The challenge of photography is finding the perfect moment. Whether it’s the light hitting a woodland tableaux at just the right angle, or a selfie on a killer hair day, people love to observe everything coming together. Of course, there’s also just as much enthusiasm for witnessing it all fall apart.
Photographer Sandro Giordano’s new series on Instagram, “In Extremis (Bodies With No Regret),” revels in the folly of man, the loss of composure when a person unexpectedly finds himself going ass-over-tea kettle. In stark contrast to the immaculately coiffed visages one usually finds on the photo-sharing platform, the stars of “In Extremis” are mostly depicted from the back, having apparently just endured a nasty fall in a way that reveals all we’ll ever need to about their personalities.
“For every single photo, I create a story,” Giordano says. “In most cases, I tell of common people incurring classic everyday accidents, revealing where possible, the black rotten side of everyone of us. In other photos, I prefer more fantastic and symbolic atmospheres instead. I like to experiment, to grow and elaborate new ideas that often go on to be interpreted by the public in a completely different way from what I’d originally thought.”
The series stems from an accident Giordano had with his bicycle last summer. As he fell, the photographer kept holding onto some objects he was carrying instead of protecting himself. A few weeks later, a friend broke his leg on some beachside rocks just to avoid his smartphone falling into the water. A pattern of personal philosophy had begun to emerge, and it was one that Girodano was not comfortable with.
“We live in sad times when material things, expensive or not, have become more important than our own lives,” the photographer says. “I started feeling the need to capture that exact moment–the moment of the impact. I wanted to do it ironically, and play down the seriousness. I enjoy the idea of people becoming victims of their own obsessive and compulsive neurosis, but there had to be a comical side to tragedy.”
All of the props in each scene add to the sense of tragic comedy, and these are deliberate choices. Since the characters’ faces are always hidden, the objects help reveal their backgrounds–with just the right record player and accompanying ash tray illuminating the kind of person Giordano wants to portray, be it an inept lumberjack, a clumsy birthday girl, or a taxi-riding daydrunk. The degree to which we relate to or are appalled by the people in the photos fluctuates with how much we recognize the things they surround themselves with and the circumstances of the apparent fall.
“It’s one of the most exciting and amusing moments of getting everything ready: searching for the right ingredients, constantly trying to assemble them according to their chromatic, geometrical and informative details,” Giordano says. Our value is determined by what we own not by who we are. This is why my characters save ‘objects’ that understate their value in that precise extreme context, superfluous and inessential still more important than their own lives.”
Giordano goes into the shoot knowing exactly what he wants, having spent hours imagining the “crime scene” from different bodily positions and framing angles beforehand. Once he has the right props and finds the perfect location, he goes with assistants and the model to set up. This requires a couple of hours worth of rather complex work because once the model is in position, he or she must find the right spot to lean on and get comfortable. Hopefully not too comfortable, though.
“Discomfort is fundamental to me since the success of the photo precisely depends on the actor’s talent to decompose in the most striking way,” Giordano says. “Often my models surprise me and assume positions that I wouldn’t have imagined to ask for and that’s when I get convinced I’ll take home a better photo than I’d thought.”
Have a look through more of the photos from this series in the slides above.