Few weeks prior to leaving for California one of my friends perhaps the one person who can get me charged up with energy and, excited about art as he happens to own an art gallery in London, Scream London on a lengthy telephone conversation was telling me about his new project. “You have got to meet this very talented photographer, who shoots (not with a gun but camera) maybe you would be interested”, I tell my friend. My friend is Jamie Wood, whose father Ronnie Wood is a band member of the legendary Rolling Stones. Jamie tells me, “horses are good, I mean some people like cat’s, some dogs, and horses it’s all good”.
The photographer is Sebastiano Vitale a talented Italian, who too would be flying Los Angeles. What ties Sebastiano Vitale to the Rolling Stones and Jamie Wood? Charlie Watts,the shy, somewhat aloof, reserved member of the band and drummer of the Rolling Stones. Among the horses Sebastiano photographed was that of Charlie and Shirley Watts.
Today, the band gets ready to rock and roll as they have done so many times, Jamie Wood prepares for what he has to do, and Sebastiano Vitale sets up shop all of them in California. What magic.
Welcome to my world of Serendipity. Here in his own words is my interview with Sebastiano Vitale, and some of his work, giving you a full in-dept look at the work of Sebastiano from the ‘Cocaine in Bolivia’ to his current works on exhibition The Raw Horse.
— Aurea Dempsey (@AureaDempsey) May 3, 2013
1. Where did you grow up and what did you love doing as a child?
I grew up with my family in Torino, north of Italy. We are a family of intellectuals that loves simple things, with a profound respect of nature and rural principles as well of beauty and culture. As a child, and up to now, I have always been considered “the weird one” in between friends, people, schoolmates. My family house has thousands of books, I remember, when I was in between 7 and 12 years old, hours per day, each day, spent on history of art, listening classical music, and copying illustrations from ancient books, I owe the sense of beauty and research to my father and the respect for rawness to my mother. It was not possible to share this knowledge with friends or schoolmate, I was the Addams Family one in the school compound. At the age of 10 i discovered guitar, and i didn’t do anything else than playing until the university. I was dreaming Leonardo da Vinci until I discovered Jimi Hendrix. Some years later a show changed my life and I spent years into quite advanced and visionary multimedia, internet was recently born. But I wasn’t a child anymore.
2. What got you interested in photography ?
I am into media art since 15 years, then I got completely bored of experimenting with media and I began working with documentaries and commercial videos. In between I have been working a relevant time in advertising and events, but I never found peace, running from one media to another, often suffering for the time you waste in production. I was in Uganda with a close friend, working on a documentary. I was the video, he was the photo. When I was about to finish downloading videos from the camera he was finishing the post-production, when I was talking with editors he was already preparing a new project. I realized suddenly that with photography you can tell a big story in a click. No working team, no productions, nothing but immerse yourself in something and translate it into a click, from an adventure to another, without spending ages trying to put together pieces as for any production, especially the underground ones. Technically speaking switching from video to photography is not a big deal, the eye matters, buttons and tricks are not that important. I began with photojournalism, and I switched into fine art, using the same approach: development of a project, immersion into reality, shoot and have fun.
3. Who would you say have been your creative influences ?
hard to say… a lot.. too much.. and very diverse.. some milestones like Jimi Hendrix, Beethoven, Miles Davis, apocalypse now, Bosch, Fellini, Robert Wilson, Wu Cheng’en, Ben Okry, Maradona, Velazquez, Jonathan Swift.
4. It is obvious from your work you love horses what made you decide to photograph them?
Since I am a child I think that animals have the answer to lots of important questions, but we can’t understand them. I spent long time when I was a kid watching dogs in their eyes trying to understand what they were thinking. Then i read Gulliver travels, not the stupid short edition for kids, the real one. My lifetime dream is to make a movie rewriting it in our era. Gulliver travels is an incredibly modern and timeless critic of human society and political systems. It is structured in four chapters, four island. Three of them are human, in the famous one, Lilliput, Gulliver embodies the atomic bomb, a weapon of mass destruction to menace other countries. Then he become little between giants, a jewel that generates greed and palace plots. In the third island scientists and artists have the power, with the result that people die of hunger. The last island is inhabited by horses. It is the ideal world, the symbol of harmony and peace. In the book horses don’t have the concept of lie, they can not think a lie, they are pure and honest and able to structure a democratic society. They will ask Gulliver, after years, to leave the island, as a human, one day, will instigate lies and try to achieve power and control over their ideal society. The Raw Horse is a visual representation of this concept, an ideal world, pure and harmonic, where hidden agendas are not even possible to conceive. Animals are perfect models, unaware of their beauty, beautifully raw, proud and pure.
4. Currently you are in Los Angeles as our the Rolling Stones, how did it come about you photographing Charlie Watts horse?
I had the chance to shoot Arabian horses in Poland, thanks to a production company that is managing my work in Russia and Poland. Janow Podlaski is one of the most important stud in the world for Arabian horses, historically. Charlie and Shirley Watts use to buy their best horses in Janow Podlaski. I had the chance to shoot their beautiful Etnologia, that won as best mare of the year in Paris championship. While I was in Paris at the show I met Shirley Watts and we had fun watching the photos. Serendipity rules the world.
5. What do you like about Los Angeles so far?
I am moving to USA, and a perfect balance would be a bit of NY and a bit of LA. I like what everybody does.. Sun.. Beach.. Freedom.. Opportunities.. Easy going attitude..
6. Currently you are exhibiting your works what is your vision what would you like to happen?
The Raw Horse is absolutely immense and unique. I want exhibitions, commissioned shooting and portraits, big scale multimedia installations, and a coffee table book. I want this project merging the art and the equestrian world, fashion, photography, literature, exclusivity and broad audience. And of course I want to shoot worldwide, so far i shot in Argentina, Poland, Italy, UK, USA. Mongolia, Namibia, Cameroon, Pakistan, UAE, Iceland, Brazil, Mexico, a lot is yet to come. My approach is as if it was an entertainment production rather than an art project. A complex structure that needs production, funds, and multiple opportunities. It is conceived in chapters to allow micro and macro sponsorship opportunities. It has to be immense. It has to become an ideal world.
7. I am sure you enjoy foods can you share what are your favorite foods?
I am Italian.. And this is a problem! I always miss Italian food, they say you can find it anywhere in the world, but it is one of the biggest lie in human history. But.. I love food, anywhere, anytime, any food, from star Michelin to street food, from Iceland to Bolivia. I love to order anything I don’t understand, point randomly the menu and see what happens, especially if in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, with not even a vague understanding of the symbols . My curiosity for the planet is pretty endless.. and food is an important world to explore.