still haven’t got something that can transcend the personal level and become universal. As for what has launched me, I think I owe a lot to the Internet and the people behind those monitors. In several points in my career, someone I didn’t know but came across my work from the Internet helped me evolve and helped me improve or proposed me an interesting project.
Can you talk a little about your inspiration for your most current work?
I am working on several projects at the same time. On a more photographic level I’m doing what I call my “blackboard project”. I ask people (friends, relatives, strangers) to come into my studio dressed in black and write what they want on the big blackboard/wall. Then they pose in front of it. I’m loving how intimate the whole process is proving to be.
On the other side I’m working on a more complex project, exploring identity and memory. Each week I randomly pick a theme from 10 words a word randomizer gives me and I take a self portrait (usually using a rolleiflex). I then use the print as a part of a composition that can be a collage or a diorama and photograph it. I am mixing digital and analog but only use photoshop for cropping, developing raw files and resizing for the Internet. I announce each theme publicly and there are other people joining me in this adventure, developing the theme in their own ways. This huge participation keeps me on my feet and makes everything more fun.
Who or what inspires you most to create? Do you have any rituals/habits that go along with producing art?
Things I see, things I dream. I keep a little journal with me all the time and take notes of things that capture my attention. Sometimes these notes keep spinning in my head for a while and then crash into one of the other little thoughts wandering about and something completely different comes out. Music inspires me a lot, movies, comics.When I go to sleep I usually imagine taking the pictures I have in mind, over and over. I select everything, from lighting to props, to gear. Sometimes when I’m driving I realize I am thinking about post production. If you’ve ever dodged and burned someone’s pores, you know how senseless this is. I think that’s like defragging for my brain.When I actually take the picture, I feel like I have already rehearsed it a hundred times; it’s like the physical act of producing something is just an extension of daydreaming about it.
If you had to give up your art today, what would you do instead?
That’s a tough question. I really have no idea.I could live without photography, probably. If I didn’t have photography it would be writing, or sewing, or drawing, or arranging flowers. I don’t think that my medium is my art. Eradicating it altogether doesn’t make much sense, to me. It’s a language. If you cut my tongue I’d find other ways to communicate, but the things I’d say wouldn’t be much different. What you ask is “if I took from you anything that counts, anything that makes you what you are, what would you do?”. Truth is, I’d hit you in the head and take it back.I keep on doing what I’ve been doing since I was a kid: I build little worlds into a box, cut a hole, ask people to watch and I am delusional enough to think that they’ll want to watch.
What does the future hold for you and your art? What projects are on the horizon?
I just want to be amazing
On a more serious note, I am working on a monster project I have been fiddling with for years and now needs to come to life. It’s killing me, but I still haven’t found the right angle for it. I have a.l the elements but I can’t see the finished product. After so much time I’m probably just afraid it’ll suck … I’m also trying to get a O1 VISA to move to California for a year or two and explore photography in a completely different environment, but finding a sponsor isn’t that easy.
Finally, where do people go to find you? Website, twitter, Facebook, whatever others.
Thanks for your time Sara. These are some compelling answers to my banal questions and I appreciate you indulging me and my readers. Oh, and yes, I have burned and dodged pores before, so I get what you’re saying. Thanks again.