These Long Exposure Photographs Play with your Perception of Time and Space

Travelling the world with a large format film camera, Italian analogue nomad Luca Tombolini has been photographing some of the most desolate spaces on our planet for photography series LS XI: Vistas Paradossales.


With a meta-philosophical mindset, Luca is more your series of series kind of photographer, preferring to play out his visions of the world in batches whilst keeping everything tightly knit and coherent between each. Indeed it’s not the first time we’ve crossed paths with the photographer.

Last time we met he was dusting off from photographing sand dunes in Morocco. The time before, he’d been in Croatia making a minimalist landscapes of the Island of Pag.


We caught up with the photographer to find out more about his recent series and where he’ll be going for his next.

THE PLUS: You’ve said your work focuses on ideas of the self, the unconscious, and contemplation. What do you think focusing on these can offer the viewer?
Luca Tombolini:
Someone else’s work seen from a viewer point of view is by definition an interpretation so I’m never surprised when people come up with things I haven’t even considered. But on a general level, all what you mentioned implies there’s a huge part of ourselves that lies submerged and hidden to our consciousness; and therefore there’s one question behind my work and my wanderings: “What is this?”.

When alone, you close your eyes, shut your thoughts, forget your name and your body. But there’s still something like a sparkle going on. And that sparkle exists within something else: “What’s that experience?”.
All the words above are otherwise empty if the viewer couldn’t fill them with his own experience; and in these terms the focus of my work could be seen as a suggestion to try have a peek outside one’s consciousness. 


TP: Your recent images all have a very dusky blue hues. What attracts you to this type of light?
Most of them are very long exposures, up to one hour for some. It was an experiment to see the result of a series compressing longer times into a single frame. And then adding other exposures on it. In fact the series wants to play with our perception of time and space and that’s how it plays with time, compressing and cutting it.

About the colour, the blue comes of course from the transition of light before and after the sunset, being the latter the dominant. I liked the result in the way it creates a “new” light, because of course it has the hue of the blue hour but all its light transitions summed up to create that dusky effect that didn’t exist in reality.


TP: Have you always been attracted to such desolate places?
The landscape series, even for the very first ones, came to existence as an unconscious reaction to the cultural bubble we all live into, especially us Westerners but all the contemporary world in general. Living and working so deep into it, at some point I faced how relative to us, and just to us, all the values were.

So I unconsciously went searching for an absolute outside our bubble and decided to go photograph these empty places. I suddenly found in them a pristine a-temporality, as they could exist anywhere in Time, and a great pureness. And I realized that spending long time alone in there was an amazing meditative experience.


TP: Do you have a favourite place you’ve visited for your most recent series?
The last series is shot between Fuerteventura, Tenerife and Milan. Sure enough my favourite spot is not gonna be Milan so I’d say a volcanic hill overlooking the sunset in Teide national park in Tenerife.

After quite a good climb on volcanic debris and sand, once arrived on top, you could see the sun setting over the sea of clouds and behind the island of La Palma while behind you the colour of the sunset paints the 3,700m peak of the volcano Teide. I came back many times, not even to photograph but just to sit and enjoy.


TP: What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned as a travelling photographer?
Actually, it’s true that you learn an incredible deal of things so it’s difficult to name just one. But maybe one of the main lessons could be the inestimable value of the possession of our time. And I mean the freedom to choose what to do at any given moment.

Nowadays, we traded our time for money, partly because we’re organised as such but also because the apparent void of existence can be frightening. Nevertheless if someone’s soul is on a search path, this just cannot be done without the possession of his time and a very minimal cultural noise around. 


TP: How do you balance travel and work at home?
I’m always walking on a thin line trying to balance the two, working just enough to be able to travel and keeping enough free time to fit in a project. Luckily, it looks like it’s going ok.

TP: Where are you off to next?
This connects in fact with the above question as I’m trying to make ends meet to ship my 4×4 to South America in October and stay there a good two months at least for the first photo session. Fingers crossed as all my research is done and I think I’ve got amazing images waiting to be shot.