Solitude and the Desert With Luca Tombolini

The art of Luca Tombolini will stay with you and you will return to the deserts and oceans of his frames in pastel-washed ice-cream day-dreams. His impeccable drum scanned large format images ask a stillness and a presence of the viewer, leaving you ruminating the possibilities of a photograph to stop time somewhere on an infinite scale.

Luca Tombolini     |     ITALY


Where are you writing from and what’s happening in your world?

It’s a cloudy Sunday on the island of Fuerteventura, Canaries. I’m waiting for the day to pass by to go shooting at sunset at a spot I saw yesterday. I left Milan a month ago and since then I’m roaming around in search of inspiration for pictures.



When did you start making photos, was there an initial reason or inspiration?

I started to really take pictures during the university years. Before that, I was sometimes playing with 35mm cameras but never really fell in love with that. I remember the first time I saw a large format camera I immediately wanted to try to use it: in fact, I soon loved the whole process of it and the need of thinking a lot before taking the shot.


Luca Tombolini


What gets you up in the morning and what is the first thing you do?

Well, I don’t wanna be too philosophical about this but, either you believe in multiple lives or not, I don’t know how many chances you have to be here again. I’m very lucky to live a life without major problems so the idea of being able to go out and be again on exploration of magical places is more than enough to get me up. And the first thing I do is a bit of stretching and yoga.


Luca Tombolini


Do you always have a camera with you?

No, I definitely don’t. My dedication to image making during my trips is balanced by the time I spend without touching a camera after. After every project, I need time to evaluate and digest what I did until I’m ready for the next one.



Your work is entwined with the natural environment. Can you tell me a little about the importance of the environ in your photography?

I’d like to answer this with a quote from C.G. Jung at first: “The decisive question for man is: is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if he knows that the thing which truly matters is the infinite, we can avoid fixing our interests upon futilities and upon all kind of goals which are not of real importance. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change.” So, this maybe explains my feeling of being lost in the everyday rat race and my need for the natural environment, which is the closest evidence I found to a-temporality and participation with the Universe. To this extent, I must also admit that photographing is just a very good excuse to be out there.



Do you believe that your work can help to raise awareness of human impact on the planet and hopefully increase conservation efforts?

Well, I wish I could. That’s not the main reason why I’m taking pictures, I don’t want to document anything about the planet, but when I see the degree of pollution and consumption in many parts of the world it kills me to think that every day, we’re trashing a bit more this unbelievable house that we found ourselves on. Just think about how much Life can thrive in all the environments that are untouched by men and on the contrary how desolating it gets when men are exploiting it.



You mostly shoot alone on long solo trips. Do you prefer to shoot alone in all of your work?

In my ideal photography situation, I’m alone: but not only photographing, I need to be alone in the whole trip and also the fewer people I see the better it is. Anything that vaguely reminds me of where I come from goes in the opposite direction to where I want to go.



Do you have a favourite photo that you’ve taken so far, and could you tell us the story behind it?

I can’t really tell you a favourite picture. I’m trying, but I feel I’m cutting too much of other important ones. But I can tell you a great experience behind the pictures I shot in Iceland. The days I stayed in the middle of the Icelandic plateau, miles away from everything, alone in a vast desert of black sand, exposed to strong natural elements. It has been a humbling experience and even more humbling when the night was coming over. Dark on dark: it really appealed to the primitive instincts of mankind. The veneration for the sun, the need of protection. It was a trip deep in my psyche, letting go to sensations we totally forgot these days.


Luca Tombolini


You have mentioned the great thinker C.G Jung in relation to your practice before, can you tell me a little more about your thinking behind the connection there for you?

I started doing my landscapes following a desire I couldn’t really put into words, like a subliminal fascination I felt. But soon after I had to try to describe what I was doing and so I pulled out from my university studies what I could remember of him. I thought about using him as a tool for self-analysis, but I soon discovered how much wider his legacy is. He’s not just the father of psychoanalysis but there’s much more in his essays about spirituality, man, this living experience to which we are all participating and the place we found ourselves into. It gave me a frame of reference into which try to move in the process of the individuation of my Self.




Who or what are some of your inspirations?

As well as Jung I must say, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Massimo Vitali. The first for his mix of photography and philosophy. The second for the aesthetics of his works.


Luca Tombolini


You shoot mainly large format, what cameras are you using at the moment?

I only have one camera, it’s a wood folding 4×5. It’s light enough to carry in the backpack when I’m exploring.


Luca Tombolini


Can you tell us a little about your process from shooting to developing, scanning and printing? Do you have a hand in every part of the process?

Nope. When negatives are shot I take them to the lab 😉 They do the developing. After that, I’m personally drum scanning them with an old drum scanner, this is the longer part, it takes an incredible long time. Then after that I go back to the lab with my files to update the portfolio and print on demand.



What are three things you cannot live without?

Well, in fact, whatever they are I’m sure you can live even without them but let’s say: travelling, health, honesty.


Luca Tombolini


What personal projects can we look forward to from you next, what are you enjoying exploring at the moment?

I’m actually on a trip mumbling about a new project but it will be an evolution of what I’m usually doing so I didn’t give myself any deadline. Sooner or later I’ll pull out something.


Luca Tombolini


What’s the last film you watched that left a lasting impression on you?

It’s not really a movie which is close to what I’m doing but I’d say “The Wasted Times” of Cheng Er. Under the layer of a Shanghai gangster movie set during the second world war, I found an unintelligible narrative plot to which I was anyway glued by the aesthetics of the movie. Like a softly spoken tale while you’re half asleep. I watched the movie four times, never happened before. The disclaimer is, if you ever think about watching it, the critics reviews are generally really bad. Misunderstood genius perhaps?


Grazie mille Luca!

Gobe Editor





Luca Tombolini Photographer

Luca Tombolini

@lucatombolini    |

Milan, Italy




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