Art, environment, solidarity: these are the ingredients needed to refound a “new humanity” according to Lavazza’s vision, a brand that over the years has supported the main major Italian museums, presents as a sponsor at art fairs and events. The New Humanity is also the title of the 2021 calendar – created under the creative direction of the Armando Testa Agency – which has brought together 13 of the leading photographers on the international scene who have dealt with this new paradigm interpretation: Christy Lee Rogers, Denis Rouvre, Carolyn Drake, Steve McCurry, Charlie Davoli, Ami Vitale, Martha Cooper, David LaChapelle, Martin Schoeller and Joey L., Eugenio Recuenco, Simone Bramante and Toilet Paper (in the persons of Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari).
Behind it, there is a big charity initiative addressed to Save The Children: from 12 November 2020, 1,000 Lavazza calendars will be sold on the www.charitystars.com platform, with the 12 original photos and a special item auctioned: the proceeds will be used to support New Horizons, a sustainable development project that promotes the autonomy of the most vulnerable sections of the population in Calcutta’s area (India).
In order to give more visibility to the calendar launch, on 12 November at 6 p.m. on calendario.lavazza.it, Lavazza organised a digital schedule conducted by the actor Pierfrancesco Favino and accompanied by Brunori Sas’s music. In this event, the voices of six involved authoritative ambassadors will interchange: the architect Carlo Ratti, the fashion designer Stella Jean, the writer Alessandro Baricco, the actress Kiera Chaplin, the singer-songwriter Patti Smith and Save The Children International CEO Inger Ashing.
The 2021 Lavazza’s calendar is therefore the tip of the iceberg of an ambitious project that aims at integrating all creative disciplines – photography, but also art, architecture, design, music, poetry – into its humanitarian engagement and environmental protection. A “social sustainability”, as the organisers call it. On the occasion of this project presentation, we had the opportunity to meet Christy Lee Rogers, an award-winning American photographer famous for her underwater photographic portraits, characterized by a lightness, sensuality and theatricality sense that brings together her entire production.
The New Humanity is the new Lavazza calendar’s concept. What is your idea of “new humanity”? And how did you communicate it by the artwork that you presented for this project?
It all starts with water as my artistic muse, the element necessary to build this re-foundation of humanity. In the image, all these beings are a sort of coming together and interconnected. The other elements are light and colours, and it’s all done underwater. My images are surrounded by this sense of hope and freedom, but all starts with a feeling of vulnerability.
What do you mean with “vulnerability”?
Is what it really happens in the water, when you’re down, feeling vulnerable because you can’t breathe, you can’t see, you don’t know what’s happening, and you’re uncomfortable. This process happens with all of my models: they somehow start to adapt, they get more confident, and then, they have a kind of come out feeling, saying “wow, I did it!” or “I could do this!”. That happens mostly because I use normal people in my photographs, they’re not underwater models. What I’m trying to capture is that going through that vulnerability, their coming out and feeling beautiful, triumphant, and confident.
So, going back to the first question…
The concept about the new humanity is: yes, we are at this vulnerable state, and it’s uncomfortable on it. I mean, it’s terrible. But we have just to keep pushing through the beauties on the other side. Let’s start trying to find solutions for us, starting with ourselves, and then moving up that way to where we find that beauty. Imagine waking up every day and just feeling peaceful and creative and not worried about the reality. If you knew that everybody was on your side, and everybody was there to help you and to have a helping hand. That would be very nice.
I think that being underwater is one of the most curious experience you can do. It’s like finding itself in a parallel universe, but remaining on the earth. What is your opinion?
It’s interesting because water has a dichotomy in itself: a side of peaceful rejuvenation – you can go into a different place and you will feel that dark energy leaving you once you get into the water – but, on the other side, water is very powerful and can be dangerous. We can’t survive underneath the water; at the same time, life would not exist without water. This dichotomy is so fascinating to me. Actually, water is that perfect medium to express who we are as humans. And, yes, there is this parallel universe, you can’t catch with photograph. Because, what I’m seeing with my eyes, in the water is not what I captured through the lens. So, it’s thanks to light if you can capture something. It’s very interesting. Light travels and has no mass, but we perceive certain things with our eyes because of it, you know. So, my question is, what else is around us? What else we can’t perceive?
What are your references in general? I think about other artists’ work, for example, but also books and movies…
Well, most of my references are in the musical field. I’m always listening to music. Hans Zimmer is one of my favorites, it has a lot of passion and drama. And Ludovico Einaudi, there is another favorite. Mozart has been very peaceful to me right now. And also, more contemporary, like the band Muse, is a huge inspiration to me. And definitely movies: Baz Luhrmann is one of my favorite directors. As regards fashion, I can say Iris van Herpen, she’s a core tour designer. And her dresses are just out of this world, from a different realm. There are many things that are inspiring me along the way. But I would say, the main inspiration, it’s keeping notes in my notebook about what’s going on in the world and my thoughts about it. Then I try to add all up at the end of the year into a collection, going to communicate something very powerful.
Speaking about your creative process. I guess that your work consists in two parts. An analogue one, made by shootings, and a digital one, made by a lot of post-production. So, the question is, when do you feel satisfied by an artwork? When can you consider it finished?
That’s a good question. It’s a very difficult process for me. I sometimes spend six months to finalize an image. Usually, cropping a composition is a very important part to me. So, I might spend a lot of time on that. And then I will put them up, print them up small, put them on my wall, live with them for a while. And each day I feel different things from them one day, I might think it’s the greatest thing ever, the next I’m not feeling it. But there’s a point where I guess I feel like I’ve lived with them long enough. I can say, will they stand the test of time? Will I never get bored? And well, I always find something interesting in them. That’s kind of when I know that I’m done with them. That’s why my collections take a long time, I don’t want to put out something that is not powerful. And that I don’t feel.
Your images have often been compared to the paintings of Caravaggio, Titian, even talking about “neo-baroque”. How did this statement makes you feel? Are you agree with it?
It’s curious, because I’ve never anticipated or planned to do something like that. An artist just creates from the heart and it just happens. It’s who you are. And it’s a beautiful thing, because I love the Baroque and I love I love the drama, that passion and that sense of something greater than yourself. I feel like that it was lacking in art in a way and I just wanted to say something loudly. It’s almost like you’re going out of your body, like the energy is so much that you can express putting it somewhere else in the art. And, again, that’s why the water was so perfect, because it could express everything in that way.
Actually is the same thing I’ve thought looking at the first glance to your works. What happens in the sky in the Baroque paintings, is the same that there’s in your images, but in the water. Maybe what they have in common is the absence of gravity.
Yes, it’s another world. It’s where I want to take people as I imagine this world that is so soft and sensual and delicate.
Do you think that this weird year could impact on the art system? In the way to produce, promote and sell art? How do you expect it in the future?
Yes, absolutely it will be different. I had many exhibits myself that were shut down and postponed. I think that people are viewing art and wanting art more than ever, but the gallery system will change, and we’ll have to change. I don’t think we’ve figured out exactly how it’s going to change, but it is.