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Urban Exploration Photography, or urbex photography, is an increasingly common genre in the world of photography: it consists in exploring abandoned places in order to capture their extremely evocative, mysterious and decadent charm. Places non-places, who come back to life for a while and again strongly evoke old memories of a lost prestige.
Rano Pano is among this group of romantic urban explorers whose photography documents and bring back to light a sort of local knowledge which stems from the need to restore a strong bond with his territory and its past.
With his pictures he leads us in exploring this decadent places around the world that has been long abandoned. His curiosity and passion push him to investigate through old memories of our past that we have forgotten, as any worn-out objects.
Interview with Urbex Photographer Rano Pano.
FG: You are a self-taught photographer, when and how did your passion for photography start?
RANO PANO : My passion for photography started when I was 30 years old (5 years ago). On this occasion I was offered a camera. A few months earlier, I discovered an article about the abandoned stations of Paris metro that struck me emotionally. Moreover, when I was a kid, I dreamt of being Indiana Jones, but many people discouraged me from becoming an archaeologist. Unconsciously it must have been a factor. I like travelling, too. This is the beginning of my passion for photography and for abandoned places.
FG: Why do you associate a piece of classical music to each photography?
RANO PANO: Before being a photographer, I was a musician. I had played for many years in a band, and today I still play guitar, bass and piano. I listen to a lot of music, every day and everywhere I can. When I go around all by myself taking photos, I always take my headphones with me. Pretty soon I started to entitle my pictures with song titles. To me this music is another gateway to the imagination. You don’t have just a photo, you have an ambiance, a title for guiding you on a way. Sometimes it’s a first degree reading, sometime you make your own interpretation. I don’t want to offer only one way of imagination.
But sometimes I have the music in my head and I search for a location / a scene who can illustrate this music! Like “Derrière l’écran” or “And With Her Came the Birds”.
FG: If you should tell someone the story of your life, from where would you start?
RANO PANO: A long time ago in a galaxy far away… No, from as far as I can remember, I’m the result of my past. I think I would start by talking about the moments that made me the person I am.
FG: How do you discover the abandoned locations for your pictures?
RANO PANO: I make a big work of research. Mainly on the internet. I look at monuments lists, blog and website about patrimony, press articles, look at other photographers’ works. Then I check the locations on Google Map, and if I assume it’s abandoned, I’d go there to see it. For foreign places, I’d try to find a contact who could help me, when I do not have enough places around me to check. Talking with people during the exhibitions, it’s a good method as well.
FG: Which is the best advice you got as a photographer?
RANO PANO:Have fun, go outside and don’t stop taking photos!
FG: Which is the most provocative/courageous/original action you made as a photographer?
RANO PANO:Currently I’m doing a photo series where I’m an actor. It’s more of an introspective job. The first picture in the series is called “You, Me and The Violence”. In this picture you can see a man shooting at another who is kneeling. These two men are me, my Ego and my Id. But I prefer to leave each one free to interpret it. I think it’s the most courageous because it’s the most personal work I’ve made.
FG: Can you mention an artist, artwork or series of art projects that particularly influenced/inspired you in you work as a photographer?
RANO PANO: My preferred artist is definitely Egon Schiele. But I can also mention Klimt, Magritte or Dalì for painting. As for photography, two great French photographers, Bresson and Doisneau.
As for architectural photography I think at Bernd and Hilla Becher with their frontal approach.
I like a lot of artists, works of art and projects, but not one in particular that could be identified as a source of inspiration or influence.
FG: How have your style, practice and techniques evolved over the years?
RANO PANO: At the beginning I made very contrasted and saturated photos, I tried to create dark ambience because these places were only perceived. Despite their abandonment, these places weren’t dead and dark. Nature and time got the better of them. Now I try to transcribe that, and it suits me better.
As for techniques I don’t think about that when I’m shooting. I do that by instinct. I just pay attention to the levels.
FG: Choose three words to describe your work.
RANO PANO: Hummm … Nostalgic, Mysterious and Poetic
FG: Do you have a favourite quote or motto you often think about?
RANO PANO: Have fun, life can be short !
FG: What do you need to feel happy?
RANO PANO: People I love, good music and gentleness ! I forgot, a good beer !
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