Italian-American photographer Olimpia Piccolo combines fine art and fashion with documentary. Having just graduated from the University of the West of England in Bristol, Piccolo’s work flits between the mundane and the theatrical, with a touch of the absurd thrown in. Her projects are personal and narrative-led yet retain a sense of ambiguity, achieved through a mix of brashly-lit portraits with softer candid shots (as seen in her project All Good and Very Happy?) The series was exhibited as part of the photographer’s grad show and focuses on Piccolo’s mother and how the distance created by Piccolo studying abroad in the UK has changed their relationship.
We talk to the photographer about what this project means to her and some of the best pieces of advice she’s been given so far.
Creative Review: Why did you choose to study photography at UWE?
Olimpia Piccolo: I took a leap of faith. I just felt very welcome and could see how much the professors wanted the students to learn.
CR: How would you describe your style?
OP: Fun, colourful, autobiographical and romantic.
CR: What are you up to now you’ve graduated?
OP: I am trying to keep up the same momentum I had throughout this year, so I am pretending I still have uni work to do.
CR: How prepared do you feel for the world of work? Will it a big adjustment?
OP: I am excited to keep working in photography and create my own network. It will be a big adjustment because for the moment, I don’t know what city I want to work in, but I don’t want to rush into anything if it’s not something I really want to do. I want to take my time and follow my gut.
CR: What kind of pressure are you under now you’ve graduated?
OP: I feel personal pressure to find work in photography and only strive for jobs that make me happy. I’m just scared of not progressing forward.
CR: What would your dream project be?
OP: All I want is to keep working with people I admire and can learn from. I want to grow from every project I do and not consider it a job. I don’t know what my perfect project would be yet, but I know I’d want it to be a natural process. Something simple but unexpected.
CR: What was the most important thing you learned while at university?
OP: The most important thing I’ve learned at university is to always choose the subject you are most passionate about, independently from whether it’s popular or not. Stay true to yourself and don’t do what you think other people want to see from you, because it will only block your creativity.
CR: Tell us about a bit more about the project All Good and Very Happy? What was it like having your mother as the subject?
OP: For years I’ve been wanting to document my mother’s unique lifestyle and personality traits. Third year was the perfect opportunity to work on a long-term project and focus all my energy on bringing to life all the aspects of photography that I love: bright colours, playfulness, a balance between staged and natural compositions and a touch of ambiguity.
Working with someone you admire so much has been the most amazing experience, especially exploring the bond between mother and daughter. Being able to visually represent our relationship has brought us closer than ever and has been a great moment for the both of us to get to know each other even more.
CR: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given and by who?
OP: A few photographers I look up to said that to be successful in what you do, always be true to yourself and always enjoy yourself. If you do that, people will want to work with you because of your own style and what you can offer them, rather than having to change your style to satisfy their needs.