For Marco Ronconi, photography is not about capturing the perfect moment. It’s an instrument to share stories, express vision, create art. Fuelled by a passion for simplicity and oriental culture, his latest book ‘Hueco Mundo’ brings us work that seems painted or drawn, even calligraphic at times. With it, Marco shares a narrative of calm and purity, paradoxically compiling images he made during very demanding times. We met up to talk about his projects.
It’s no coincidence that so many of Marco’s images evoke graphic art. “My relationship with photography has been difficult at times,” he says. “I sometimes overthink it. If I could paint, I would do that. Graphic artists can create soul-touching work with just a few strokes of their pencils or brushes.
This really appeals to me. That’s why I now think about my work in terms of evocative art. I want to draw you into a story, not a moment. Every image is part of a bigger narrative.”
Marco is also drawn to oriental culture, Japan in particular. He regularly visits Hokkaido and plans to make it the focus of a future project. It’s also where he found the inspiration for the name of his publishing company, Kamui.
“It’s a traditional term used by the indigenous people of Hokkaido, the Ainu,” he explains. “They were almost extinguished during the 18th century. The remaining Ainu were not allowed to practice their religion, and were forced into Japanese schools where speaking their language was forbidden. Kamui is a spirit; these spirits inhabit every living being. It’s an animistic religion. The most powerful spirit is Kimun Kamui, the soul inhabiting mountains, and brown bears – both of which I love to portray.”
Chiaro Scuro was his first publication. “It was all about yin and yang. Black and white presented as a beautiful contrast, always in balance. They are a part of each other, and similar. Black and white photography can show the essence of animals and landscapes in a very pure way.”
A world of calm
It was not a commercial choice to publish in black and white, but still easier to market than his new project, Hueco Mundo, Marco tells us. “Still, this project lies closer to my soul. All the pictures were taken during the lockdown in the Namibian desert, Western Sahara, Svalbard, and Northern Iceland during winter. There is no human presence, just desolation. Often, you can’t tell where the image was created because these places evoke the same moods and aesthetics. They intertwine. The atmosphere is determined by the blue of the Arctic and the gold of the equator.”
Hueco Mundo is the first part of a greater universe. There will be a second book, and maybe a third. “Peace and calm are essential for sensitive people. I experienced a lot of anxiety during the lockdown, and these visions were therapeutic. So was the process of making them. Oriental philosophy helped me to find peace, and I want to share that with this book. Hueco Mundo comes from Japanese anime and means ‘hollow world.’ It’s a purifying atmosphere between the physical world and the soul, where minds too full of ideas and expectations can find peace and relief. These places are a blessing of silence, like a never-ending desert.”
Making a mark
You won’t find much of Ronconi’s recent work on social media. “It would harm the creative project of my books and prints. People who buy my work should have an advantage over social media users. That’s just logical and respectful; not everything should be for free.
Many photographers take beautiful pictures. But they present their work on social media like a portfolio and combine it with lots of behind-the-scenes action. I can’t work like that; I want to do more than document reality. I want to share my artistic vision. Not everyone will like it, but that’s OK. You can’t expect to move everyone. Accepting that is the way to find your mark.
Besides this, I think we should share less behind-the-scenes action. Today, everyone wants to show the making of things; everyone wants to teach us something. It’s hectic and annoying. I just love to share visual stories that inspire the soul.”
Marco has been using the Rise X50 Multicam on most of his trips. “It’s an excellent backpack. Small and compact, it fits everything I need. You can travel light, even with heavy camera gear. It’s also convenient for seizing an opportunity: you can grab your gear quickly without going through a long unpacking process.
And, of course, there’s the Ponting Ronconi – a waterproof pack. I tested the prototype in Alaska and thought it was great, so Jan named it after me”, he smiles.
All images © Marco ronconi