Mariano Doronzo on Poetry, Photography and Cultural Education

Mariano Doronzo (b. 1986) is an Italian engineer,
 photographer, and poet based in Nottingham.

He moved to England in 2013 and started shooting black
 and white street-photography using an
 old Praktica film camera.
 Currently living in Nottingham,
 he still works only with analog equipment
 whilst also expanding his skills in the darkroom
 from processing film to handmade printing.
 His work is shown in solo and collective exhibitions 
in both Italy and England.
 Also a keen writer, Mariano was published in Italy
 in 2016 where his poetry book
 “Echi del mio tempo” (Echoes of my time)
 won the Premio Polverini National Award for poetry.
 In the same year, he completed a creative writing
 class course at Scuola Holden -
 Storytelling and Performing Arts in Turin (Italy).

Most days you can also find Mariano serving
 the finest pints at The Dragon Pub in Nottingham.


Mariano Doronzo is interviewed by Irene Postigo 

I remember one of the first poems I heard you read. It was at your poetry reading at Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham, in Autumn 2016. The reading was in Italian and I was carefully listening to the articulation of words in your voice, slowly giving them meaning, trying to balance the inherent lyricism of the language with the signification of it. Every poem you read took on a different dimension when translated into English by Ross Bradshaw, in its Italian original, and in my mental (non)linguistic construction of the images that emerged from it. Poems and images went on going and overlapping and creating different and more diverse meanings. But my mind suddenly stopped. It stopped in memory, in the time in which present is somehow laid to rest. It stopped because your words portrayed an image of the sea. An image of the nostalgia of the sea, as you expressed the presence of the sea, the waves, and your village during your childhood. What an unexpected feeling it was to become aware of this maritime nostalgia precisely when being on an island. One year has passed since this image was imprinted through words in my imagination. Words flowed and they came up to form one stirring snap. Or were there perhaps more snaps flowing around? I need to make the waves come to the shore and refresh images anew through your words.

 

What was your childhood relationship with words, with images? Did you discover or express your passions at an early age, or was it more of a process that took its time to come into the light?

My relationship with images has always been very strong. Since my childhood, for me, it has probably been one of the strongest and easiest ways to understand a new concept or to recall a known one straight away. I would say “thinking in images” is like building maps in my mind using an abstract view to find a clear and defined path that can display a definition or a meaning.

Being a very shy child, I was not at all confident with words, at least not spoken ones. Not even attending school helped me. Feeling obligated to read or write things I was not interested in made me hate words even more. So “words” was definitely not a passion since an early age. But passions and interests change with age as you go through different life phases or just because I get bored when something stops being challenging. I always tried to express my self in some way. For example, I played the guitar and I used to write music for more than ten years. Eventually, without even thinking about it, my relationship with words became more and more important later on as a result of a very long personal process.

 

Being both a poet and photographer, how would you describe the varying ways in which poetry and photography help portray memories?

Originally, I started writing my diaries as a confidential conversation with myself. Only when I moved abroad to England did this conversation become very intense, almost obsessive. At that time, I was going through a very hard period of loneliness, not just because I did not know many people in this new place, but also because I forced myself to avoid any contact with the Italian language – I stopped reading in Italian and listening to Italian music to try to learn English as fast as possible. When I started ignoring all my friends and my family as well, the fear of losing my previous memories came along.

I thought writing was a good way to save my memories such as images, smells, echoes, colors and feelings I was missing, but I never thought any of the stuff I was writing was good to anybody else than me. In fact, I was published only because a  person very close to me found those diaries, and sent these thoughts to a publisher – I was completely skeptical.

Photography is generally used to document or portray a moment; for me, it has been more of a way to find a connection with the people and the environments I have found myself in.  Sometimes the camera was just an excuse to stop and talk to a stranger, to listen to their stories and become friends if I was lucky.

It is always surprising how every person you meet can be an open door to a new world – I was introduced to more and more people and taken to different places I would not have had a chance to find or discover being on my own. When the daily routine took over and I lost interest in the world around me, photography helped me to rediscover it.

 

Portrait and street photography constitute an important focus of your work, and you are soon going to exhibit at The Photo Parlour, Nottingham. Working with processed film involves a long-term relationship with the material. How does the encounter with images act as a learning process for you? How different can the learning process be when you are on the other side of the camera as the person portrayed, to when you see someone else photographic work?

First of all, I would like to say I’m not “against” digital cameras as the camera is just a tool in your hands.

I still work with analog equipment because I love the whole process: taking the photo, processing the film and printing in the darkroom. It is important to me to continuously develop towards becoming an artisan of photography. It is true that it is a slower process, but it gives me a better perception of reality in terms of control. Having many more limits I need to think a lot more before shooting. For example not having the luxury of checking the photo taken straight after pushes me a lot towards trying to get closer to my subject. Even then sometimes it happens that I do not get anything good. In those cases, I like to think that I just wasn’t supposed to take that picture. Or it makes me go back if it is possible, and go deeper into my relationship with the subject. You learn to wait and be more patient focusing only on the essentials.

Looking at someone else’s work is always a good chance to see how photographers use their cameras differently to tell a story. It helps to give you a better idea of what you really like and how to better conceive your research. It exposes your weaknesses and gives you pointers to what you need to change or how to improve your own approach.

Being the subject portrayed is an exercise in understanding how people can feel vulnerable when they are on the other side of the camera. It reminds you to make them feel at ease and be more respectful in regards to how you portray or expose them.

 

Recently, you have joined the efforts of supporting Nottingham’s bid for becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2023. Nottingham is already a UNESCO City of Literature, and the activities related to this initiative encourage people from the Midlands to engage in a wide variety of events and cultural options. How do you believe the promotion of culture at the local level can positively affect cities and its people?

The promotion of different cultures is fundamental for every society, more than we think. People tend to ignore how every single culture is a result of a mixture of different ones. Customs and traditions, words, food, all have ancient and distant origins. Especially nowadays with the world becoming more and more multicultural.

In my own personal experience, traveling, living abroad and meeting people from different countries and cultures have greatly enriched my perception of the world. These adventures have given me a wide-open vision and understanding of my personal life, realizing how many ways – sometimes completely different from what I believed or I was taught – we have to live the best life we can and enjoy our time.

It may seem obvious but it is true that communication brings people together with their different ideas as well as ways of thinking, and this can only improve the quality of our lives. But it is not easy; this requires us to stay open with a critical approach to what we read on social media or in the news.

Promoting arts, literature, poetry, music – culture in one word – at local and direct level is definitely an important step to keep the “human conversation” and exchange alive and this can only affect the city and its people positively.

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