“My images are a way to tells stories or sensations in a non-literal way,” explains Italian photographer Carmen Colombo. Based in Milan, the photographer’s portraits of everyday life have been widely published across the board in magazines such as i-D, Sleek Magazine, Artpil 30 Under 30 Women Photographers 2020, Then There Were Us (annual 2019, printed), FotoRoom among others. What’s more is that she has partaken in numerous exhibitions including shows at Paratissima in Torino, Macro Museum in Rome for Emerging Talents 201, Jitterbug Gallery, Paris, plus Fotofestival, Milan.
After studying for her diploma at Luz Agency in Milan, Carmen continued her studies in visual arts and photography at Istituto Europeo di Design (IED). Not only did this allow for Carmen to sink her teeth into the medium, it allowed her to build on her cultural and technical background. “I learned a lot on the field when I started to work,” she tells It’s Nice That, “as I tried to understand who I wanted to be. I do not think there is a final answer to that; it’s always in progress and a path that changes as we change.” Instead, she prefers to set new goals to challenge herself creatively.
Storytelling is key for this photographer. “It’s about finding something and reinterpreting it through my eyes,” she adds. “It’s about trying to create an atmosphere through my sensitivity.” On a typical day, Carmen will find herself wandering the streets with her camera and snapping up things that she sees – returning home with a full roll and plenty of shots taken. Although the lockdown has made “normal life” and routine somewhat difficult, Carmen is currently spending her time reading, watching books and observing the work of other photographers. She refers to this part of her life as the one before her “new productive phase”, so prepping and enjoying the time to look for inspiration is very much welcomed in this sense.
“I like to discover new places in my neighbourhood and listen to people talking,” she continues to explain. “I also like dreaming about going away to places and plan to go there some day or another.” As soon as Carmen has some free time to go out, rest assured it will be filled with long and observational walks. “If I find anybody that captures my attention for any specific reason, I will ask them if I can take a picture; I like when strangers accept and they trust me.”
Communication, in this sense, is deemed vital for her photography to lift off. It’s also part of the process that she enjoys most, especially when she’s conferring with other artists. “I believe that confrontation with other creative people is vital to improve your work and to exchange ideas,” she says, pointing out these interactions tend to fuel many ideas of hers. Elsewhere, she will turn to films and books to create “her vision” – one of her favourites being Italian writer and critic Gianni Celati. She also cites emerging photographers Matteo Buonomo and Lacopo Pasqui whose work she finds “very strong”.
Looking through Carmen’s portfolio is like walking through a pleasant dream. Each picture is purposefully posed, while her subjects’ give a hint to the photographer's ease behind a camera – an ease which is transferred onto her subjects in an instant. When speaking of her favourite image, one rings out as the most important for Carmen – one of “two guys having fun” on a beach. It was on a day in October and she had been travelling in her car, before she stopped on a beach to enjoy the light of the evening’s sunset. “As I was reaching the shore, I noticed two boys taking selfies and I asked if I could photograph them,” she says. “I was moved by their genuine attitude about vanity – just two guys having fun.” It wasn’t just their personas that drew her in creatively, it was also the warm light that surrounded them. “But as they came closer to me, I ask them to stay as they were. I took the picture and the perfect light was already gone.”
Carmen’s main aim is that she wants to present her vision of the world to those around her – “like allowing them to take a glance into a bucket where I keep something special.” Next, she plans on finishing a new project about human relationships that has been bubbling away since pre-lockdown. “Now, more than ever, I think I want to investigate this because I am missing human contact and sharing with other people.”