Together with Marco Faganel, Sara Occhipinti is the co-owner of studiofaganel – a gallery, publishing house, framing lab and a book shop based in Gorizia, Italy. In an interview with Discarded Magazine, she talks about the creative process behind photobook making and her latest projects.
How did studiofaganel emerge and was it a gallery together with a publishing house from the start?
studiofaganel was founded in 2011 by me and Marco Faganel. In the beginning, it dealt with modern and contemporary art within a local range. Then we focused more and more on photography and contemporary artists. The artists we now represent are all photographers or visual artists. studiofaganel became a publishing house only in 2018, and the idea followed the action – we started to produce and also distribute our books. Although Gorizia is a small city in a decentralized position, it is a very open, well-connected, active and reactive area, especially towards culture. In addition, we think that originality and quality that developed over time, have made it possible to attract a wide audience who loves art and goes beyond the local scene. Confirming this experience, alongside Nova Gorica (Slovenia), Gorizia has also been selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2025.
Is it now a tradition that every exhibition organized by studiofaganel is accompanied by a publication?
Yes, we organized about 30 exhibitions and on each occasion, we made a publication. They were all solo shows because we prefer to develop and focus on each project and artist once at a time. The works are then displayed at our space or sometimes, depending on the size and number of artworks, we present them in two other spaces in the city, entrusted to us by the owners: The Palace of the Cinema – Kinemax and belo189.
Further exhibitions during these past years, were outcomes of collaborations with public or private subjects. Collaborations occupy an important part of our path. From the exhibition floor they have shifted on to publishing activity, as happened with the book Casa Azul by Giulia Iacolutti that we have co-published with the(M) éditions in 2019, and we’ll continue this collaboration with ‘Fragile’ by Marco Marzocchi, that we’ll produce together with Blow Up Press in 2022.
What qualities and aesthetics are you looking for in a photographer to be published by you?
Our specificity is the answer to this question. Being an art gallery certainly has an influence on us as publishers. The roles are inseparable, both practically and theoretically.
Even though we have our own taste and some editorial preferences, such as small-format books, minimal design, non-invasive types, neutral colours, the dominance of the image over the text, variation of paper types and packaging of the book, we do not have a rigid editorial line.
This is evident looking at the works we have published so far, which cross photographic genres and techniques, do not favour one editorial product over another and are not directed to an audience with a defined and unique taste. Usually, we tend to go in the opposite direction of what publishing houses would generally do. But we believe that to respect and valorise the diversity of each artist, we have to go towards their world and not have them adapt to us or some formal rules.
We are currently representing 11 photographers and our aim is to produce first, all of their works. To take care of them with seriousness and diligence, develop their projects, create exhibitions that are almost exclusively personal, and produce their photo books, it becomes really difficult to give space to the numerous proposals we receive. Furthermore, in the last year the situation has become complicated because due to COVID-19, the 2020 program has completely shifted to the following year. However, if an exhibition project or a book strikes us and we believe it can be a resource for everyone, we make sure to add a place in the program and make motivated and healthy exceptions. In general, we use to reply to the proposals we receive and if some of them interest us we give our willingness to follow and take care of the projects equally despite not having our exhibition venue or us publishing them.
When you decide to work with somebody, how does the collaboration work then? How much are you involved as a publisher?
Participation in the bookmaking process is a result of the gallery’s approach and working method. With the artists we represent, we have a constant and almost daily confrontation on work and projects. Obviously, not with everyone in the same way and same intensity.
Our involvement depends on the openness and willingness to share and also on the level of autonomy of each artist. Some are pleased to discuss with us right from the concept behind the project and the research, others need support for the graphic development or the printing phase or only for writing or translating texts.
The approach is the same in the exhibition-making. A show and a book are two forms that we think should be considered equal, connected and addressed to the same end – that of enhancing and communicating the artist’s work. The dialogue we have with artists is a part of the creative process which obviously also depends on the quality of the human relationship we are able to establish with them.
Could you please tell our readers what were your latest projects and the reasons you selected them?
Our last three publications were very different. ‘Ballad Of Woods And Wounds’ by Tomaso Clavarino and Patrizio Anastasi was a bet for the particularity of the project that sees the close dialogue between photography and illustration. We immediately believed in the project for the strength that the images and drawings are able to have together. Also, the delicacy and genuineness with which the artists dealt with the issue of isolation following the pandemic touched us deeply.
‘Cartacei’ by Roberto Kusterle was an artist book that we loved since the start, particularly, its celebration of the value of the ‘paper’ itself, the consistency of long research, its creation of an archive of photographs and papers, and for its artisanal value demonstrated on the paper aging techniques that the artist made to personalize each of the 100 copies. At the end of 2020, we produced ‘How To Destroy Everything’ by Marco Marzocchi. As soon as we saw the digital zine on Marco’s website, we wanted to produce it. It is a zine of great intensity and it seemed to us that it has managed to condense the state of helplessness of this hard year perfectly, but it also had a message of poetry and hope.
What would be your advice to photographers who are planning to publish their first book?
We strongly believe in interdisciplinarity, in the fact that there is a culture and not necessarily individual disciplines. Therefore, the advice that we feel we can give is not to limit yourself in research, study and curiosity – to know and mix things that apparently belong to different worlds. Sometimes the trigger for a good book depends on reading a novel, watching a film, listening to a piece of music. Everything you learn is useful in your artistic expression. If we want to go into details, we would say that if you want to make a book, then look at as many books as you can with a critical and attentive eye. Study and learn from those who did something before and better than you with humility. That is what we have done and continue to do every day to grow and improve. Finally, if you want help, do not hesitate to ask for it, do not think that you can do everything by yourself, but rely on your path on experienced and honest people, and do not beat yourself down on criticism of your work but use it as a resource.
All publications mentioned in this interview are available for purchase via studiofaganel.