A self-confessed “egoist photographer who’s obsessed by his personal aesthetic research”, Leonardo Scotti first began taking pictures as part of the subway graffiti scene in Milan and wider Europe, pursuing personal projects and self-publishing them in the form of photo-zines. Over the past few years, as he’s begun to integrate the ways he approaches commissions and personal work, his practice has evolved to incorporate fashion photography. He tells us: “I found the balance between work and my personal imagery”, which has resulted in fashion shoots that pay close attention to artistic composition, as well as personal work which draws on elements of fashion styling.
Set on injecting his own idiosyncratic eccentricity into the visual identities of huge fashion institutions like Burberry, Nike, JW Anderson and Vogue Italia, Leonardo describes his style as “explorative, colourful, ironic, dense, imaginative”. Vibrant and heavily saturated, with nods to the architectural lines and expansive backdrops of Luigi Ghirri, as well as the high exposure and contrast of Martin Parr – both of whom he lists as influences – Leonardo’s photographs demonstrate a keen awareness of the relationship between form and colour. A veritable colour wheel of primary and secondary chromatic pairings spins out across his body of work. As he says: “Colour is a dominant element in my photography. Apart from the light, which is necessary to take a photograph, there are three main elements in an image: the content, the composition and the colours; a good image is when those three elements balance each other.”
In his styled shoots, Leonardo seeks to emphasise the often contrived nature of fashion editorials, posing his subjects in jarring environments and manufacturing scenes with incongruous details – rattlesnakes, plastic dinosaurs, an old woman pushing a dog in a pram. “In fashion photography, I like to shoot in the most awkward locations and situations; I like to explore what hasn’t been seen yet”, he tells us. Although many of his photographs favour urban settings, Leonardo is attentive to the presence of the natural world within the experience of modern civilisation – landscapes that provide a stage for displaying clothing; animals and plants that crop up in his compositions. “Everything connected to nature is part of my world”, he tells us. “Recently, I’ve really liked photographing animals – I’m thinking of doing a project about it.”
Speaking of his approach, Leonardo states: “I believe in the power of a single image.” As such, he prefers analogue techniques where the emphasis is on the physicality of the photograph as a singular material object, as opposed to digital processes of endless reproduction. “I’ve always shot on film”, he says. “I approached photography with those shitty 35mm compact cameras – I had dozens of them. Now I work a lot on 120mm, mostly 6×4,5 format. The cameras that I use are still the 35mm point and shoot, but not the shitty ones.”
Having carved out a space for himself in the world of fashion photography where he can apply his own artistic direction and offbeat compositional modes, Leonardo plans to continue developing his personal style in relation to his work: “Life still needs to teach me a lot of things. I’ll keep on learning, discovering and producing. I want to start releasing books constantly.”