Like coffee, photography is genuinely international. It knows no borders.
Sometimes, all we need to do is open our eyes. That is certainly the mantra of photo editor Manuela Cigliutti and journalist Barbara Silbe, who named their no-profit organisation EyesOpen!, adding an exclamation mark to encourage us to reflect on what is right in front of us and to observe and think about images – be they created by others or ones that we ourselves might decide to produce or buy.
The name belies the duo’s passion for the cause, a passion that cuts right to the heart of the two professionals. “The challenge is to talk about photography in a way that is simple and refined all at once,” explains Barbara Silbe. “In the current times, when the art form is so widespread thanks to digital technology and social media, it’s become harder to build up a deeper knowledge of how photography works and, paradoxically, the link between thinking and seeing has become weaker.” The project is a tricky one in these times, yet it is also extremely visionary. “In essence, photography is an art form within the reach of many, if not everybody. It preserves memory and allows us to observe things we’ve never seen,” continues Silbe.
The project explores culture in all its many facets and is collated into a quarterly magazine (http://www.eyesopen.it), which can be bought online via subscription or in Leica outlets and specialist bookstores across Italy. According to Silbe, the “commitment is to give emerging talents a voice and teach people about the art of photography through images and writing contributed by photographers, writers and critics. There are also cultural projects designed to promote the work of talent of varying degrees of fame from Italy and abroad. In this way, we forge some really valuable connections.”
Alongside this, the association promotes events taking a closer look at some of the most interesting issues in the sector. For example, the Cimbali Group recently organised the Faema Express your art exhibition, which was held in MUMAC’s Hangar 100 and ran until April 2017. The exhibition was designed to share information about Faema’s place in the world today through one of the most popular drinks in Italy and across the world: espresso.
Express your art
The task was to enlist the help of eight photographers to put their spin on the Faema brand and celebrate the great Italian tradition of espresso.
“The challenge was ensuring that the exhibition wasn’t monotonous,” admits Silbe. “It had to be a far-reaching project, with personalities and images that were completely different from one another, displayed in a setting evocative of the urban setting, with metal, earth and marble. It automatically takes you back to cities you’ve visited. It was a real team effort (all women!) and we managed to convey the essence of each individual photograph.” Working with the Cimbali Group communications team, EyesOpen! chose photographers with different traits and styles. The eight chosen photographers came from several countries around the world – diversity was key.
“It’s hard to make a corporate project artistic,” continues Silbe. “But we managed to do so just because the images spoke volumes. For example, Sam Harris chose the endless sea in Australia as the backdrop for almost dreamlike compositions that conjure up universal images. In his intimate style, when capturing personal family moments he let himself be inspired by the colours and sensations that the locations evoked within him, thus transporting us as observers there too.”
Our experiences in cafés and other places where coffee is consumed are an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere and explore new situations, all thanks to a simple cup of coffee. “Take Maurizio Galimberti, for example,” she explains. “He created a kind of musical mosaic which explores the bond between the E71 coffee machine, broken up into little Polaroid images, and the artist, who treated it as if it were a portrait. Beatrice Speranza, meanwhile, embroiders on top of her works, with the resultant style becoming her calling card, a style with a unique personality.” Alfredo Bini, on the other hand, captured the frenzy of life in New York, juxtaposing the chaotic city outside with an inside space (a café) reserved for silent, meditative pauses. In London, meanwhile, Amedeo Novelli concentrated on perfection, focusing attention on his subjects and celebrating technology, quality and lines. Over in Shanghai, Francesco Di Maio played with digital and analogue technology, putting greater value on time while revisiting traditions, while in Stockholm Matteo Valle channelled the typical Northern European vibe by approaching the espresso machine as if it were a model, focusing on beauty and detailed images.
Italy was profiled by Giulio Di Meo, who toured the peninsula, using black and white images packed with detail and anticipation to focus on people, gestures and on that most beloved of Italian rituals: going to the café for a coffee. “We love coffee so much that Giulio Di Meo’s Faema Express your Art extract on Italy has become a travelling exhibition as part of Photofestival 2017,” concludes Silbe.
“The FAEMA Express your Art project allowed us to co-create – along with eight artists with very different styles and approaches – a project where we asked them to freely interpret the places associated with coffee, an area in which we’ve been operating for over 100 years,” explains Cimbali Group Marketing and Communications Director Simona Colombo.
“Giulio Di Meo’s images are part of a wider, more in-depth project dedicated to Italy and its rich eco-system of cafés and piazzas. Working together with Di Meo, and with artistic direction from EYESOPEN!, we embarked upon a journey that took us to dozens of cafés, where documented every-day life discreetly and without filters. In those places, you see a country that still sees coffee as an important, intimate daily ritual.”
From the historic cafés of Turin to the bakeries in the heart of Milan, the new establishments of Rimini, the bars in Matera and the elegance of the typical Bari cafés, the collection is a loyal representation of what coffee, and in particular espresso, represents. It is an integral part of our lives – not just in Italy, but all over the world.