Interview #64

Omar Sartor

* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).

Omar Sartor (Vittorio Veneto, 1981) studied at Accademia Nazionale Arti Cinematografiche (Bologna). His work has been exhibited at Planar (Bari); Oxford Gallery (London); Galleria Fantini (Milan); Galleria Tina Modotti (Naples); Fotografia Europea (Reggio Emilia); Yoyogi Gallery (Tokyo).

What is your educational background?

I was born and raised in the middle of the countryside, between lakes and woods. At 12 years old I fell in love with MTV, music videos and their fresh language, but I never thought I could actually work in the field. They were on the other side of the TV and the border between me and them was clear. When I was 15 years old I built a large log cabin on a tree where my friends and I spent all the time drinking and smoking. Still no cinema or photography. After graduating as an agricultural expert and having tried several jobs in the field I thought I had to draw out that thing and try it. And so I did. After the Cinema Academy and a specialization in Film editing and Photography I threw myself into any related employment and from there I grew slowly, very slowly. Among millions of dissatisfactions and anxieties.

Your photographic work is divided between personal projects and commissions. What do you do exactly?

I’ve always been a shy person and I have never liked people. But the landscape, yes. I knew to understand and interpret it better than others, it was so easy for me and therefore I decided to make it my main subject. My research related to landscape investigates its true essence and how anthropogenic interventions relate to it.

You said that creative and commercial jobs influence each other; What do you mean?

I decided to make my passion my job. That’s a big sacrifice if you have your own ethics. It’s not easy to bend your vision to trade mechanisms, often of poor quality, and it is frequently disarming. But after a while I realized it’s a good compromise to put some light touches of my research into my commercial work and to use ideas that come from working with clients into my research projects.

You mainly work in analogue, using film and view camera; what kind of experiences have led you to this choice?

I love how the type of media influences the vision and the photographic language. Most of the pictures of my projects are slow and conceived. I need to immerse myself in what I am doing and get in touch with the subject (whether Mount McKinley or the platform roof of the petrol station makes no difference). The slow media types, such as the view camera, allow me to enter that slow and reflective dimension I need.

The editorial product adds a third dimension to photography for you; How do you deal with the universe of publishing, particularly with the independent one?

I’m in love with the independent publishing world and I collect a lot of magazines and books. With mass production of devices that capture images in a conscious manner, not conscious and unconscious, (I mean smartphones, webcams, drones, low cost cameras etc.), I think the world of photography had to raise the bar, shaking off the mock pleasant consciousness of have taken a beautiful single image and go further. To give space to the third dimension, to the planning, it was the right way, something which has already been faced in the past by many authors but always in a simple and solemn tone. The independent publishing world has legitimized the ancient medium, refreshed it with form, graphics, materials, and also allowed the development of new forms of a narrative, closer to the movies or to music, free but cultured. I’m happy to live consciously this moment that I already consider of historic significance.

Your recurring leitmotif is undoubtedly the environmental portrait. What exactly do you find interesting about this element, and in particular in the not anthropized land?

I love the timeless dimension of the landscape. It’s my only real certainty. It was, it is and it will be after me and after us. This gives me great peace of mind. I find it noble, wise and strong.

You grew up in the Venetian province, between lakes and hills, but during the last ten years you have been based in Milan. How do you live the urban landscape, particularly this city?

Honestly, it took me very long to understand Milan. It’s a city that has been repeatedly raped by people and history. It’s an ugly city on the outside but with interesting inner aspects. I think it is very disconnected from the natural reality of the place where it was founded. It always made me smile to think that if one night someone would move Milan somewhere else no one would ever notice that.

In your productions, has it happened for you to work together with different people and creative organizations?

Yes, I love to find valuable people with whom to share work and life. My works are often developed very thoughtfully and monolithic. This happens also for the fear of having to complete the project with wrong influences. But when I find people able to understand the project, I give almost free rein to them. It’s a great satisfaction to be able to mix your own ideas with those of others. Roberto Mandia is a dear lifelong friend, he produces all the music for my videos. Valentina Monari shares with me life, passions and the studio. I have a very special relationship and synergy with her, without which I couldn’t live anymore.