“I placed some water in a box, closed it and watched it move. This is what I normally say when I am asked about the six years I worked on the Teuco calendars, nearly all of which are staged under water. Because water is an element that contains and evokes many more (…)”. Water, for the photographer Patrizia Savarese from Rome, is a special element which has been the focus of her work for many years. Renowned for her photos immortalising international rock stars like Duran Duran and Mick Jagger in the Eighties, she talks to us about her unique study of this natural element.
– After years working in the world of show business, your more recent research has focused on water: how did you become interested in it?

When I began taking photos in 1980, I was attending an evening course at the European Design Institute (I worked and studied at the same time) and I prepared a project on transparent objects (glass balls, small Perspex bars, glasses…), how they reflected and distorted. A couple of years later when I was already working, Teuco Guzzini asked me to do a kind of “emotional” feature about their core product, methacrylate (Perspex to the rest of us), so I went back to my original project and started from there, using transparent solids, simple geometric shapes, which I set in nature and water. This led to the first in a great series of calendars for Teuco which combined the company’s communication needs with my personal research into transparency and water.
– What message does water convey?
The message is very simple and straightforward: water is the source of life and wellbeing.
Then there’s the fact that water has become an increasingly precious commodity in the new millennium and is at risk from an environmental point of view.

– Your photographs are real dreamlike journeys: can you tell us about them?
I believe each and every one of us has a memory of the first moments of life on Earth, like we remember the amniotic liquid in our mother’s womb. Seeing water moving, bodies floating, bubbles produced by oxygen… fascinates, hypnotizes and reminds us of dreams and touches the profound subconscious in each of us.
– Water is a recurring element in works by other photographers: who has been your inspiration?
When I began working seriously with water in the late Nineties, I don’t remember there being a lot of work like mine at the time, apart from the classic photos taken by good underwater photographers, especially here in Italy. After a year of research, I discovered the outstanding American photographer Howard Schatz and his book “Water Dance” (1996). Today lots of photographers have shot both male and female models under water, but a lot of copying goes on and there’s not much that really stands out… you can’t just put people under water, take photos of them and call it new.
I don’t think I’m being presumptuous when I say that what I did at the end of the ‘90s was new for Italy.

– How do you see your profession in this millennium compared to the past: are there more or fewer stimuli?
I think there are always stimuli, but over the years the sheer volume of images around the world has increased, and now there doesn’t seem to be much that hasn’t been photographed.
I search for the essential in the huge amount of images produced by professionals, artists and the like, and I recently took time out to do some research into the minimal. What we don’t have today are the budgets we had in the Eighties and investments in communication.

– How has the art of photography changed over the last decade?
Our growing understanding of digital post-production has changed the act of photography, because now the shot is often only the first in a series of stages. When we still worked in analogue, we had to process the images – in the darkroom – or we had the difficult job of manually touching up the films, but today technology lets us do so much more and has opened up new horizons. What hasn’t changed is the need for a project and the photographer’s narrative skill.
– Are there any photos which have a special place in your heart and why? What story do they tell?
I have fond memories of the first couple of years I worked with Teuco, the exciting and innovative research I did there. I’m grateful to the company’s founder, Virgilio Guzzini, and his staff for their enthusiasm in providing me with all the technical equipment we designed and built together to take the underwater photos in the six years I worked with them. Everyone who took part in the shoots remembers them with great affection… we were probably pioneers.
Born in Rome, Patrizia studied Architecture, Interior Design and Photography then began her career immortalising rock concerts and international rock stars. In the mid-Eighties she started working in fashion and advertising, working with L’Espresso which commissioned her photos for illustrations and covers. Her career spans more than thirty years, during which she has worked with numerous magazines and newspapers, organised several exhibitions and received prestigious awards including the “Memorial Mario Giacomelli” with Oliviero Toscani. She has also produced a large number of photos for the business world, such as corporate (Teuco-Guzzini/Ed.Colombo) and illustrated calendars that are distributed by Contrasto (which has represented her since 1988); she currently publishes her work in the American catalogue Corbis-Stock Market.
She has received recognition for her work on many occasions, she was invited to offer her photos for auction for the Luc Montagnier Foundation in Monte Carlo, in the presence of Prince Albert and Princess Stephanie. Her works are part of the Fineart circuit and have been auctioned off at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. She has taught at the IED (European Design Institute). In her long career, she has experimented with landscapes and human figures: she was the first person to photograph a male nude in the Eighties.