Eggs, curtains, smoked salmon and a miniature colosseum are all unlikely subjects of Italo-American photographer Olimpia Piccolo’s series, All Good and Very Happy. Olimpia’s work is, to a large degree, inspired by her dual heritage. “I have lived in Rome most of my life and moved to Bristol to study photography,” Olimpia tells It’s Nice That. “Italy has been a great source of inspiration for my photographic style and my two nationalities have truly shaped who I am today. Moving to England has given me the chance to look back at my hometown with fresh eyes and reconcile with it after years of scrutiny.”
This fresh outlook on the commonplace is a thread that runs through Olimpia’s photographic practice. But it’s not recent. Her desire to capture and reinterpret her surroundings can be traced as far back as she can remember. “I have always been interested in the arts, especially since I’ve been surrounded by art my whole life,” she says. “I got my first camera when I was 11 and took it everywhere with me. I remember wanting to use it when I had seen a place so much that I was bored of it. Only when I looked through the view finder I could isolate specifically what I wanted to see and make that same landscape different and exciting.” This is precisely Olimpia’s strength; her ability to pick out out curious quirks in day-to-day life through her lens is what renders her work truly unique.
Refusing to confine herself to existing categories, Olimpia’s practice exists in the intersection of personal and documentary photography. “I love being able to capture fast snap shots when I am walking around the city, but also set the camera on the tripod and carefully create my own composition. The contrast between fast and slow photography really excites me,” she says. “I photograph very personal subjects in an objective way.” For Olimpia, it is important that viewers both relate to and detach themselves from her images. In their hybridity, Olimpia’s photographs challenge us to rethink what we may have initially perceived to be obvious.
One example of her visual reinterpretation of familiar subject matters is Olimpia’s series, All Good and Very Happy, which centres on complex family relations. “I decided to start this project during the final year of university in order to challenge myself to visually represent all the emotions I had been feeling the past years,” Olimpia says. “This long-term project has become extremely therapeutic for me and has helped me overcome many of my fears. Even though the subject itself was quite personal, I decided to look at it with an objective eye and detach myself from my fogged-up emotions. I wanted to hint at that sense of longing through ambiguous and playful images. Surreal photographs have a special place in my heart – I love the way they constantly keep you on edge.”