Cecilia Minutillo Turtur · Body is a cage
Interviewed by Odair Fortes
Cecilia Minutillo Turtur is an editorial photographer from Rome, Italy. Inspired by everything she sees, hears and experiences, she try to put every of those senses on a picture! Below you can read what inspires her and how she proceeds.
This series from her is called "Body is a cage", photographed early this summer, just after the lock-downs with Iulia as the model.
TBbM: Thank you for joining me Cecilia, I’m thrilled to have this chance to interview you for The Blackbox Magazine. Could you introduce yourself a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Hi! I’m a film photographer based in Rome, but since January I’m living in Barcelona. I also study applied linguistics in my university in Rome, and I’m a big cinephile.
TBbM: What inspires your work? What gives you the drive to come up with an idea for a project and story?
There are many factors involved. Sometimes I might want to start a project because a certain song inspired some kind of mood, or because of its lyrics… Same goes for movies: I might be inspired by the mood board or by the story itself. I have to say that a large amount of my inspiration comes from music and cinema. After all that, there are cases in which I get inspired by the features of a model, or by the incredible work of a stylist, or make-up artist. So, it really depends on many situations. Inspiration is a fickle muse!
TBbM: What is the essence of a good picture for you?
I think that I look for a message behind a picture. That is why I don’t always care about perfect lightning, or smooth looking faces, or professional studio backgrounds. As long as I can read a real message behind a picture, to me it’s a good one. I want to feel that I know something new after looking at it. I want to learn something.
TBbM: What does your passion for analogue come from?
I have rather inherited it from my father. I still use his camera for all my pictures. That’s why analogic photography is, above all, a matter of family love to me. And I also think that this is why I give my best when I shoot film, because I think about my family.
TBbM: Are you more the person who shoots planned or prefers spontaneous projects?
It really depends. If I’m shooting a fashion editorial the amount of spontaneous pictures will certainly be less than in a more ‘informal’ shooting. Nevertheless, I always ask my models if they feel themselves in the poses they are going to make. I want them to be comfortable.
TBbM: What, besides photography draws your interest?
Cinema, visual arts and linguistics.
TBbM: About those models you like to shoot, do you pick them yourself? Are those friends or acquaintances or are they from a model agency?
I have always picked them myself, but I almost never known them before. The fact that they have or not an agency is secondary for me.
TBbM: What is the most fun part for you during a project session? And what do you think is the most crucial part?
The most fun is certainly seeing your project becoming real through the process of the shooting. The most crucial part is making all the members of the team understand the real essence of the project. If someone is on another frequency, it will affect the session and will also be visible in the pictures. It’s like what happens in team sports: everyone has to go in the same direction.
TBbM: What advice would you give to other people who want to shoot creative portraits like yours?
Give your pictures a soul! Don’t think too much about that perfect smooth face, or that perfect outfit. Think about what you really want people to understand while looking at your pictures. Imperfection is beautiful, and it’s real. Avoid what doesn’t feel real.
TBbM: Correct me if I am wrong but was this project shot at your place? Was it due to the global pandemic or do you like to shoot at your place because you feel more comfortable around there?
Actually, it was my MUA’s terrace, but yes, we shot there because finding a place (especially indoors) during a pandemic is not that easy. Moreover, I have always loved terraces.
TBbM: When did you come up with this project/idea? Tell us how it came to be.
I saw the model in a jewellery campaign and I immediately liked her. I felt a connection, she had something to say. I started going through her Instagram profile, trying to understand her a little bit more, and I saw that she takes many self-portraits, mostly half-naked. I believe that self-portraits are a very brave thing, especially if you are displaying your body. Also, she doesn’t shave. So I felt an incredible strength in her, and I wanted to portray it. I wanted those pictures to show the freedom coming from self-acceptance and empowerment. I think we need those women in our world, today more than ever. Because, as I said before, they are real.
TBbM: What is your in view about nudity in photography? Does it have a specifique meaning to you or is it just because you like the female body?
Nudity is a very delicate topic for me. Portraying someone’s naked body is a huge responsibility, which I don’t always feel worthy of taking. I don’t shoot many naked bodies, but when I do it I always try to do my very best. In this specific case, shooting her body in lingerie was deeply connected to the concepts of raw beauty, self-acceptance and empowerment I previously mentioned.
TBbM: A lot of people shoot women because the beauty of the female body, but you seem to try to convey a hidden meaning in your photography. I can’t exactly put my mind around it but it got like a hidden story, a message to want to tell.
Yes. Exactly. This is what I always try to do when I shoot; I want to tell a message. In this shooting, you see that she goes from being in some kind of cage (the green one), then she falls on the ground and then she wakes up, standing, showing herself, her non-shaved body and her beautiful features. It’s a story of empowerment. It came to my mind after listening to Peter Gabriel’s “My body is cage.”
TBbM: Do you plan on having future exhibitions?
I would love to!
TBbM: What do you have as a next project in mind?
I honestly don’t know… It depends on the movies I will watch and the songs I will listen to during the upcoming days, weeks, months! (joking).
My dream is to become cinematographer one day, so I really hope that in my next projects I will find a way to involve cinematography as well. Fingers crossed!
TBbM- Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to The Blackbox Magazine!
All images © Cecilia Minutillo Turtur