Mattia Baldi was born in 1983 in Rome, Italy. His passion for art was inherited from his family; Mattia's great-uncle, Raffaele Baldi, was also a commercial and artistic photographer, active in the 1920 and ’30s. Raffaele Baldi taught himself photography as a boy and later went into business as an architectural photographer working close by to James Anderson’s studio in Rome. Mattia started with FineArt In 1995. In the early 2000s, during his studies at the Academy, he found his family roots and the power of b/w photography. He began to understand the unique way it could assist him in his visual researches on people, working closer to reality than with painting. Admiring and studying the technique from Irving Penn, Helmut Newton and Ansel Adams Mattia have a deep understanding of traditional photographic processes and darkroom work.
Mattia Baldi. Photo by Arran Cheetham
Mattia Baldi, please introduce yourself
I’m an Italian photographer born in Rome that has lived half of his life in Asia, between Beijing, Shanghai and Bangkok. I moved from my country when I was 23 years old and recently graduated from the Academy of FineArt and a private school of photography. I had no English and no experience of living outside my country. I started at the time of High School to work as a comic book artist, illustrator and painter and photography came along as well. I’ve always worked out a way to be paid doing what I can do and I knew that I couldn make it anywhere. Looking back at that right now I feel that things could have gone very bad, was a series of quite crazy life choices.
Where do you live, does your place of residence inspire you to take pictures?
For the last six years I’ve been living in Bangkok, Thailand. I have been shooting in Singapore, Philippines, Laos and pretty much all of south-east Asia. Bangkok was the only place in Asia where I lived that felt like home. Have inspired me and constantly continue to do so in many different ways. I’m not a fan of Thailand tourists attractions or beach sides, or islands. I found that in Bangkok there’s a culture that materializes through good and bad, dirty and modern, decadent and progressive.
Do you have a photographic background?
My father’s uncle was a famous artistic and commercial photographer active in Italy around 1920/30. My father worked in the fields of publishing and photo editing and so photography was all over the place in my house. Books especially. I’ve seriously started to study photography at university and quickly became more important than painting. The contact that photography has with real life and the life situations that brings you in are what initially attracted me.
How come you are interested in photography?
The transition from Painting to Photography was gradual and probably definitive just not before I finished the Academy. I’ve always known authors like Adams, Evans and Avedon but it was hard to imagine me doing the same thing for some reasons. During that time I’ve seen the books from Shores and Frank, Robert Adams and I understood completely that I could work better with photography than with painting. I do like to comment on reality and not to create a new one.
Which photographer has inspired your photography?
Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Irving Penn, Paul Strand…. Just on top of my head.
Why do you work in black and white / color?
For my personal work I prefer to shoot in B/W. I think black and white photography is a medium that conveys sculpture, drawing and brings the attention of the viewer into the subject. Color photography tends to focus on the shades and their matches while black and white photography has that certain attitude toward the search for the truth than anything else except poetry. I do print my work and I like how a photograph is rendered on paper, I don’t like the monitor of a computer. B/W have more options for a good print than color photography both in digital or analog. I like to work on my B/W files/negatives in the same way I did in the darkroom.
How do you prepare for a photo?
I set a space, I mostly work starting with one light or just the Sun. I prefer continuous lights to flashes if it is for my more personal work. Mentally I do like to see my work before shooting but mostly I keep my mind free to roam for ideas as they come. My ideas come when the subject gives me some visual suggestions, from there I can make the picture. I don’t like to prepare an idea from my pure imagination and force the subject to act.
What are your techniques and creative process?
For my last book published “Casting a Book about Women” the technique was quite simple, minimal. I’ve asked the models to pose in front of a grey wall I have on my rooftop, there were no filters or reflective panels. I’ve worked alone without an assistant to give to the subject the feeling of benign almost alone and in peace. For my personal work I don’t like to work with many lights and I usually keep my workflow the same as when I was working in analog film. Right now I’m working mostly in my studio with a mix of quartz lights and natural light from the window.
Which projects would you like to tackle?
I’m working on a series inspired by my gran-uncle work and all the pictorialists era. Camera Work artists like Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz that were at that time the opposite of Ansel Adams and all the F64 group I see all of them today as part of the same reality somehow. I was always inspired by a more pure and realistic approach to the medium of photography and I would like to explore what we can see today through the other side that precedes Adam's work of a decade. I found a good spot in Bangkok’s Chinatown where I can access interesting subjects and situations.
What do you do in your life besides photography?
I’m a Taijiquan teacher and I keep training and teaching while I’m not shooting. I also like reading, walking and good old movies.
Thanks a lot Mattia Baldi for the Interview
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