Interview | Chiara Zonca
Chiara Zonca (b. 1982 in Milan, Italy) is a photographer based in London, United Kingdom.
She studied photography formally after high school and that was enough to put her off the profession for a while. Ten years later, after a successful career in video editing and motion graphic design, she re-discovered her love for still pixels and exploration.
She now seeks for remote and isolated spaces, documenting specific moments in time when changeable light or weather conditions alter her landscape perception. This necessary shift enables her to see past the present and investigate the earth as a timeless, untouched-by-humans, dream-like entity. Colour plays a big role in her creative process and it is an essential tool to convey her emotions
When and how did your journey as a photographer begin?
My journey in photography began at school, I did a 3 year course -the equivalent of a BA, in my hometown of Milan, Italy. It was a very interesting class but I was too "green" to fully commit to that profession. I felt very inadequate, as if what I was being taught was going to be useful eventually but not in that moment in time.
I ended up becoming a video editor and motion graphics designer for a living which is still my main source of income.
Fast forward 10 years and after moving to London and becoming a freelancer, I felt it was time to give photography another shot. It started slowly, as a hobby, to break free from city life which was getting increasingly suffocating. Documenting my travels helped my mind escape. It's safe to say I was quickly hooked, it became clear I simply couldn't live anymore without it. Which is an awesome creative space to be in.
What inspired you to pursue photography?
It started with my love for isolation. I really felt overwhelmed working and living in such a big city as London. I started plotting monthly escapes into nature. Documenting those places was a natural way to tell a story, even if I couldn’t identify with a specific narrative. I realize now looking back at my body of work my inspiration definitely was linked to an intense desire to transcend reality and to live in an over-romanticized environment. Escapism and isolation were my muses.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Dreamcore. Can you say that? I like to think of my images as those fragmented dreams you suddenly remember that make absolutely no sense but are intriguing in their surreal-ness. At least that's the direction I am going towards at the moment.
Are there any photography projects you are currently pursuing or would like to pursue?
Yes. Last year it was all about escaping to the wild for me. I was tired of seeing humans everywhere and, as a reaction, I wasn't remotely interested in photographing them. Now that my anxiety is under check and have a better relationship with the world overall I am getting interested in telling people's stories, in showing human and landscapes and how those two worlds collide. Will start working on two series this Spring, one where I'll make self portraits, documenting my relationship with those landscapes I portray: the other will be shot in rural Canada and will investigate the slow way of life in the Canadian West. They are both at the early stages so that's all I know at the moment.
What general process do you undergo to produce your work?
I usually start a new project by scouting places I'd like to shoot, that match the story I want to tell. I then look for mood references or images that spark my inspiration and drive it towards a certain direction. I don't meticulously plan my photos beforehand, once I pick a destination the less I know the better. I like to challenge my eye and see what it can come up with. What I do plan is logistics as I often travel to remote places and you need to think about access, safety and whatnot. I like to spend a long time on location and preferably spend the night there, to establish a connection with the area and experience it under all sort of light conditions. I often end up camping in my car to be able to enjoy the most remote parts of the planet at unsociable hours, it's not a glamorous lifestyle but I certainly love it.