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An Interview with Giacomo Cabrini: Part I

I am proud to present a recent interview I conducted with my good friend Giacomo Cabrini in Milan for The Hippo Collective. Giacomo is a young artist, who is particularly interested fashion and photography. He recently finished studying in New York and is now looking for the next step in his creative career. He has been photographing fashion shows and models for several years. With the advent of fashion week, he is looking forward to shooting for a couple of publications in Paris and Milan. We had a chat about social media and photography, Fondazione Prada and high Californian fashion.

The Hippo Collective: Thank you Giacomo for taking the time to speak with me. It’s a pleasure to see you again. What have you been up to lately?
Giacomo Cabrini: Thank you for having me. Not much. I recently returned [to Milan] after a year in New York where I was studying photography. I have always been a huge fan of the arts. I’ve been doing photography for four years and I thought that was going to be my career path. But after the year- moving to New York was not too easy for me. The school wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. So I’ve decided to take a year off and figure out what I really want. Nevertheless, I still very much love what I do.

THC: That’s what I expected to hear!
GC: It’s just figuring out what’s next for me. Apart from that, it’s been a constructive year. I’ve learned a lot, even just by living by myself in a new city. However, for the time being, I think I prefer being at home for a little more.

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THC: Did you make contacts when you were in New York?
GC: I met many people with whom I had spoken to on the Internet. Posting a lot of my work to social media [platforms] like Tumblr and Instagram in the past years definitely allowed me to get in touch with a lot of people who shared my same interests and curiosities. What fascinates me the most about the Internet is its ability to connect so many people from different cultural backgrounds. I love how a lot of my followers still get to see what’s going on during Paris fashion week through my Tumblr blog whilst sitting at home somewhere in Ohio.
I also met employees who worked for the social media companies that I use. Tumblr’s fashion director has always been really supportive. I got the chance to spend some time with him during New York Fashion Week during my stay in the US. He’d always invite me to the events they were hosting and really made me feel part of a family, in a way. I loved going to these things.
Obviously, some of my professors at school were professionals in the field. I met many people in the end and established contacts for the future.

I think that in order to create ‘good work’, you must start with personal instinct. Something that sparks inside of you. Then you supplement that with research. It’s really important to be aware of a lot of things in order to produce work that has depth.

THC: Speaking of Tumblr and Instagram, what relationship is there between social media and photography? How have you used social media?

GC: That’s a really good question! I feel that there’s so much going on in social media. So many pictures are shared every day. So many different artists are trying to use it to gain some exposure. I think that social media is changing the way we think of images and the way we perceive them in general. I might see 300 pictures a day. It’s really hard to look at all of them and take the details in. It’s not like looking at a beautiful print by Richard Avedon. Social media definitely changes the way we look at photos.
I think anyone today can call himself or herself a photographer. They definitely have the right to do it because they are taking a picture in the end. I don’t really like people who state that iPhone photography isn’t a form of photography. Because it is [a form of photography]. I know so many people that take beautiful pictures with their phones. [The tool] doesn’t really make any difference.
Obviously, social media is also changing the business side of photography. Many images live on digital platforms only. Everything is so immediate today; as soon as something happens, there’s a picture about it. Reporters are losing their business because anyone with an iPhone can potentially do it.
For fashion, this technological movement is really exciting! Everything is moving so quickly. There are collections being released every couple of months. Some people are saying it’s killing creativity because the designers have to keep up with the market. It’s just how the world is moving today and we just have to keep up. We have to adapt no matter how challenging it is to stay creative in such short time frames.

THC: Has not the fashion industry always been very competitive historically? It has always been challenging to ascend to fame.
GC: True. But I think that in today’s world products, events, photographs etc. start being seen as “old” and “irrelevant” very quickly. In fashion, “irrelevancy” came about every six months or so. Now, it’s every two months. This also applies to artists who use social media and the internet to promote their work. Nowadays, an image you might have posted a month ago isn’t as valuable to your viewers as the one you posted last night.

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THC: You said that you disdain people who suggest that ‘iPhone photography’ is not a ‘real’ form of photography. Do you think that there is more to being an actual photographer than just aiming a ‘point and shoot’ camera and pressing a shutter button?
GC: I think what really matters is your point of view and message. Being a ‘real’ photographer depends on so much more than being able to press a button. If you have a good eye, if you have something to say and if you share what is important to you, then I don’t think the medium is as important. For me, a picture I took with my iPhone is just as valuable as one I took with my “professional” camera. They live in two different worlds in a way, but they’re both equally as important.

THC: With the high level of turnover that is happening on a daily basis, how can users stand out?
GC: That’s a tricky question. Perhaps three years ago when Instagram was starting to become a thing, it was easier. Now it’s much more difficult given the saturation of the market. In some cases, it’s about the people that you know. If you appear on someone’s profile or if someone gives you a shout-out, people will hear about you more easily. It also depends on what you have to say. You can have all the contacts in the world, but if you’re bland and not interesting people won’t stick with you. They might know about you and that’s something that wasn’t possible five years ago.
Also, being consistent in your method and technique is important. Having a presence that people can rely on, can trust and recognize is important. It’s almost like a job. It might seem casual but there’s so much work that goes behind the successful photographers that ‘live’ online. You also have to have good content and a good work ethic.
You need to understand the medium that you’re working with. I know so many people that shoot beautiful pictures but they don’t know how to interact with their audience. It’s a pity because they don’t get the exposure they deserve but [marketing] is something that artists need to know how to do nowadays.

I think that social media is changing the way we think of images and the way we perceive them in general. I might see 300 pictures a day. It’s really hard to look at all of them and take the details in.

THC: Do you think that all users deserve to become famous? You always think in the back of your mind that if you post a certain photo, you might receive tons of followers. Does everybody on Instagram deserve to be famous?

GC: People are famous for so many different reasons nowadays. I personally don’t think fame should be the goal. I’ve always loved sharing my photos online with an audience. I never thought: ‘I’m going to post this picture because I’ll get X amount of followers.’ That doesn’t really matter to me as long as I’m presenting work that really reflects what I’m about. It’s important to cultivate your own taste as truthfully as possible and try to ignore everything that’s trending already.
You really have to be honest on social media. I think people are going to catch on eventually if you aren’t. I feel like that applies to life in general too. That’s not the way that you’re supposed to live your life as an artist, or as a person in general. Some people are at the top because of their connections. I still respect the fact that they managed to get there. I might think that my work is better than another artist’s work, but I’m not there. Networking is definitely important.

THC: Do you think that you have to consume varied and extensive content to become a good photographer and produce good work?
GC: I think that in order to create ‘good work’, you must start with personal instinct. Something that sparks inside of you. Then you supplement that with research. It’s really important to be aware of a lot of things in order to produce work that has depth. That’s also a reason why I didn’t like studying just photography in college. I feel like I was learning a lot about the technical side of it but not much else. I think that expanding your awareness is important for creating meaningful work. You have to have good references, read books and be aware of what’s around you. Even conceptually, it makes your work so much better if you know where you live. If your goal is to create superficial, ‘pretty’ work, then research and content are not really necessary and you’ll be fine. However, if you want to create work that is relevant, important and really offers something to the audience, then you need to consume [a lot of content].

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THC: What do you like to read?
GC: I read anything really. I’ll pick up any book that is laying around the house. I just finished reading Jane Eyre [by Charlotte Brontë] for the second time. I love that book! I don’t necessarily like all of the books I read, but it’s important for me to be aware of their existence. You never know where you’ll find inspiration for future projects so I tend to give everything a try. I don’t think artists should limit themselves to look into their imagination or personal experiences in order to come up with concepts. It will run out in the end. I worked on a series in New York based on Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. She’s a character that really fascinated me in many ways. I had friends in New York who I wanted to photograph in order to interpret various scenes from the novel. That was a lot of fun.

THC: Have you seen Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation?
GC: Of course! I wanted to work on a fashion film based on the cinematographic adaptation but because of technical issues, it just wasn’t possible to finish it. I would like to complete it. We would use fashion and images to represent certain scenes.

THC: In 50 years, you will present it at your retrospective!
GC: Hopefully! Or maybe I’ll just publish it on YouTube.

On behalf of The Hippo Collective, I would like to thank Giacomo Cabrini for taking the time to speak with me. You can follow him on Instagram here: @giacomocabrini, and click here to check out his portfolio. Keep an eye out for Part II. 

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