Today, I share the story of a woman that guided me to look differently at myself, Valentina Gurli.
Through her lens and passion for photography, she teaches women to look deeper inside and express those other parts they have within.
It was inspiring to hear how intuitively and self-made she developed her skills and passion staying always true to herself. A rare trait to master in moments of personal transition. She made me reflect on how she follows her instinct, not afraid to play, allowing herself to explore her own style. She continues carving out her own path in this life, not settling for what’s expected or what others tell her to do.
Here is an afternoon with Valentina Gurli in her beautiful home in Treviso, Italy.
How did you discover photography?
It was the birth of my daughter that led me to cultivate a passion inside of me I did not know I had.
I wanted to capture those moments with her through my lens. So I just started taking pictures and without realizing it, it became the passion of my life. I learnt to observe, looking for those peculiar expressions that would give me a better understanding of others, those fragments of life, learning to play with light and shadows. As I went on discovering this world inside of me, I understood that I needed a technique. I never took a course but fed my soul through photography books, manuals, and artists’ portfolios. I experimented, again and again, in order to find my own way.
Where do you find inspiration as a photographer?
Great artists inspire me together with literature, cinema and the beauty of nature. I seek for both the beauty and the non-beauty in the world. I look for perfect symmetries and imperfections. But my true inspiration comes when I tell a story through my eyes, of what I see in others.
How do you describe your style?
I am always chasing new techniques and materials, looking for something more than what I have done up until now. My style can be quite clean, even elegant but perhaps always with a cinematographic edge and a hint of noir. There is a red thread connecting my works, a life-storytelling attitude that creates a dreamlike version of our reality.
Are there any artists who you would like to work with?
It’s so hard to choose, there are plenty of them! I love works from photographers such as Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, Sally Man, Annie Leiboviz. Their work is a combination between pureness, carnality, humanity at its core, fluctuating between creating powerful art and debunking stereotypes.
If you could capture one thing in the world with your art, what would it be?
Women. I don’t want them to pose for me. I want to connect with that other woman inside bringing out a different kind of beauty that is less obvious to the human eye. Like a psychologist, I want to read into their souls with my camera.
Photography must capture whom you really are, your background and life experiences. I try to capture portraits without a smile and help them discover this hidden side within. A certain personal intimacy is created bringing out their natural sensuality letting the beauty emerge.
What do you love about being a woman?
Our sensitivity, we have the strength to get intimate with our emotions and the will to fight. We have a secret world, in constant ambivalence between our femininity, sexuality and vulnerability yet capable of being a true warrior. We can cope with ourselves, managing to do things on our own, despite everything and everyone.
What do you find the most challenging?
Communicating what I mean and whom I am through my work.
What piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Understand your true passion first, and do whatever you need to follow that dream. Before I even started to take photos, I got inspired. I went to exhibits, read about the greatest photographers and nurtured my soul. Take time to search for those artists whom move something inside of you while working on your technical skills. Little by little you will create your own path.
What are the living personalities that inspire you the most (both professionally and personally), but also in style?
I take inspiration from Sally Mann, Giovanni Gastel, Paolo Roversi, as well as several cinematographers, like Janusz Kaminski, capable to direct and understand a photography perspective in a movie. Then there is Gregory Crewdson, a photographer performing a style I admire.
If I were to invite three living people to my house, I would probably call Kaminski, the polish cinematographer who has been working with Steven Spielberg; Jane Goodall, the woman who saved the gorillas and the Pope, to clarify some things and ask a load of questions.
What is your next project?
My next project “Io aspetto te” (“I am waiting for you”) evolves around the concept of people who wait for something, for someone, even though they are not sure if what they are waiting for will ever come or remain with them afterwards. I wanted to enter the complex worlds of those who wait, while fighting, falling into despair, hoping, feeling an emotional roller coaster.
Encapsulating so much of what we all do, waiting for the next thing.
Diptyque’s Eau des sens – fresh, sensual and pure fragrance
Chocolate – salty and sweet
Hans Zimmer – resonates with my soul
I would opt for violet – It’s weird and peculiar
Definitely animal hair and fur. I do not believe in God, but if I were to imagine a place called paradise, it would be full of animals. They are pure instinct and soul; you can see their innocence through the way they interact with you.