The Italian photographer is best-known for his fashion work but has mined his decade of personal work to create a striking new monograph
Born in the Italian South Tyrol in 1967, Marco Pietracupa moved to Milan in the early 1990s, where he studied at the Italian Institute of Photography and swiftly started working in the art and fashion industries. His work has been published by L’Officiel, L’Uomo Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Wallpaper and Rolling Stone, and he has also shown at Vice’s Milan Gallery, the Brownstone Foundation in Paris, the Asni Gallery in Addis Ababa, among others. He recently published his first monograph, Shapeshifter, with Yard Press.
BJP: How did you get into photography?
MP: My passion started a long time ago, when I was very young. I felt the need to communicate in some unique way, with my own language. Photography seemed to me the best medium to express myself.
BJP: How did you get into fashion photography?
MP: I studied at the Istituto Italiano di Fotografia (Italian Institute of Photography) in Milan, which has a fashion photography course. Fashion’s visual aesthetic was shifting to a style similar to mine at the time and, even though I was new to that world, I started to work on fashion shoots quite quickly. Keeping consistent with this style was not always easy in Italy, but the fashion industry interested me, particularly being able to work with such a variety of people. I also started working on portraits at the same time, as they had always interested me.
BJP: Your commercial work is quite different to the work in Shapeshifter. How would you describe your commercial and personal work?
MP: The fashion world sometimes seemed absurd and exaggerated to me, so I started to take these zappy shots to almost mock it. I felt this was the most authentic way to show these things from my point of view – even though in fashion photography you never have complete freedom of expression, as you’re always doing it with and for someone else. The images in Shapeshifter represent me completely. I shot every picture for my personal pleasure, then chose to share them.
BJP: Do you always have a personal project you’re working on?
MP: Shapeshifter shows a part of my personal archive. I’ve always worked, and I’m still working, on personal projects because it makes me feel complete. I need this space for myself.
BJP: The images in Shapeshifter are very brightly lit – some of them more traditional photographers might consider “mistakes”. Why do you like to shoot like this?
MP: I would say that I’m not a traditional photographer as I use flashes and overexposure as my technique.
BJP: When did you shoot Shapeshifter?
MP: Some of the shots are from 10 years ago, some of them are shot right before the publication.
BJP: Who does it show?
MP: I normally work with people and things that are around me, from family and friends to my team, assistants, and artists I come across working.
BJP: What are the animals and dioramas?
MP: The animals don’t come from a single place. Most of them are stuffed, I happened to me to come across them and spend some time observing them. Then there is my dog Kaspar.
BJP: Who are the women in the photographs? Their poses are really extraordinary.
MP: These are different women I worked with. During these jobs we discovered we had the same aesthetic and met in common ideas.
BJP: How did you decide the order of the images?
MP: They are not ordered following colour or shape, the order comes from a personal feeling. I wanted to create some sort of surprise, to bring the viewer to a certain interpretation of the pictures by coupling specific shots, trying to find a balance between things that apparently don’t have one. I still try to follow a logic though, starting from the choice of subjects – three types of skin, human, bark and hide; breaking this skin scheme with technical objects; playing with the fine line between reality and fiction.
BJP: What are the picture captions all about?
MP: The captions are done by Francesco Tenaglia. I asked him to write freely inspired by the pictures, and these are his thoughts.
BJP: What does the title refer to?
MP: Browsing through the book it is as if the pictures, from one to another, were shifting shape.
BJP: Why did you want to publish the project as a book?
MP: I’ve been wanting to publish a book using images from my archive for a long time, as it is very rich. I decided to publish Shapeshifter with Yard Press because as a publisher it gives special attention to this kind of personal and conceptual work. Luckily they were immediately convinced by the picture edit, and happy to go ahead.