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Interview: Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini

Friday, September 30th, 2016

President’s in conversation with Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini, our AW16-17 artist-in-residence. 

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You’re an accomplished photojournalist. Tell us a little about you and your path to where you are.

Photography was a passion that came out of nowhere. I have no idea how, where, or when I began learning to use a camera.

During my college years at Parsons and The New School, I began assisting a few fashion photographers – Wayne Maser and Steven Klein were among them. The experience directed me to want to pursue photography as a career but not in the fashion world. After being hired on a regular basis by a French agency for editorial and portraiture work, I was offered the opportunity to cover a story in Afghanistan. Since that job and from that exposure to the Middle East and Asia, my work began to concentrate specifically on war zones. I soon found myself in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. It all started in summer 2009.

And you’ve spent a great deal of time photographing around the Middle East – Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. What’s been your experience in these conflict zones?

War Zones are terrifying and fascinating. Terrifying because only in a war zone can you fully understand to what extent the human race is willing to do in order to establish an idea. Fascinating because only in conflict can you really understand the resilience and the power to survive and to fight for one’s own rights.

Tell us a little about your AW16-17 campaign image from Cuba.

I had always been intrigued by a country so geographically close to the United States, yet at the same time so unaccessible to American citizens that I had to go there myself. Another reason was the fact that the country was undergoing economic transition, and I wanted to experience the country’s culture in its purest form. I spent a month in Havana and the neighboring countryside observing the environment and the people.

What do you think it takes to make good, original photography in Cuba? Since it’s been so high on tourists’ radar over the past few years, it seems most of what you see from there looks very similar.

Perspective and being able to control the light, and what the environment has to offer is what makes a good picture in any scenario. We can almost say that everything has been visually captured, either by our naked eye or by our digital accessories like cameras and phones. It is up to us to take a step back, give some time to our eyes to fully understand our surroundings and focus with a critical eye what everyone else might find ordinary.

You split your time between New York City and Beirut, right? That’s a big contrast. What’s Beirut like?

I lived in Beirut in 2013.. I wish I could go back.

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You were born in the U.S., but grew up in Florence, just like President’s. Is there anything in your sensibility and work that you feel is particularly Italian?

Everything I do is a result of my past and therefore I like to think that a lot of my sensibility comes from my Italian education. Its a known fact that Italians take longer to create things but when they do, they are impeccable. I am not saying that my work is perfect, but I take my time when photographing.

What is it about President’s that resonates with your style?

President incorporates beautifully tailored garments and modernism without being obviously trendy and is easy to wear. These are by far my favorite elements. Also how can you not like something that comes from Florence – it is the epicenter of Italian culture!