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Learn From Experience: Benedetta Ristori

Benedetta Ristori is a freelance photographer currently based in Italy. 

Her work is focused on the tension between a form and the space it takes and where it’s contained by.

Daily objects or common landscapes that are apparently meaningless, for the artist are symbols of connection between interiority and materiality.

The outside world is faced and represented through suspended atmospheres, bringing the viewer into a space less and timeless experience.

Working in both staged and spontaneous photography.

The vision is always consistent, combining meticulously location, colors and composition, with a particular attention on subtraction and reduction to the essential.

In 2014 she was interviewed by the magazine Vanity Fair in the Emerging Photographers section.

Around 2015 Benedetta was one of the finalists of the ‘Next Photographer Award’ by D&AD in partnership with Getty Images.

2016 one photo of her project “Lay Off” was the winner of the People category in the 16th Smithsonian Magazine photo contest.

The same year her project “Lay Off” is published by Vogue Italia, Ignant, Il Muro, Positive Magazine and others.

In 2015 she begin the series ‘East’ ended in 2018.

The project is published on VICE, It’s Nice That, Freunde Von Freunden, The Space Magazine, The Calvert Journal. 

2017 she was one of the 100 creatives chosen to represent the Lazio region in the annual initiative “Lazio Creativo 2017”.  

2018 she self-published her first book “East”, from the homonymous series.

2020 Ristori is one of the winners of “Refocus” by MiBact in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Photography and Triennale Milano.

Her work has been to illustrate articles in Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, Label Magazine, Document Journal and others. She has worked commercially for clients like Airbnb, Fendi, Nike, Action Aid International. 

Her projects are exposed in various international exhibitions.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

I don’t follow any real rules. My work mainly focuses on representing a sensation and telling a story; the approach is instinctive and depends a lot on the person / place on the other side of the camera.

The only rule I can try to follow is to have a free and open mind and try to completely tune into what I am photographing.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

I think the difference is made by the vision.

It doesn’t matter what kind of medium or instrument you are using, it can be a smartphone or an analog medium format camera, but without an idea I don’t think there is any difference.

Very often I’m asked what camera or film I use, but I think you have to work based on the material you have and create your own visual path.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

I believe I am in a constant moment of growth and change.

Everything that happens in personal life is automatically reflected in the photographic work.

This is why I think a turning point was when I became more confident and focused on my personal projects without thinking about what others were doing, focusing exclusively on what is important for me to express.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

I can say that I have never found myself in a difficult situation during my shootings.

The one that comes to mind may be while I was taking pictures of my project “East” during the winter months (in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia) and the snow was very high and has been a problem is to arrive in many locations so much so that I had to exclude some of them because they were unattainable.

Another small difficulty was with a broken film inside the camera, containing very important shots of a project, but luckily I was able to save more than half of the shots.

My reaction in these situations is initially discouragement but I always try to move forward quickly without being influenced too much.

Especially when I am on a project for several weeks and I cannot put it in crisis due to an unexpected difficulty.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

As mentioned before I try to tune into the subject and the space I am going to photograph.

For me it is very important to represent the context and environment in which a subject is contained.

After a practical research for the place or people I want to portray, I try to have an instinctive and free approach, without imposing restrictions on movement and action to the photographed person.

I like to find balance in what I have in front of me without changing it, and I always talk to the subjects to understand if what we are going to tell is actually part of them and if they feel comfortable.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

I mostly use a Pentax Mx for my 35mm and a Mamiya Rz67 for my medium format.

How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?

I am contacted directly by customers.

If there is no direct contact, I am contacted by the creative agencies or photo editors responsible for the project that will be assigned to me.

Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?

No. As I see it, photography is a journey and can begin at any age.

Starting at an older age can be synonymous with awareness, obviously if you want to pursue a career in photography it is better to start earlier but I would never put age limits on an artistic work.

What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?

The biggest impact was related to the inability to travel.

In 2020 I was supposed to leave abroad to continue some projects but it wasn’t possible.

I had to stop, and this can be frustrating when you want to pursue a project.

The positive side was that I had to photographically face the territory in which I live.

Are there any books you would recommend?

“Desert Cantos” by Richard Misrach, “Fotografien 1991 – 1995” by Laurenz Berges and “She” by Lise Sarfati.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

The freedom to explore and learn about unknown places and untold stories inspires me a lot.

I think it is crucial for my creative process to have the possibility to enter and immerse myself totally in the reality that I am going to photograph.

Benedetta Ristori

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