by Paolo Ventura
Paolo Ventura shoots film.
He shoots film, capturing scenes he has worked hard to create. He uses miniatures and painted backdrops, little models he can arrange just so. The resulting photographs invite storytelling, lingering, puzzling over what is real and what isn’t.
Is that tightrope walker really wearing shoes? Yes. They shouldn’t wear shoes, should they? It’s out of place, the scene with the shoes (like many others in the book), full of uncertainty and tension. You can imagine walking around in this world, imagine it isn’t a set, imagine what people’s motives are. This world is enticing, not less so because of of the sense of danger, the grittiness.
You can see sample images, sadly small in comparison to the luxurious eleven by fourteen inch satiny pages, on Ventura’s website. But if you are truly curious, search out his work in a bookstore. The book as an object is beautiful and well-made with a thick, folded over dust jacket and rich paper.
In addition to the finished series of photographs comprising Winter Stories, there’s an essay by Eugenia Parry as well as pages from Ventura’s sketchbook. The sketchbook has both literal sketches — watercolor smooth lines — and polaroids. It’s a peek into his process, but not one that really reveals the artifice, that ever pulls back far enough to see the scale of the model. The essay is more companion piece than explanation, though more explanation surfaces in the footnotes if you want to dig. I liked this about the essay. It had one great line, that fits the work well: “It’s not perplexing if you believe in magic.”