Marcello Mariana: the photographer as a destroyer of preconceived visions

By Andrea Carloni & Carlotta Ferrati

July 2019

Marcello Mariana is an architectural photographer to whom many important design studios and companies turn to for his interpretation of their works. Speaking with him one is like being with a fresh, obliging and energetic person who, in his free time, is attracted to very different things other than architecture. However, as he himself admits, when he has something in his sights, something changes in his attitude. Over the years he has had many clients including Heatherwick Studio, Bulgari and Romegialli ACT, to name but a few.

Marcello Mariana – Self-portrait

Does architectural photography require a specific approach compared to other sectors?

As far as I am concerned I would say no, it is still a matter of working with light, space and time, and how these fundamental elements meet and combine: I enter a room, I see how the light falls and depicts the environment and I try to capture it. And if it’s not the right moment, I listen and wait. Essentially, photography is a very simple concept.

Marcello Mariana – Villa a Capiago by ACT Romegialli

During the shooting is there any request that is often made to you by the architects?

I feel very free. I believe that architects look for someone who can reveal something else in the vision of their work: a different understanding, an untold story. They devote so much time to the project that towards the end they really need a fresh and “revolutionary” eye that will break down the information overload that they have accrued.
… Now that I’m talking about it, I must say that I like this figure of the photographer as a demolisher of preconceived visions, hahahaha!

Marcello Mariana – Chesa Lazzarini by Mierta & Kurt Lazzarini Architekten

How important is post-production? Where do you usually intervene? In the lighting, in what’s crucial, in the colours, or in removing some of the details?

I consider it to be of both little importance and great importance. Little because I personally always try to do most of the work during shooting, therefore, starting with a good shot. Great, because it is a very dangerous instrument and should be used in the least “destructive” way possible. I’ve never heard anyone use the phrase, “Well, there’s always photoshop, right?” So, this brief expression sums up the danger of the instrument.

Marcello Mariana – Zaha Hadid Gallery by Zaha Hadid Architects

Do you use specific programs for post-production?

No. The usual.

Marcello Mariana – Canottieri Mandello by ACT Romegialli

Over the years, thanks to the internet, social media and the diffusion of smartphones, it is possible to find many sites dedicated to photography. If I think of Instagram or Flickr, there are thousands and thousands of photographers, professional and not. How do you orient yourself to find quality photography?

These days, photography is thrown in your face from all directions, therefore, when I come across something valid, at that point I examine it more closely. Otherwise I wouldn’t be interested in searching for “quality photography”, I would prefer to stay out of it and remain “empty”. Visual over-stimulation risks creating confusion only.

Marcello Mariana

Are there any photographers you particularly like? Have you had any teachers?

Discovering good photographers just pisses me off, so I avoid it. Once, to give you an example, at the 2013 Venice Biennale with “The Enclave” by Richard Mosse, there was everything: the idea, the poetry, the power, the short circuit … On the other hand, I must admit that I stole so much, and continue to do so, even though my main influences have often come from areas other than photography: wandering around, heavy metal, wild stories, literature…

Marcello Mariana – Rascard Garelli by Carlo Mollino, 1963-65

Photography is an art, but when you work on commission, you must also create images that communicate what is requested by the client. Where lays the true balance between art and promotion in this case? Is it possible to find it?

I don’t believe it’s that complicated; it is simply a matter of using one’s art and creativity as a tool and not as the ultimate goal of the creative process. Ultimately, I do not think that I am the one who adapts to the restrictions imposed by the client, but rather the clients themselves who, in choosing me, also choose my (oh my God, let’s call it that) “poetic photography” and want to see it applied to their work.

Do you have a favourite camera?

No, I go through phases, this is the phase of the Mamiya 7II.

Marcello Mariana – Rascard Garelli by Carlo Mollino, 1963-65

Why do you sometimes shoot in 35 mm?

I shoot on 35 mm when I can (it’s more expensive for the client), when I feel it and / or when the project is suitable or requires it. When this happens, the photographic process slows down, expands, and photography can become something absolute. Shooting in 35 mm often involves a slow contemplation of place and space, a communion. Attention, with this I do not mean to say that taking more time in preparing and implementing something necessarily means that it will be better: every project, every report, every shot, every photograph takes time in one way or another, and some simply require more than others. Sometimes, if we dwell too long, we risk losing the naturalness, or losing the intuition, the epiphany. And then you need to act fast, silent and efficiently, like a ninja.

Marcello Mariana – CASA ME by Ruinelli Associati

Often your photos are precise, rigorous and it’s easy to find a kind of melancholy in them. Are you like that too?

I like ambivalent, elusive, suspended images, and perhaps even melancholy, unresolved, mysterious and “blue” images. I recognise in myself in this autumnal mood of those born on the dark side of the valley, “in the pine forests where the sun never shines”. Regarding the concept of precise and rigorous photos, I admit that it is undeniable; even though I am convinced that it is something that involves only the eye, the phase of constructing the image. To photograph means to frame and framing means excluding. Photographers are divided between those that consider the importance of the margins of the image, and those that do not consider them at all. I believe I belong in the first group. I could say that my work is all in the margins. It also sounds good. Sounds mysterious! Beyond my photography, however, I believe I am a total disaster … Perhaps, as someone said, it is simply a question of “order in the workplace and chaos in the head”.

Marcello Mariana – Nuova Serpentino d’Italia
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