Paolo Barretta is an Italian visual artist, whose deeply absorbing, dream-like images, captivate and intrigue with rare potency.
Photography is synonymous with ‘the decisive moment’, the ability to capture and immortalize fleeting instants that, without the camera, would otherwise be lost.
However, it can also be something more considered, more composed. Such is the case for Paolo Barretta, whose deeply captivating, surrealism-imbued images, are carefully-constructed manifestations of his imagination.
Since he can remember, he possessed a deep creative impulse, long fascinated with what he calls ‘a certain type of dynamic, a predominantly artistic and emotional approach’. He found his first creative outlet in drawing, experimenting with portraiture, which has formed a key element of his creative pathway in its various forms, and which remains a fundamental tenet of his practice today.
However, he quickly moved on to photography, compelled by the urge for ‘something more, the need to ‘create something bigger, something better’, where he could incorporate the various strands of creative practice. He studied the medium in high school and later graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in photography, post-production, and communication, before beginning his photography career in earnest.
His imagery explores fundamental aspects of the human psyche: loneliness; isolation; longing; nostalgia. Imbued with subtle symbolism and references, they transport us into a new world, one strange and surreal, yet at the same time, familiar, the underlying themes resonating profoundly with our collective subconscious.
“I feel like my approach is not the one to ‘capture the moment’. I am a stage photographer and my purpose is to pay attention to every detail. I like to think about my scene and recreate the mood I had in my head. If I had to describe my workflow I would definitely say ‘slow and emotive’.”
He has long possessed a deep interest in cinema, and credits filmmakers Robert Eggers and Richard Kelly as key influences, as well as the cinematic compositions of Gregory Crewdson, and Edward Hopper’s iconic oil paintings. Elements of each can be discerned in his work, though his distinct visual language is very much his own, one characterized by imagination, artistry, and a masterful appreciation of light, color and form.
Over the years he has received widespread recognition and acclaim. He has completed commercial assignments for a host of leading international brands, exhibited internationally, and received numerous features in online and print publications.
In 2021, he won The British Journal of Photography’s, Portrait of Humanity; was a finalist in The Independent Photographer’s, 2021 Open Call Award, and one of his images was also selected as an editor’s pick for the Portrait Award.
However, he admits that recently, he has struggled with focus and motivation,( a problem that plagues many artists) to the point where he has almost completely stopped making pictures. He admits it has been a confusing period, and the future remains unclear but believes that his understanding of art and photography is changing.
Thus, this hiatus represents not an end, but an evolution, one that, in the opinion of the author, will no doubt engender something truly special.
All images © Paolo Barretta