ML Casteel

American Interiors


All images courtesy of the artist

Patrick Bienert

East End of Europe


Photographs · Courtesy of Patrick Bienert

Yis Kid


Photography · YIS KID
Photography Assistant · LARA METCALF
Fashion Assistant · ELIA RUIZ
Location · GAS STUDIO

Aytekin Yalcin

Sweet Dreams


Photography · AYTEKIN YALCIN
Make up · Assistant LORENZO RUSSO
Hair stylist · Assistant FLAVIO CHIVILÒ
Studio assistant · FEDERICO PAGANI

Alexandra Von Fuerst

“whenever there is a human, I approach them as if they were a sculpture. And whenever there is an object, I approach it as if it was living.”

For Alexandra Von Fuerst, photography is a way to explore the relationships between the human body and nature, and how the two are more inextricably bound than we may think. As she explains to NR, her work celebrates the ways in which nature communicates with us. And as the title of her series, Dialogue with Nature (2021) suggests, Von Fuerst uses her practice to share these conversations with her audience. But how does she define this voice that the natural world uses? It is fundamentally feminine, in the sense that it simultaneously conveys empathy and strength. The idea of femininity is another recurring theme in Von Fuerst’s work, but the ‘feminine’, it should be stated, does not necessarily imply gender. In Godification of Intimacy (2021) – Von Fuerst’s first foray into shooting male nudity – the photographer investigates how the body can be elevated beyond what we see anatomically. Von Fuerst explores this idea through the form of a triptych, where the same image is reproduced in different colours – the ‘real’ image positioned alongside two inverted interpretations. In this way, Von Fuerst shows the viewer the ethereal, otherworldly side of her subjects – literally, the ‘Godification’ of the body. 

In her work, the photographer’s vivid use of colour is not just an artistic device; it is a crucial element in her investigation into the human form and nature. Explaining below how she came to develop her practice, Von Fuerst speaks of the emotional qualities that colour can have. The photographer is interested in how colours can make her feel, and how the colours themselves feel; and this is a question that she extends to the viewer. Just as Von Fuerst’s work is a conversation with nature, colour, and form, it’s also about creating a dialogue with her audience.

Across her art series, personal and commissioned editorial work, Von Fuerst is not afraid to shy away from subjects and images that some might find difficult. The ‘taboo’, as she calls it, is another of Von Fuerst’s interests; crucially, how can we make the taboo beautiful, and will that allow us to confront and overcome unspoken fears? The photographer handles this with extreme delicacy (even if, as she says, she can be full-on), creating work that is gorgeously rich, without exploiting the difficult conversations that she hopes we can have. 

NR: First of all, how does the idea of ‘celebration’ tie into your work?

AVF: Honestly, all my work is about celebration because it’s about elevating everything that I shoot, that I see, and that I’m trying to empower. In particular, I want to celebrate the things that we don’t want to look at, like imperfections. Not only skin imperfections, but things that are much more deeply hidden that we don’t really want to look at because it’s a little bit uncomfortable. For example, this could be blood, or waste, or death. And I think, for me, this is very important, because celebrating and elevating something that feels taboo, or that you don’t feel comfortable about, is giving more meaning to live itself. At least, that’s how I see it. I think that, for me, this is my celebration: a celebration of the imperfections, of everything that is a little bit hidden, and it’s also a celebration of life.

“I think that’s what I care about, making the uncomfortable beautiful, so that it really elevates it to the same as everything else.”

NR: What really strikes me about your work is your distinctive use of colour, and the way you compose your work. How did you go about honing that style? 

AVF: I think in terms of the visual style, I knew I couldn’t do it any different. It’s funny, because when I started, I felt differently – I was trying to emulate the photographers I really liked. For example, I always had big respect for Mapplethorpe and his study of the body, or Guy Bourdin’s use of colour.  And the photographer duo, Hart Lëshkina, were working a lot while I was at university, so I was looking at them too. And I was trying to [recreate that] but it didn’t happen, and I was like, “goddammit, it doesn’t come out that way – it always comes out bright, pop, a lot of shapes.” So, I was like, “why isn’t it working out? Why isn’t it working that way? Why does it come out completely different from what I want?” And so, at that point, I wanted something else, but I decided to go with the things that actually came out which was very colourful and very bright. So, I learned how to convey that and dived more into shape and colour and tried to dig deeper into how to make it more honest to myself. From something that was initially very pop at the beginning, it became more grounded. Instead of being just colours, it became more about what colour could represent. If you use colour in a certain way, you can really feel it. And I like the idea that people can feel the colour and feel the image. Rather than just the form, I was really trying to feel that emotion, you know; colour for me is this emotional response about how I see reality, in a sense. So, it became a very instinctual, finding the emotional side of myself, which I would also say is a more feminine side.

“Instead of trying to give it a shape, I allowed the shape to show itself.”

NR: That’s really fascinating to hear. Actually, one of the series that I wanted to ask you about is Godification of Intimacy and the striking use of colour there. When you talk about how colour can capture emotion, is that what you’re talking about when you look at this series?

AVF: Yes. I think in general, I don’t say “this is going to be pink.” I really go with if it feels pink, or it feels another way. Godification of Intimacy was my first time shooting male nudity. It was just me and two models in an empty space, and I really wanted them to just interact and to move and to have that sensation of dancing and comfort. And it was something very new for me because it wasn’t how I would usually work, and so it was really about allowing it to grow and to move and it was such a beautiful experience; it was such an intense experience as well. There was a connection between the three of us and there was nothing else – it was just that moment and that sharing. So, I think the colours somehow are very elevated because that moment was also very elevating, which is what I wanted, in the sense that ‘Godification’ is about the higher state of ourselves, rather than just seeing the body. I’m not talking about the body, I’m talking what is behind the body, what is beyond the body. So, the colours are almost as if I’m diving into a spiritual expression of the body, depicting the energy around it, rather than just what I see. And the triptych, for example, is an evolution from how seeing it plainly to an expanded point of view where it’s not about the body anymore. It’s not about the nudity, it’s really about whatever comes beyond that.

NR: That’s really interesting, especially your point about moving beyond the body. Again, something I’d like to ask is that, as well as the body, objects with an anthropomorphic quality often feature in your work. Do you approach the body and objects differently as your subjects? 

AVF: Not really. I mean, whenever there is a human, I approach them as if they were a sculpture. And whenever there is an object, I approach it as if it was living. So, for me it’s kind of the same. It’s different in that you enter differently because you’re trying to give more movement to one and less to the other, right? And you want to bring them to being on the same level; I don’t want to give more, or less, life to one of them, I’m just trying to make them equal.

NR: Your work explores the notion of femininity in different ways. How does your use of the natural world allow you to convey a sense of femininity?

AVF: I’ve always felt that there was such a feminine voice within every aspect of reality; it’s the organic, nature, and the body. Even shooting male nudity, for more it’s about this female voice, or softer side. It’s not necessarily soft because being a woman can mean very strong and empowering. But it’s much more fluid, more empathic and understanding – but it’s also direct, too. A big part of what I’m trying to get into is really giving a voice to the organic because I feel like there is so much depth there. It’s just a different sort of communication in a way – that’s why A Dialogue with Nature (2021) was born. Because for me, it’s the natural, organic aspects of the everyday. Nature talks to us – it is trying to communicate something to us. It’s just that the way they do it is very different – but I find it very feminine. You can stand in front of a tree, a plant, a rock or a mineral and see how complex it is. When you look at how many shapes it has – you could stay there for a day just looking at it. And I think all of these aspects of this organic material, they are actually talking even though they’re not speaking; they don’t have a voice as we would perceive it. 

NR: In our correspondence, you mentioned that you prefer doing interviews over Zoom rather than email because it feels more personal. I read that during the [2020] lockdown you made yourself available for people, strangers, to call you. Why was that important for you? 

AVF: When lockdown came – I’m a person who is happy being alone, but I realised how even for me at that point, it was stressful. All of a sudden, nobody wanted to communicate with anybody else because there was so much fear. I think it became so important to just try to go the other way like, let’s keep it open, let’s keep a dialogue. I thought to do the best with what we have and stay in a more positive space. I said to myself, I have time I don’t have like any rush, and I can consecrate some time to someone who was having a bad day or is having a good day.

“I think communication enables you to let go of fear because all of a sudden, [you realise that] I’m not alone or, it wasn’t that hard to talk or, it wasn’t that scary. And it also brings a human perspective.”

NR: You mention there about how communication can allow you to let go of fear, and I wanted to tie that back in with what you said earlier about celebrating the taboo. Do you see your work as shining a light on things that people might fear in a beautiful way, so that we can breakdown the fear of the taboo?

AVF: I really hope so – that’s the sense of it, which is that I’d like people to try to look at fear and not reject it. To actually look at it with more love and more joy. I know that, sometimes, it’s very direct; as my mother would say, you need to be a little bit more delicate in the way you’re dealing with things. Sometimes, I’m being direct, but my intentions are to make [the taboo] more accessible and more discussed. I mean, my work is not just about the picture; it’s about being able to start a discussion or create dialogue, to create accessibility. I think, for now, I’m really just at the beginning of this process, but I’d really like it to become a window for people to really have a discussion to start seeing things with more acceptance. And I think the moment that discussions are open, the moment communication is open, ignorance [towards the taboo and fear] disappear because all of a sudden, you’re facing it. You’re talking about it, you’re solving it. So, I think communication is very, very important.


Images · Alexandra Von Fuerst

Georgina Starr

“I rebought forty of my favourite destroyed singles and had them played simultaneously on forty record players.”

It’s difficult to summarise the art of Georgina Starr. Since the early 1990s, the artist has made use of the array of tools (video, sound, written word and live performance) at her disposal to create a rich and varied body of work. In early works, Starr engaged a cast of miniature paper figures as stand-ins for real life conversations the artist would covertly record in public spaces. Later, Starr appears in her work – though the extent to which she was performing as herself is itself part of her practice. In The Party (1995), a 25-minute video installation, Starr takes on the role of Liz (a character whose advances are rejected by another character in a previous film). As Starr tells NR below, though the role was fictional, the process of making the film instils it with autobiographic elements. Characters, motifs and themes recur throughout Starr’s work, which enable the artist to rework and reimagine earlier ideas. But it isn’t just Starr’s own oeuvre that she recreates, with much of her work taking inspiration from existing film and literature. The breadth of reference points throughout Starr’s work are demonstrative of the extent to which the artist employs a process of meticulous researching to inform her practice. 

Aspects of Starr’s work recall a childhood spent watching tv; the object in the corner of the living room which, she explains in The Voices of Quarantaine (2021), became her “gateway to another world”. Indeed, the blurring of reality and imagination, autobiography and fiction are common features of her work. Starr’s film, Quarantaine (2020), is not, as you might think, a response to the pandemic. Rather, the artist began working on Quarantaine before COVID; the film’s title referring to the French word for forty, historically also the term for a period of enforced isolation over forty days. The film tells the story of strangers who are transported to an alternative universe which the two women must navigate their way through. Across the breadth of Starr’s work, the body – the female body and feminine identity in particular – are (re)investigated. In her later works, including Quarantaine, Starr is no longer in front of the camera, with a cast of performers enabling the artist to realise her practice on a larger scale. Most recently, the artist orchestrated a live performance in collaboration with French fashion house, Hermès, which in true Starr style, is a dazzling display of colour – flawlessly synchronised and splendidly surreal. 

NR: What have you been working on recently?

GS: I have been working on a new performance artwork in collaboration with Hermès to showcase their SS22 collection designed by the brilliant Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski. We performed it on 3rd February at a one-off special event titled ‘Gelato!’ at Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell. It incorporates a large set—a huge pastel coloured mountain sculpture, a new musical score for percussion which I developed together with composer, Thomas Haines, and is performed by four female percussionists, nine dancers and eight models all wearing Nadège’s designs. It was quite epic—a cross between a theatre play, a sculptural installation, opera, dance and fashion show. The collection is really joyful and screams summer, so I began by thinking about what ‘gelato’ would sound like. I imagined metallic sounds and warmer sounds of fabric on wood—glockenspiels, triangles, drums, wooden percussion, vibraphones, and I had a vision of a magic mountain which the performers, wearing these amazing clothes, would emerge from moving in synchronization with the sounds—this was my starting point.

NR: What does the process of rehearsing or being in workshops involve? 

GS: With live performance works, the rehearsal period is more intense. I always script and storyboard, and it was the same for Gelato! There are spoken word poems in this piece as well as the music and choreography. By the time we went into workshopping in mid-December we were at a really good stage with the musical composition, and I had choreography ready to show to the dancers. We were working with four incredible percussionists who were able to immediately play the working score so that the dancers could start to interpret the live instrumentation and we could adjust the score as went, which was a brilliant way to work. The music starts out very minimally and gradually builds up as the percussive mallets are handed to the musicians. Some instructional elements were built into the score, so everyone’s movement was highly choreographed, and I had constructed my own mallets using coloured threads from the collection – so these were woven into the piece. The workshopping days were crucial to figure out if the movement and vocals I had imagined alone in my studio could even work on a grander scale! I had props too, as I wanted the performers to all begin from inside a ‘mountain’ and emerge with large circles like musical notes transforming the whole picture into a giant score. There were twenty performers to direct, so it was pretty intense. We went into full-on rehearsals for six days at the end of January and had the first dress rehearsals at the venue the day before the show. I loved this collaboration with Hermès, it was wild.

NR: How does working with performers compare to playing the role of other performers (alongside) yourself? 

GS: The casting process is always really complex as I have a very clear idea of how I want the performers to look and what voices they bring. For both the Hermès piece and my last film Quarantaine (2020), it took a long time to find the right people, months of searching and meeting people. When I perform inside my work it’s a very insular and personal process, often just me and the camera. For my film THEDA (2007), I built all the sets in my studio and worked for a year filming myself in the various Theda Bara inspired roles, so became totally absorbed into the character. The way I work with a bigger cast definitely has some connection to this, I feel the need to demonstrate rather than just describe, it’s quite mediumistic, transferring my movement and voice into them. I like to work with a mix of professional and non-professional performers as the non-pros bring something magical and otherworldly. It often feels like the less experienced person is a stand-in for me in some way—I relate to them more strongly as they are working things out on their feet and negotiating this strange environment they find themselves in. 

NR: There are characters, themes and motifs – the brain, the bubble – that reoccur in your work; did you always attend to develop your practice in this way? Or did it just occur over time? 

GS: All the pieces I’ve made from the very beginning are completely interlinked. It happens naturally that one work leads to the next, so the themes and motifs overlap and merge. Sometimes an element in a work I made twenty-five years ago might suddenly appear in something new. A performance work I made at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1995 called The Hungry Brain suddenly started to inform a work I was developing in 2013 which eventually became Before Le Cerveau Affamé a new performance and installation piece. In this work I created an illustrated set of predictive cards (Le Cerveau Affamé), the suits were the bubble, the hand, the brain and the cat. These cards found their way into my film Quarantaine. The cards appear in a critical scene in ‘The Grey Room’ where a group of waiting women are chosen for a card reading—the cards selected guide them to the next level of the journey in the film’s narrative. Sometimes it seems like one big Gesamtkunstwerk!

NR: As an extension of that, in The Voices of Quarantaine you make reference to De Quincey’s The Palimpsest of the Human Brain which seemed to be an apt description of your work. Would you say that your work is palimpsestic?

GS: I think my last answer definitely describes a very palimpsestic way of working. I enjoyed making the performance lecture, The Voices of Quarantaine (2021), as I got to reveal some hidden details at the heart of my film Quarantaine. There are so many layers of meaning in my work it can baffle some people, so it’s useful to be able to unpeel these for the viewer. Although the lecture itself was something of a palimpsest too. While I was reading De Quincey, I realised that his essays had directly inspired Dario Argento’s 1977 masterwork Suspiria which in turn had inspired the forest wall-mural I had painted in a scene in Quarantaine. At the very beginning of Quarantaine we follow two women through an arboreal portal in a city park which leads them into a school of instruction—the first room they encounter has the eerie wall painting. The mural in Suspiria had always haunted me so it became an ominous character within my film—it holds another portal to take the initiates onto the next stage of the voyage.

NR: How much of your work is grounded in the idea of autobiography, and to what extent does the notion of autobiography become a way to introduce (fictional) narrative?

GS: There is quite an even mix of the fictional and factual, but it’s so integrated that I often lose track of which is which. I made fictional works in the past which I performed in and people presumed they were autobiographical. An early video The Party (1995), for example, was a piece about a lonely female character who throws the perfect party for one. It began as a fictional narrative, but I did spend two days alone having a party in my studio—constructing a bar, making food, dancing, drinking elaborate cocktails. When I look back at this work it’s part of my history and feels almost autobiographical, it’s a perfect merging of the two. There are personal stories within Quarantaine, which I discuss in the lecture, these stories begin from a ‘real’ place or at least a memory of something real and gradually become so entwinned within the world I’m creating that they drift away from reality and become something totally new. 

NR: How do different mediums lend themselves to a particular work? What informs whether you use audio, film or a live performance?

GS: The idea usually informs what the piece will be.

“A memory I had about my parents burning all my records when I left home for example ended up transforming into a live sound performance piece called Top 40 on Fire (2010).”

I rebought forty of my favourite destroyed singles and had them played simultaneously on forty record players. It created a cacophonous sound at first that sounded like fire, but as each track petered out you started to hear the voices of the singers coming through and the final vocal lyric was quite profound. If I’m commissioned to make a work then it’s slightly different, although sound always plays a huge part of every work. Live works are the most difficult for me as it’s impossible to control exactly what will happen on the night. I’m pretty controlling about all the details so this can drive me insane; the uncertainty—at some point you have to let a performance live without you. When I made Androgynous Egg (2017), a live piece for Frieze a few years ago, it took me ages to let the performers just own the piece. It was performed four times a day for the whole of Frieze and it was only on day two when I realized that I didn’t need to sit in all the performances—they had it, it belonged to them now and I had to set it free, like releasing a child into the world. Quarantaine was really borne out of Androgynous Egg. I knew that I wasn’t finished with some of the subjects—the eggs, the Pink Ursula Material, the instructional poetry, even the choreography, and that I needed to make a film. Writing and making the film was my way of taking back the control I had relinquished with the performance. It meant I could close-in on the action and focus on the important details. Filmmaking is more my natural medium. I love editing with image and sound, it’s where the magic happens.

NR: In relationship to the magazine’s theme – celebration – how does your work celebrate, and explore, womanhood?

GS: I would say that it does this in every sense. I began in the early ‘90s by working with my own body and voice to create video and sound works. These works gave me an actual voice. I was suddenly able to articulate something within the work in a way that I felt I couldn’t in real life. It was a celebration of my inner world. Over the years I’ve gained the experience and confidence to transfer this and to share the ideas with performers, musicians, singers and composers so that the world becomes bigger, more complex and intense. THEDA was the last work I performed in front of the camera. It was a very physical work where I was on screen the whole time for forty minutes. Each time I screened the work at a cinema I invited different musicians to accompany it and perform a live soundtrack. I had done it a few times in London and New York when I realised that it was predominantly men that were playing the music; by some strange fluke it had worked out this way. I was invited to screen it in Berlin at an old silent movie theatre and decided that this time it should be a woman accompanying it. I tracked down this amazing soprano Sigune von Osten—diva der neuen musik, who had worked with John Cage and Luigi Nono, and she agreed to compose a new soundtrack and perform live to the film. There was something incredible about the combination of a woman (me) attempting to dissect and enact the lost films of another woman (silent movie star Theda Bara) while being interpreted and accompanied by the extraordinary vocals of a third woman (Sigune von Osten), it was a metaphysical experience—a total celebration and exploration of the female body and voice.


Images · Georgina Starr

Carmine Romano

Staying behind the camera to capture the rawness of emotions

A man of few words, photographer Carmine Romano prefers to hold the camera and point the lens to his subjects rather than be the subject himself. In doing so, he captures the rawness of the Italian lifestyle and living, often becoming an observer of a scene rather than the participant. His images overflow with the nuances of serendipity and home, charged with liberation and a promise of self-expression. With NR, the photographer displays the exclusive space he has carved for himself, a realm where his clipped sentences weigh a thousand ideas.

NR: There is a documentative sense in your photography. Do you view your style the same way – a documentary? Whenever you capture the images of people, it feels as if you are photographing their real selves. Is the rawness of people the emotion you want to capture?

CR: Yes. I feel that my style leans more towards a documentary-like photography than fashion photography. My goal is to capture people the way they are at the moment, trying to seal their authenticity.

Going back to your roots in photography, what was the first photograph you captured? Do you still have this image with you? Do you keep tabs on the development of your photography?

The first image that I always keep in mind is a picture that I took when I was ten. I took a photograph of the oldest man in my neighborhood in Napoli, who was an artisan that repaired old shoes. I do not know if it was the first pics I ever captured, but of course, it is that one that I  have always treasured with me.

The influence of family seems alive in your photographs. How essential is family to you? Do you believe in the phrase blood is thicker than water?

In my photography, the influence of my family and the good values that my parents taught to me are always essential to me, so yes –

“I think we should never forget where we came from.”

Carmine Romano

Aside from family, the essence of community comes through your images. From gatherings to sharing stories over meals, you seem to have a penchant for togetherness. What lessons in life have you learned from your community? Is it important for you to belong in a community? 

Nowadays, it is important to me to interact. In a society where everyone is behind a digital screen, meeting people, sharing moments and emotions with them, and having conversations with them are important. I think that we do not have to forget that we are humans, and we need to keep our contact solid, perhaps doing it over lunch or dinner for instance.

For you to capture portraits, I can imagine that you have to form a bond with the person you are photographing. What do you tell them before, during, and after the shoot? Who has been the most memorable subject so far? Also, do you believe you chance upon the emotions, settings, and looks of your photographs, or do you instruct and arrange them before the shoot?

Exactly. Before shooting a person, I always try to learn and understand them; to be with them in order to comprehend who they are. I try to establish a relationship with them, and I love listening to them and trying to understand how they feel.

I prefer to do it before, without a camera, and then come back to shoot. The most memorable subject to me was Rita, an old woman in my neighborhood who, after few meetings, she showed me her best, meaning who she is, in the picture.

From here,

“I think there is always a scene to capture for those who know where to seek and how to find it.”

Whenever you feel like taking a break from photography, how do you recharge? How do you celebrate your life outside the camera? Then, how do you celebrate la dolce vita through photography? Is there a place in Italy that you have not yet been to before but would love to visit soon?

To recharge, I travel to different cities and often go to the sea to watch the horizon and the waves. La dolce vita through photography has to be celebrated from a vision – a personal interpretation even. In Italy, I love going back to Sicily. 

Would you say that you are a private person? I am only asking because I wonder if you will allow another photographer to capture what your everyday life looks like.

Yes, I am a very private person. Usually, I only post overviews of my private life, not its entirety. I do not like the idea of being on the other side of the camera.


Images · Carmine Romano

Andrés Reisinger

Experimenting with boundaries until the intangible becomes tangible

Testing the limits of the boundaries communities and self impose shapes the utopia Andrés Reisinger aspires to manifest. His visual artistry intersects art, design, music, architecture, fashion, and beyond, always moving along the waves of culture and never settling for anything marked as conventional. The results give birth to the manifestation of a hybrid reality, one where the intangible becomes tangible. The duality of the physical and digital realms, the fruition and transition from a blueprint to reality, the faces of strangeness and their unearthly appeal, and the celebration of a newborn: everything moves in and out of Reisinger’s creative ethos.

NR: The first thing that caught my attention was your title on Instagram: Unclassifiable Artist. Does this indicate the millions of ideas you want to test and of creative endeavors you want to venture to?

AR: I would agree with that. I have been inspired by the Argentine writer Borges, who was also Unclassifiable. I am focused on constant self-improvement, constant experimentation, constant development; wherever it takes me.

My task is to keep discovering and introducing new mediums of work and ways of experiencing art and design. So, my practice cannot be easily classified, because it is not something that I can fully classify yet, and I probably never will.

As an artist, how essential is it to be multidisciplinary? Do you think a creative should focus on a single discipline in art?

My work is based on pushing the boundaries between the digital and the physical realms to achieve hybridity. In this sense, I consider and love visual culture as a whole, essential in all of its  declinations. There are incredibly interesting intersections that we are seeing and can be further developed between art, design, music, architecture, fashion and so on, and my work is heavily focused on context rather than by piece. Only by mixing different ideas and connecting them will we create new ones.

From Argentina to Barcelona, how do the cultures and communities in these countries – and the others you have been to – influence the way you conceive your works? Can your viewers see the nuances of these cultures in what you create?

Most of the places I have lived in are in South Europe, so my works are heavily influenced by culture from the countries here. These places, for many reasons, have been central social territories, which is something that has influenced my approach to creation and the way I have been sharing my journey on the internet since the very beginning of my career (approximately 15 years ago when I started with digital art and design). I have always felt the need to share the way I see the world.

Let us talk about your works. I want to start with An Essay Before Meeting my Daughter. Congratulations, first of all! How do you feel about being a father? How did you celebrate it? Did you feel worried or excited?

I felt all sorts of emotions. It is an experience that cannot be truthfully described or translated. It feels like I am flourishing. It is a novel way of looking at the world. It is an excellent way to cultivate perspective. The way you manage your time, your ideas, and your instincts: they all grow. It is a great challenge in life. It is amazing, and I love it.

Continuing this, you wrote: Anxiety, nervousness, happiness, fears, beloved moments, all that are absorbed and expressed through my artistic lens. Could you guide us on the metaphors of this piece, from the rolling apples to the flipping pages of the books?

The piece was the result of a long reflective process. I wanted to gather and somehow express all the feelings and thoughts that guided these moments of my life, and the piece came very spontaneously as the emotions naturally channeled themselves into form.

With The Shipping, it is the manifestation of a new hybrid reality concerning furniture. How do you envision the future of design in furniture? Would technology replace manual labor?

“I see it as a hybrid of digital and physical; the encounter between the two is already offering an overwhelming amount of possibilities.”

And although it might seem a very futuristic scenario to some, we already spend a third of our days connected to any device screen. We are undoubtedly living in a time where our physical lives are and will continue to be more and more integrated with the digital realm. And as we get more comfortable living in these different spaces, we will get more and more used to owning things and living there.

There are of course differences between the two realities that will never compensate each other. Technology will make things earlier in production, that is for sure, although I cannot say which mode is easier. One thing I can say is that creating a digital chair – such as Hortensia, Tangled, Complicated Sofa, or Crowded Elevator – was the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. Technology can help us do more creative work and less mechanical procedures. Artisans will always exist, and they will benefit from new technologies.

I love the backstory behind The Hortensia Armchair, from having been a concept to a real seat! What made this project challenging? How did you take on the challenge? Did you learn anything from this experience life- and design-wise?

Because it was such a complex design to realize, I was doubting whether to invest time and money to bring the chair to life, so I guess the challenge was against myself. I am incredibly glad that I decided to go for it.

What I am most proud of is that the Hortensia Chair created digital demand before the supply, which is a total disruption within the design industry. We were able to build an interest around a digital object that seemed almost impossible to realize and gave life to it first through a limited edition and then with Moooi in a more affordable version.

It was an interesting phenomenon to witness, with regards to sustainability, most especially. We did not launch another project, hoping for the market to accept it. We created the need first digitally. It showed to design and other companies that this is definitely a possibility.

Continuing the previous question, what do you do when you want to make the impossible possible? Have you ever felt like dropping a project halfway? What made you continue it?

I work with context and try to, in part, deform reality to achieve a surreal atmosphere. That uncanniness between reality and fiction, digital and physical is to make the impossible possible. I do not want my work to be too explicit, or it would defeat its purpose. If it is too blatantly strange, it is instantly dismissed, but if it is not so strange but just enough, it is instantly absorbed into everyday reality. I strive for a slight strangeness leaving the viewers disoriented.

Generally, challenges inspire me, so I have rarely thought about dropping a project halfway.

“If I recognize the possibility of discovering a new production methodology, a pioneering approach within the physical and digital, I will strive to see it through as I know I will learn a lot during the process.”

As we focus on Celebration for this issue, how do you feel about what you have achieved so far in this lifetime?

I am proud, I am humbled, and I am projected into my practice.

Is there anything that we should be celebrating with you in the upcoming weeks?

In mid-January, I presented Winter House, a residential project in the metaverse inspired by the frosty season. It is an important one I would  like to celebrate as it represents the preliminary project of an architecture studio for the metaverse I am establishing with other partners. There will be more – a lot more – but 2022 has just started.


Images · Andrés Reisinger

Nina Raasch


Photography · NINA RAASCH

Bettina Pittaluga

“I find my inspiration in reality, so usually everything is already there.”

When photographer Bettina Pittaluga talks about developing film, she describes it as painting a picture – retrieving the details within the image, matching the exact skin tone of her subject. If the photographer finds joy in the technical processes of her work, it’s equally joyous to look at the final result. It is evident in Pittaluga’s photography that she approaches the development of each photograph in the context of its individual circumstance, ‘painting’ colour as it is most appropriate. In the broadest sense, her photography evokes a warmness, which Pittaluga communicates in different ways. Sometimes, her images are so dark that it’s only in the contrast of illuminated features that we see the subject, as in Pittaluga’s portrait of Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri for Le Monde’s M magazine. Elsewhere, her work highlights barely the curves of an upper arm, the contours of a profile, or the soft glow of a pregnant stomach. But other images can feel like an explosion of colour – a vivid red, or a minty green. It just depends on the natural lighting that the photographer finds herself working with. 

Pittaluga’s photography is defined by the moment that it captures; natural lighting plays a part in that, but so does the emotional bond that the photographer forges with her subject. Regardless of whether she is working on commercial and personal projects, Pittaluga maintains that having a connection to her subject is essential. “My way of communicating does not change,” she tells NR, “I will always be looking for what the person wants to give me.” In a way, Pittaluga is sharing with the viewer what the person, or people, she photographs wanted her to see in the first place. The issue’s theme of celebration is an apt opportunity to contemplate Pittaluga’s work (or, rather, celebrate it) because every image is a celebration of some kind. Whether photographing a milestone – birth, love, and so on – or just capturing a moment that becomes immortalised by her camera, Pittaluga’s work is always a celebration of being human. 

NR: There’s a warmth and intimacy to your work and the way you photograph people; is this an approach that you’ve always had in your work, or something that you’ve adapted over time?

BP: I don’t think I could take a photograph in another way. I think the way I photograph is intrinsically linked to the way I communicate; I need to communicate with the other person in order to capture them, in every sense of the word.

NR: You’ve previously mentioned the importance of forging a relationship with the person you’re photographing, whether that’s over a couple of minutes or much more established over time. But besides that, are there any other fundamentals that are important to a good photograph?

BP: I would say that the fundamental thing in a good photograph is to convey a truth; the reality of the moment. Of course, I need intimacy too, but I am always looking for truth. That’s the thing that want me to take a photo.

NR: When it comes to a composition, how much of the staging is a collaboration with the subject?

BP: I find my inspiration in reality, so usually everything is already there. I don’t prepare the set; it’s much more about lighting – natural light – which give me an idea of what I want. I also look for the shape and the form that I see with the light; the colours; the way the person is sitting or looking. Suddenly, it’s like I see something – I don’t know how to describe it because it’s very instinctive.

“When I am looking at the picture [afterwards], I can recognize the composition, but I would not be able to explain it when I am taking them.”

NR: What’s so compelling about your work is the fact that it doesn’t, as you say, look staged. It looks very natural. 

BP: I love to shoot people in their own home because of that. I know that I will find something very intimate, not because of the intimacy, but because you can really learn about the person. Usually, I don’t know where I’m going to [shoot], so the only thing that I will ask is whether there is natural light that I can play with. But then it’s also a conversation. Sometimes people are like, “what should I wear?” and I always respond by asking, “how do you want to be represented?” I really want the person to feel comfortable and to be represented like this. And then it’s just about materials and colours – because the lighting is not the same with silver, or it’s not the same with pink or green. But again, it’s about the moment – it’s a feeling actually.

“The detail is the most important thing, it’s the emotion, which I cannot prepare in advance.”

It depends on the person in front of me. I’m following [them] in a way, I’m following what they want to give.

NR: You mention how different colours can affect the photo. Over the course of your time as a photographer, have you learned different techniques for using colour and how it will affect a photograph? 

BP: I started photographing in black and white at first because I wanted to develop the film myself. I wanted to know how it works, so it was very important for me to oversee the whole process from beginning to end, when you have the pictures actually in your hand. People [had] said that it was very complicated to develop colour. And it’s really not the same process, it’s very long. But I learned how to develop colour two years ago. I think it’s true that I can see the evolution in my work [when] colour suddenly had more importance. Developing colour is like painting, it’s amazing. You have something neutral, and you can add the colours that you saw. At first, I spent, I don’t know, like seven hours on the same picture, just playing with colours, getting the exact colour of the person’s skin. By developing yourself, you can get great reds, or a really great yellow – so it’s true I am more obsessed by colours now than before. And it’s also about seeing colours with light – it’s a completely different world. Before, maybe I was seeing in black and white without knowing it, and now I can see colour. 

NR: When you do the whole process yourself, it changes the way you feel about it – you don’t just press the button and wait, it’s the whole thing.

BP: I don’t take that many pictures because, with analogue, I only have ten pictures per roll.

“That’s why I love this process because it’s about taking time, I’m not in a hurry. “

Well, sometimes I only have one minute to take a photograph, but sometimes you can be really in the present and one minute feel long, so it’s how you take the time. That’s why I really love it also, it’s about taking time. 

NR: It’s interesting that you describe developing colour film as being almost like a painting and it made me think, do you see your work as more being about reportage? Or is it more art? 

BP: I don’t like labels and I don’t see my work as just one thing, but maybe I’m a portraitist? It’s more this way that I see my work, but it can be a lot of different things. It can be a portrait for press [work], or it can be more artistic. But I always feel poetic. No matter what the project, at the end of the day, it’s about human beings so, that’s why I think I identify more as a portraitist because most of my work is about human beings. 

NR: The theme of this issue is celebration and I guess what’s lovely about your work is the way that it celebrates people, it celebrates the human form and the diversity of what it means to be a person. How do you feel celebration comes across in your work?

BP: Actually, I’m so glad you asked that. I think it’s one of my favourite questions ever and this is the first time that someone has asked. To be asked as a photographer to photograph a celebration of any kind – celebrating a child, love between two people, a transition: any kind of celebration. To me, it’s truly an honour. I think it’s the most beautiful thing about my job to be given this extraordinary trust and to be there together, to celebrate, because in a way, I am also celebrating that moment, you know? 

NR: I think that ties in with something I wanted to ask you, which is that you’ve spoken previously about the concept of beauty and authenticity, whether that’s a relationship, or of a moment. How much of your role as a photographer is about being there, in that moment, and how much of it is just about pressing the button and waiting for that one shot?

BP: I don’t think you can separate one from the other. And maybe that’s what’s magical in the end – to be able to share the present together and look at it later in pictures. Usually now, with social media, we can take pictures all the time. [So as a photographer], it’s also about the fact that you cannot look at [the photographs] because it’s analogue.

“I cannot look at it straight after, so in a way, I continue to be in the moment.”

NR: As an analogue photographer, does having access to instant photography, with a phone and on social media, does it make you appreciate film more?

BP: I feel lucky to live in a moment of time when it’s so easy to take pictures. My cameras are very big and heavy, so I cannot have them [on me] all the time. To be able to take pictures anytime – and I film a lot because I like that an instant can last more than just a second, it can be longer. I love being able to record a long moment of softness or a long moment that I found beautiful. So, I’m always recording with my phone, and I love it so much, it’s amazing to be able to record so many things that inspire me in the day. No kidding, I think I have 30,000 videos [on my phone] and I buy a lot of memory. As a human being, it’s my way to express myself, to take 100 pictures of a flower in front of me if I want. It’s freedom. But with analogue, like I said, I really draw a portrait of someone, so it takes time and I love that. 


Images · Bettina Pittaluga