Masks Of Horror

The Italian Digital Photo-Manipulator Whose Surreal Images Evoke The Human Condition

It is remarkably strange that a born and bred Italian such as Stefano Bonazzi creates photography that blasts you off to a cold, distant place. The self-taught digital photo-artist has been creating his work in Ferrara, a little Renaissance Italian province situated between Bologna and Venice. His new series, The White Sky, seems to make a point of abandoning the homeland in favour of somewhere Northern, reminiscent of Norway with its huge fjords and Norse mythology. “Nothing was taken in the environment in which it resides,” he confirmed.

Working with Photoshop and his digital camera, using a process of photomontage allows him to do anything and to go anywhere, discovering new worlds where the possibilities are endless. The scenes he lays before us are full of mixed emotions, where open to the horizon his human subjects can feel a sense of freedom.

Among the vastness of nature is the importance of the human subject, at the centre of each photograph. “The protagonists are joined to animals or positioned in more proactive attitudes,” he tells us. “They are in postures of prayer or in a state of elevation.” Each photograph tells us about the condition of the human in a society of disrepair, but adds its own message of hope.

We caught up with the man behind the images to find out more:

The Plus: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Stefano Bonazzi:
I work as a graphic designer in a small town in northern Italy. My passions for design and photography led me over the years to use the tools that I use daily at work (Photoshop, tablet) to create images-collage representing my distorted view of our modern society.

TP: Why did you title the series The White Sky?
Simply because one of the hallmarks of all shots in this series is a large white sky and desaturated. I have imagined it as a sort of limbo. The white sky, which replaces the storms or the dark clouds of the shots the background, is a symbol of hope for the future. It is the most positive series that I’ve made so far.

TP: What was your creative process?
I work composing my images as if they were huge collage. Just like the artists of pop art, when they created their paintings taking clippings: I cropping, contour cut and fit with the help of the tablet, all the elements, so as to mislead the eye of those who will watch these shots. For example, wolves that you see in the shot “THE WHITE SKY VII” are cut from the frame images of a nature documentary.

TP: What is the significance of depicting masks?
The mask is a metaphor that I try to emphasize in the image to make it stronger. We all wear a mask every day. You have to see this mask, meet it a few steps ahead of ourselves, to realize how this mask can truly be obscene and frightening. This is what I do, I put people in front of their own masks to show them truth, but in doing so I realize much more about myself. Later, when I expose the image to a show or on the Internet, people write to me telling me that that image seem to be made just for them. Only if someone decides to raise our glass cages will we can realize how similar we are in our solitude. Art is a good way to break these cages.

TP: They are abstract and surreal too, what message you are trying to deliver?
My characters are unlikely girls with gas masks, businessmen in full or elegant caricatures, but they are first of all archetypes, icons, symbolic representations of status. We would like to find somewhere to belong but our place in society requires us to deny, restrict and marginalize ourselves. We are all human in the same way, regardless of the mask that we wear.

TP: What’s your next project?
For the next set, I’m trying to concentrate on individual characters. Surreal portraits in half-length, I approach the viewer’s eye with my bizarre characters. It will be a more colourful number, minimal and maybe even a little ironic. It will be like spy in rabbit hole after smoking marijuana.