Alessandra Meniconzi is an Italian photographer whose work focuses on the ancient heritage, customs, spirituality, and daily life of indigenous people who are strongly connected to nature and whose traditions are at risk of vanishing.
Meniconzi is motivated by a passion for the interplay between wild places and ancient cultures. She has a fascination and a profound respect for native people who subsist in isolated regions of the world.
Her image ‘Flamingo’s Soul’ won the Open Wildlife category in the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
What does your work focus on?
My work is focused on recording minority people and their traditional culture. Their daily lives and customs, relationships with nature, and their struggles to preserve ancient cultures and maintain their ethnic identities in the face of climate change and the pressures of the modern world.
By interacting closely with the native people there, I’m able to learn about and document their unique ways of life involving a deep connection to the rhythms of nature. I’m trying to create images of these people and their cultures before they disappear…a research that started a long time ago, when I was only 20 years old.
What are you motivated & fascinated by?
Travel and photography, and the motivation to sell my images, is still a strong passion in my life. I never think of it like a job. Photography is another way to express your personality. Pressing the shutter release of the camera materializes your feelings, your sensibilities, your character, and the way you see the world. The camera is not the issue; the true factor is who’s behind it. For me taking photos is a kind of meditation, I need to have a free mind to find a good place to concentrate. At home l closely review my images, I am very critical with my work. I try to learn from my mistakes and wonder how I can improve next time.
You strive to portray the lives of indigenous people with authenticity, insight, and sensitivity. How do you take photos to obtain this?
I try to spend time with them and learn about their social custom and traditions. If you respect and understand people of different cultures, it’s easier to capture their essence. I will never insist on taking a picture of someone who doesn't give me their permission. I am a guest in their land, so respect is my first priority. I don't like to take photographs of just a place or a person that is an "icon" or just because it looks nice. If I work like that I feel that I am just showing the surface of the subject who is being photographed. My intention is to go beyond the surface. I have learnt to go back to some places, meet the same people, wait for better light, experiment with different lenses, vantage points and techniques.Working in intimate situations require a lot of time for discovering each other.
Can you tell us more about the image shortlisted in the Open Competitions Wildlife category of the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards?
‘Flamingo’s Soul’ Summer 2016, Namibia, Walvis Bay. I photographed flamingos on the shores of the Namibian Coast in the shallow waters of Walvis Bay. I am not a wildlife photographer but when I first saw the flamingos I got crazy! The flamingos on the shores of the Namibian Coast inspired me with their beauty and elegance.