(Andrea Tinterri, no.71 Velvet Blue - the resulting state)
Piazza Prampolini, Reggio Emilia, August, the hot weather is back to bother us even at night. Sitting at a table at a distance from the stage which allows us to listen to each other: for Paolo Simonazzi to speak and for me to write (transcribe) in a small notebook. Ambrogio Sparagna in front of a piazza which is full even on Monday evening. Places to meet are never chosen by chance, it is no coincidence that Simonazzi has chosen a traditional popular music concert as interference during a brief interview.
There is always a song which accompanies my photographs; the starting point is always musical. I love the American-ness of Springsteen like I love the blues of Emilia, the compositions of the singer-songwriter Guccini and the Italian punk of Lindo Ferretti.
A music (and a word) which often speaks of the territory in which he was born and where he lives, often without continuity, as though it were a declaration of belonging, an ideological, political and sentimental declaration. The same process of interconnections which inhabit the photographic projects of Paolo Simonazzi: the Emilian province between Parma and Reggio right up to the Lombardy shores of Mantova. Mine is a magnetic attraction, my journeys almost always begin in places that I inhabit and frequent; they are born, they develop and transform: when I began working on the Mondo Piccolo project I had no idea where I would finish. I just needed to express my emotional involvement with these places. This project was born in 2006 after a shot taken in the small town of Soragna, in the province of Parma. A brainwave and then a literary reflection which still continues today.
The stimulus is fairly evident, that small world described by Guareschi, that province which became an arena for political unrest in a moment when the parties were still capable of filling the public squares: claustrophobic spaces in which to listen to the murmuring of a crowd waiting for something. In 2006 I came across Guareschi only through cinematographic adaptations; I had not yet read anything of his. Photography allows me to open macro and micro worlds, to study, investigate. Guareschi is certainly one of those situations similar to that which was to happen, soon after, with the project "Cose ritrovate" and the writings of Raffaello Baldini, and in particular the piece "La fondazione". To begin a photographic project is for me like continuously opening links which lead me to cover new ground.
But the account by Simonazzi is in any case a tainted territory, it is an Emila which often has a flavour of America, probably filtered by the sound of rock and by certain photographs from overseas that he has seen and continues to observe.
As for many born here, American culture has been a connatural contamination. It almost seems a contradiction, Left-Wing Emilia looking to the legend of America, but in reality it is not, there are shared, common values, which in some way tie us and render us distant relatives. I remember that the photographic critic Paolo Barbaro spoke of a geographical assonance between our plains and the American Midwest. Who knows, perhaps he was right.
He has a glass of tonic water with ice and lemon in front of him, I have a beer. The music continues to condition us; we look at the stage, make a few comments and then continue to exchange ideas. Paolo pulls a sheet from his pocket that he had printed for the occasion, a quotation which perhaps is just the thing to finish our discussion on his work, on his rapport with the territory and with all that animates it. Here, see, this is what I was telling you about earlier, it’s a brief declaration by Stephen Shore, this is the point: "to see something spectacular and recognise it as a photographic possibility is not such a very big leap. But to see something ordinary, something you see every day, and recognize it as a photographic possibility – that is what I am interested in". And this is also Luigi Ghirri's great lesson.
And in this apparent ordinariness there is also room for the irony which is due and necessary in order to speak of the province, that desecrating and tender irony which becomes a possible key to interpreting these places. Simonazzi, participating in the territory as though he himself were a protagonist of that little world, understands that provincial intelligence which is survival instinct, a familiarity with a difficult place which needs to be exorcized, narrated, and not taken too seriously. Like all micro worlds which have their own unwritten rules, which need to be understood and respected in order to enter, to be accepted into. Like the river that crosses these plains, those rivers on the banks of which "if the shadow of a dead man comes to sit beside you, don’t be afraid, speak calmly with him" (Giovannino Guareschi).