I often stop to observe people, especially those closest to me. I watch how they move, their gestures and expressions.
It is the non-verbal language of the body, which has always fascinated me and which often tells you a lot more about a person, and in a clearer and more forceful manner, than any words can do.
The things we do, the gestures we use every day; for me, they are a kind of identifying feature, almost an identity card, that has the power to hide very little and reveal a whole lot more. Body language is essentially a universal medium, but our gestures evolve with age and according to experience. And, if it is true that we have thousands of gestures in common, it is also true that the exact manner in which we make them is ours alone. There’s that positioning of your hand, or that raised eyebrow, a slightly wonky smile, that funny way of jumping.
I’ve found trying to capture an action in a photo quite complicated because the gesture had to reflect what I saw and, at the same time, describe the character of the person in the portrait.
The more I tried to capture them, the more they eluded me. Clearly, I had to find my own method of capturing, in my photographs, the feelings communicated through the movement of the body. I couldn’t ask the person to make the gesture deliberately, as the resulting shot would be unnatural and poof!, it would lose all meaning. My ‘method’ couldn’t be that of using posed shots!
I have to say that, in my research, I was greatly inspired by the work of Simone Bramante (Brahmino instagram.com/brahmino), with his way of telling a story through portraits of people suspended in a world somewhere between fantasy and reality. A place which always has a slightly ruffled, blurred surface, allowing an inner world to shine through and help the subject tell his or her story.
I am far from being able to tell such rich tales but, by chance, as it so often happens, I finally achieved by objective. And, at least for me, it is that ‘by chance’ part of it all that is the key. It’s not a stroke of good luck, but neither is it a search for any exact shot. It requires minute observation and the quick wits to grab the perfect moment.
And there it is: a lesson in ‘reflection jumping’, with a follow-up ‘solo’ attempt! His head lowered in effort and concentration shows his stubbornness, along with his need to repeat the action on his own in order to make it his own.
After this (totally unexpected) eureka moment, I carried on taking photos, trying to capture moments through gestures. The aim was to communicate the relationship or the emotion associated with a particular moment through the actions of the people involved. The light hearted joy of running through the sand. Or the happiness of the moment in which, having built a homemade jet-pack, you try to reach the sky (after all, that’s what it was made for, wasn’t it?).
Looking more closely, you can see actual mute conversations that take place exclusively by means of gestures, with no words whatsoever.
Shared signs, picked up and interpreted, before being answered in the same language of small, everyday actions. I like to observe these games, which are only actually games in appearance. In reality, they are part of a dialogue that evolves over time, just like our own gestures; a way of making ourselves understood above and beyond any verbal expression, so easily misunderstood.
Cinzia Bolognesi – graphic designer and illustrator