I Love to Sail Forbidden Seas

words and images by Arnaldo Abba Legnazzi

I dove between prehistorical and mythological sea monsters’ jaws, rocky shells, fins, gills, scales and wings, getting deep in their inner body, finding modern-day Giona trapped between their bones and guts, trying to find a way out towards the light.

The same light that also shapes these enormous sea creatures, immersed in this primordial environment with no real-time and space coordinates, reminds us of our ancestral ruthless and unavoidable destiny: born from water, dependant on water for survival, and finally dying, dissolving to dust.

Arnaldo Abba Legnazzi

En Ville: Tell us more about the evolution of "I Love to Sail Forbidden Seas". Can you give us a little insight into your creative process? What kind of work goes into planning, developing and executing a shoot concept for you?

Arnaldo Abba Legnazzi: For this particular project I wasn’t actually doing much planning, as it just happened when I got to the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. 

However, I usually preplan for a shoot by doing homework, researching about the place or the person- a sort of background check. Then I think about how I want to approach the idea. I usually write down random words that come to my mind; any word, it could be a sensation, a color, a place, a painter, anything. Then I circle the most meaningful ones. And based on those, I know what interests me the most. It’s kind of like focusing the mind. Then based on the words, I think about how I would like to approach it visually, taking into consideration the light, mood colors or lack thereof. I then look for visual ideas, mostly from paintings/painters and sometimes, by other photographers. I find that paintings give me a general sense of what I am looking for, without being too literal or precise. After I have my inspiration, I make a moodboard. After that, I don't look at it anymore as I know what I'll be looking for. This is crucial! The rest of the process is the execution: how to use the light, the subject, the equipment etc...


For this project, I did some background and visual research. Since it’s an overly shot location, I didn’t really know how to approach it until I got there. Usually it is portrayed as a sleek and clean technological place, with its white surfaces and fountains, and it’s usually shot with wide panoramas. I knew that I didn’t want to shoot it like that, so I avoided central hours. In a way I knew already it would have been more interesting at sunset. As it happened, I had a 70-200mm lens already mounted on my camera, which was not planned, but I think my instinct told me that I did not wish to shoot wide panoramas. I wanted to isolate the different constructions.

As it often happens, it’s only when I got there and experienced it, that I got a feeling of the scale and sense of the place. As I started shooting, it instantly came to my mind that this was a world inspired by nature, and that I had to isolate each element to give a sense of the whole. I had to simplify as much as possible. 

EV: We have been thinking about all of our friends in Italy during this time. Being based in Northern Italy, can you tell us a little about your experience during this isolation period and on a local level, how has your neighborhood and surroundings shifted during this time? 


I’m based in Milan, but my family lives in a city close by, Brescia, which is one of the most affected places in the entire world. Luckily my family is fine, but the situation here is delicate. We are currently on the fourth week of total lockdown (for the whole country) but it’s almost two months now that we are in quarantine. In the first days of quarantine, people organized flash mobs on their balconies, sometimes with music, sometimes to cheer and applaud the doctors and people working in hospitals. Now it’s not happening anymore; it is true that you get used to everything. But quarantine is very hard now. Walking outside is not permitted. Buying groceries or medications is the only thing tolerated. The mood in the streets is hard to describe. The silence is just interrupted by sirens. People wait in line with their masks outside of grocery stores, patiently but in complete silence. It’s surreal.

EV: It looks like Italy has been under strict stay at home orders for over 8 weeks now. How have you been keeping busy and staying positive? 


It’s not hard for me to keep myself busy. As a freelancer I’m used to managing my free time. However, it changed a lot for my girlfriend. She now works from home, and we have to share our small apartment in Milan, but at least we are together. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to be home alone. There are so many things you can do with your free time, the sky is the limit. We started baking a lot, making pizza and bread, and trying new recipes. We started to make aperitivi (before dinner drinks) with friends on Skype, we bought books and a puzzle, we watch movies and series. Also, Disney plus just arrived! We also exercise in the house (this is super important). There are plenty of videos on youtube to train without machines. I think it is important to keep a routine going on as you would normally- wake up, work, exercise, talk to family and friends. Since work is slowing down, I started learning French by taking a 1-hour class each day, et voilà! 


We are positive by nature, but sometimes it’s hard to think about how long this will go on for. But I believe this is an occasion to rethink the way we are all connected in this. To rethink about the environment too. 

EV: Can you tell us some artists who we should google that will inspire us? Also some books (or movies, or both!) that we should read while social distancing? 

AAL: I like studying painters. I first I buy the small books to see their paintings or monographs. I don’t care about the history or the explanation of a painting, but I want to know who the painter was. So I buy books about their letters, what they wrote or anything that comes from them. You get to know them better this way. Lately I’m into De Chirico and Picasso.


I’m currently reading “The dangerous Summer” by Ernest Hemingway, which I’m enjoying a lot, it’s an easy read. Since we also have the time, try reading: “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts (it’s a HUGE book, but my favorite). Lastly, a recommendation for any artist, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” by Kandinsky. Every artist shout read it.


For movies, I love "Lion" and "1917".

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