It is deeply satisfying to look at the work of Silvia Sasso. If you spent hours examining the works of art with your eyes adjusted to the beauty, you would still find Silvia's work comforting in its innovative-paralleled monochrome world. Just pause for a moment and relish the scene.

Inspirational art directors, unique photographers, and movie directors encourage us to look at the world with attention to detail and project what we see through our vision. That is precisely what twenty years in advertising offered to Silvia Sasso with the difference of experiencing it firsthand.

It brought her to photography.

“I held my camera and explored my notion, finally giving in to the emotional urgency I felt my entire life, leaving rational selection behind. I stripped down my marketing mindset and began investigating, exploring, and communicating my vision. Yet, I maintained my stylistic purity with the willingness to deliver precisely the desired content while leaving space in which one can find oneself.”

Silvia Sasso: Monochromic stimulation

Silvia’s photography journey began at the ISFCI (Institute of Photography) in Rome, Italy. There, she worked on her portrait and fashion photography to finally find her focus: female-figure.

“I was born to be a portraitist, finding my purpose in interpreting female intimacy and exploring the spirit in womanhood. I discovered my aspiration to tell a story that manifests it. It began by studying patterns that portray femininity in social and cultural contexts and trying to dismantle them to develop the pure woman archetype.”

Little by little, Silvia’s portraits started to lose their attributes and bond with reality; in her first exhibition, designated “Ritratte” [ed. transl. “Portrait” or “withdrawn”], she presented the vision of female intimacy, free from space and time.

“Women became fragmented in my fantasy. Their fragments paralleled with external elements, revealing hidden relationships that I uncovered through the illustrated paralleled visuals in my work. My view of womanhood developed into a binary concept that linked the woman body to objects represented by still life.”

Silvia Sasso: Monochromic stimulation
Silvia Sasso: Monochromic stimulation

Silvia, when did you discover photography?

My dad gave me my first professional camera to celebrate my 40th birthday when I realized I could have finally afforded the luxury to reply to my emotional urgency and share my visual perspective. The 20 years in advertising accustomed me to visual communication to use the lens to express my vision, which I continue to explore.

Who are the people that inspired you the most in the early days of shooting, and why?

I profoundly adore two photographers who are different only at first glance. I use both of their approaches and combine them in my photographic work: Francesca Woodman and Tim Walker.

To Francesca, I owe my focus on female bodies and their surroundings; to Tim, I owe my curiosity for an imaginary space that intends to represent something real.

In my photography, I often explore womanhood through a consistency carried out through multiple inquiries of their mutual relationship with other features, which often yield initially irrational values yet with an inherent connection.

Most of your work is monochromic; is it difficult to stick to this pattern? Do you miss colors?

When I studied photography, one method to teach us how to achieve harmony in the composition was to use black and white because the color would distract the image’s shape and composition. The frame and position of each component provided the meaning, not the color.

The delicate colors with light differences and nuances just came to me in my work to help me focus on the message behind it, on its meaning.

My selection of avoiding vivid colors leads to somewhat neutralized images of the women I portray and makes them more universal. For example, determining the variety of an apple in my shots is difficult since I dilute the colors. As such, the focus becomes chiefly symbolic, communicating its value in another way.

Is there a hidden meaning in your photographs? I saw black and white pictures where a woman has her head in a plastic bag named Frozen. You also used plastic in the Bouquet and Plastic Pink. Is there a more powerful message behind these?

Although with different creative ideas and various principles of illustration, all these works are complaints against artificial beauty: “a plastic beauty.”

In Frozen, the purpose of the plastic is to preserve, to freeze a young beauty otherwise predestined to wither, but by doing so, the woman loses her warmth and feminity, her essence.

In Bouquet, I communicate the superficiality behind the research of the exterior and vain beauty. The woman wrapped in plastic just like a bouquet is in all her radiance, but like flowers cannot transform into fruits when cut off from the plant, the same way beauty for its own sake remains fruitless.

While Plastic Pink represents a broader and more straightforward interpretation of the same aberration in which the feelings and emotions are reduced to small pieces of plastic discarded in garbage bags, but with no soul, the woman remains only an artificial body with no vital power.

Silvia Sasso: Monochromic stimulation
Silvia Sasso: Monochromic stimulation
Silvia Sasso: Monochromic stimulation

Let’s explore your binary concept between a female and a still-life object. How did they come to be?

During the analysis of the concept of feminine identity, I intended to decompose it.

I looked, not only at a visual level, for similarities among women’s bodies and natural elements but an intuitive search for mutual significance between them, which becomes apparent through their association.

They form a universal entity when I find it and reveal it by displaying their intimate mutual bond.

It is not solely the ability to see the hidden relationship, a parallel world if you’d like, but to imagine that everything can also be something else, to see behind the general appearance.

It means not stopping at the most immediate answer. It means, as Tim Walker once said, “la nostra capacità di sognare come bambini” [ed. transl. “to be able to dream/imagine as children can”].

Do you want to express a specific stand when you approach photography, coming to the day of the photoshoot with a final idea of what you want to do, or does this come organically during the photoshoot?

I always go to the set after a lengthy consideration of the project. Sometimes it begins with a simple intuition, the need to share a feeling, a simple point of view, or a personal condition. When that happens, I try to find the visual telling — to see it in the image. I always carry a well-structured mood board to the set.

It is there where the magic begins—an interaction with a model and her capability to portray my vision; the touch of the make-up artist who decides to make eyes, for example, more prominent than the mouth; the stylist who gives preference to a certain kind of fabric. Everything contributes to the final visual.

To answer the question, yes, I arrive at the set with a clear idea materialized at the end of the day through collective work.

Silvia Sasso: Monochromic stimulation

Do you intend to stay in the style you found or explore new horizons?

I cannot decide to stay or to leave. My stylistic code evolved in harmony with the topics I wanted to talk about; it may sound like a paradox, but the tight borders of the diptych might open the gates to broad horizons and countless interpretations of pure intrinsic duality.

Consequently, I will adapt the code from tale to tale, trying not to betray my authorial identity and follow my stylistic consistency.

Where do you see yourself in photography in five years?

I am more interested in how rather than where.

How will I be in five years? I hope to be free to focus on my journey and research, and if, on my way, someone gets inspired by my work, finds small bits of themselves within my work, or feels simple aesthetic pleasure when looking at my pictures, I will have given a touch of joy or an impulse for a thought. It would make me happy for this to be my gift in life.

Piece by Freedom Writers

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