Storm Chaser Alessandro Puccinelli moved to Australia in 1993 working in advertising photography, he had that feeling of wanderlust, and an idea that turned into a personal photographic project: “A Van In The Sea”. Alessandro showcased his favorite places along the European coast in his van. This was a nocturnal photography project capturing the luminous stars amongst the magnificence of the glimmering sea, a place above all other places where he prefers to be.
Alessandro divides his time between Tuscany, Lisbon, and the southern coast of Portugal. He often takes a break from the humdrum of life in his motorhome hideaway (his van in the sea), chasing storms of the ocean. He patiently waits for the perfect moment to capture the fearsome waves that collide into the coastlines moody sky, together creating mother nature’s fury in spectacular form. His contemporary photography captures the essence of the sea and sky that immerses you in the fascinating depths of mystery, magic, and beauty.
Alessandro’s work is highly collectible and has been published in reputable magazines and recognized in many photography awards including: Sony World Photography, International Photography, Black and White Photography, Hasselblad Masters, and many others.
Tell us what how/why you decided on photography as your career? My career in photography started early, I was interested at the young age of 20 and had been quite lucky to find work as photographic assistant. Photographic schools in Italy in those days were very expensive. I knew by then that learning on the job was my window of opportunity. A local photo studio in Lucca (Italy) hired me despite me having no education or knowledge about the technical process of photography. I was extremely motivated and enthusiastic, and this was what gave me my start to building a photographic career. As I had no art background, or even any real interest in art at that time, the choice of commercial photography as a career for me was more about the appeal of traveling and doing a work that I enjoyed. The idea of using photography as an art medium came much later, after 10 years of assisting and freelance in commercial photography, I had an idea about photographing the sea – a personal project. I realized that producing art is much more complicated and rewarding than just satisfying a client. It may be easier under technical aspects, but from an artistic and intellectual point of view, you have to dig deeply in search of some reason or aspects of yourself that has something interesting to say to the rest of the world. You have to find a trigger, something that is you, something to make your mark and your point of view in some way, special. I feel this is an ongoing progress and certainly studying commercial photography had really benefited me in my personal art work projects.
If you hadn’t chosen photography what would have done instead? I really think I would have loved to be a gardener or scuba diving instructor.
Whose work has influenced you most? My work has been strongly influenced by romantic painters – mainly by the work of JW Turner, Eugène Delacroix, John Martin and Caspar David Friedrich. In a very natural way, since I started to photograph the ocean, I found a lot of similarities with the main romantic ideas. I looked at the ocean probably as they used to do, even the life in the van along the European coast has a lot of romanticism in it. Originally, I feel I took inspiration from the late Turner, however currently my work is shifting more towards an abstract element, inspired by the work of the New York School Of Abstract Expressionism and other abstract contemporary artists like Marta Jungwirth from Austria.
What is the fascination you have with photographing the ocean? The love for the ocean was born when I first started surfing as a child in 1986. The more I got involved with surfing, the more I started to look at the ocean. I began to idealize it, to love it. I got hooked by its amazing power and its inner beauty and elegance that all together are able to live in the same element. It became a sort of unreachable point of arrival, an example to follow but at the same time it gave me a sense of frustration and fragility when facing it. There is a huge amount of admiration and respect towards the ocean in my photography. At the same time, mainly in the recent works, I shifted a bit towards investigating a sense of fragility and fear, I’m looking at beauty that comes out of chaos and unpredictability.
You have fearlessly climbed high cliff points to obtain the perfect shot. Describe to us your process and your most memorable experience: The process is almost the same every time. It may change a bit from series to series, but the places are the same. What may change are the conditions of the ocean. Having said that, as I’m shooting in Europe, the period of time that suits my photography is the winter season. During that period, I have to be ready each time a big swell reaches the coast. Nowadays is quite easy to predict the conditions thanks to technology but at the real end, you can’t be so sure of what are you going to see that day. I mean that many times, I’m expecting some amazing condition and I may drive for hundreds of kilometers, and then it’s not as good as I thought. Thank god there is still some unpredictability in this technological world. When a good swell is expected, I decide where to go. I have some secret spots, mainly in Portugal, but so far, the best one is a well-known place called Nazarè, a famous spot for huge waves. My gear has to be well protected, as well as myself, as many times I get wet, waves splash, rain, etc. If the condition is good, I like to stay there all day. That’s why I can’t afford to get wet. Sometimes I have to walk a lot to get to a certain point.
The most memorable day was one morning where I couldn’t take a single photograph. It was early in the morning in Nazarè, Portugal. I was close to the location, and on the way I could see a electricity post lying on the road, loose cables on the ground, the wind was very very strong and hard rain. The moment I got to the place, I felt the wind was almost lifting my car. I tried to go out to reach the location and as soon as I got out, I found myself lying on the road. I couldn’t even stand up. I had to reach the car crawling on my knees and for the next two hours, I had to give up. But I had the chance to look at the sea and it was huge – the biggest I’d ever saw. There is a bit of regret in my words as I could try again but that place with that kind of wind can be quite dangerous. Luckily the wind dropped a few knots in the next hours, enough to let me go in and reach the point. It was still huge, maybe not as big as a few hours before, but still an amazing to view entirely on my own.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM CREATIVE COLLABORATIVE ENDEAVOR? A few years trip around the world to photograph all the big waves and places during huge swells. Or a collaboration with other photographers and associations to document and help bring awareness about ocean pollution. I know that some awareness has been already lifted about that. I actually already did a series about plastic, but I would like to do some big project to spread the word in those places where there is no awareness at all, and to force big companies to change their policies.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT IN YOUR STUDIO/MOTORHOME? One thing I cannot live without in my motorhome is coffee.
FAVORITE CITY: New York
BEST ADVICE: Stop photographing everything. The images in your memory are the most powerful. Enjoy the place, the scenery around you, and then take pictures once you have assimilated what’s in front of you.
FIVE FAVOURITE SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES YOU FOLLOW, AND WHY? I’m not a fan of spending time on social media. I haven’t found yet a way to use them properly. The one that I use mostly is Behance as I haven’t had to post on it every day. At the same time, it can be an excellent place to see what’s going on in photography and advertising. Instagram is the other one. I don’t publish much material on it, not daily, but I use it to check what’s going on the art world and in photography. Recently, I found a profile on artsy called ARE.NA. It seems interesting, no follows or likes. I may decide to get involved soon.
Australian abstract artist Boe Sapun is the founder and curator of Ecume Gallery. The Melbourne-based gallery represents both local, international, established, and emerging contemporary art. The idea of having great art accessible to a broad audience prompted the online gallery showcasing her own work, as well as a diverse range and ever-growing list of talented contributing artists. Boe’s passion is in discovering creative minds and understanding the finer nuances of their character which influence their process, inspiration, and art. Follow Boe Sapun and Écume Gallery on Instagram and Facebook.