The Roman photographer who lives the outdoor world as his own home and personal philosophy

Original discrepancies surface from Teo Giovanni Poggi’s past. If it’s ironic to think that a man raised by the ‘Eternal City’ has no interest in football, it’s equally unique that one of the most inspired lenses on the contemporary outdoor scene only got a real taste of the mountains after the stroke of majority. But the human and professional journey of a creative climber capable of developing his own imagery by drawing from the most disparate scenes, inputs and muses is credible and consistent.

“My relationship with the mountain is atypical. I was born and raised in Rome, didn’t like ball sports and got into climbing, so I met what would become not only a passion but a way of life. When I moved to London, I resumed climbing and took a trip to Thailand with two friends, where I went through my first crag experience for a month. Once back in London, I decided to get the license to work on ropes and started alternating 3 months of work with 3 months of climbing around the world. Before London I had never skied, I had never seen and experienced the mountains for real, I had only imagined it…”

Fixie and great cinema, legendary photojournalists and underground fanzines: Poggi’s whirlwind artistic evolution, which began with an analog camera found at home, over time took the form of notions and sensibility, took the direction of visual storytelling, of the inspired need to document places through sensations and human beings through gestures and perceptions. The production of this young master of composition today turns out to be a philosophical current in its own right, devoted to the exploration of detail and to the analysis of the natural soul, used as a vector to define the universality of the present.

“My visual reference points have always been those I like to call ‘real photographers.’ I am talking for example about Gianni Berengo Gardin and his ability to observe life and reality, or Franco Fontana, who often shapes this reality. Internationally, I love the work of photographers like Alec Soth, as well as Daniel Shea and his ability to evoke small stories through single images. Both have a clear and defined identity that I admire. In London I was a courier and loved a cycling subculture that means family to me. Couriers are ‘urban artists’ with a definite creative process made of lines and flow, where the body and instinct become essential. That scene introduced me to the production of fanzines, which became my gateway to commissioned photography. When I returned to Milan, however, I was fortunate to be an assistant to Leonardo Scotti, who taught me so much and became a dear friend. The idea of conveying emotions came to me from cinema, the power of moving images and literature. Directors like Gus Van Sant and writers like Jorge Luis Borges teach attention to human and natural details, symbolism, and the concepts of ineffability and destiny. After all, anything can be a vector of emotion, even a line on a wall….”

It’s precisely here, in what Poggi defines as the intimate interconnection between each element, that lurks a layered, yet spontaneously brilliant artistic vision. Between clear metaphors and distant echoes, the visual flow of this itinerant lens succeeds in shaping undefined times and meanings, destined for individual interpretation but traceable to collective ideals. Environmental sustainability, social progress and human diversity are just some of the themes that Poggi’s work manages to channel and express.

“I like to think that my photography can have a social value. From my point of view, there is no nature separate from society and the world. We are all nature. We can understand this by observing its patterns and its ways of survival and coexistence: the dynamics of our ecosystem exist from the beginning of everything, within this natural chain everything can affect everything. I think it’s useful to reflect on this issue, and I believe that nature can provide an endless array of symbols and metaphors. Whenever I can I escape from Milan and retreat to the Central Alps, where after a few hours I sense a switch in my state of mind. Woods and mountains inspire me, but at the same time the city allows me to explore a wonderful density of human beings, a fertile melting pot, where each person has his or her own story. And all these stories and personalities incredibly manage to coexist. This is why the city is a huge creature that never ceases to attract me: the manifestation of human diversity, as well as natural diversity, triggers existential questions and, in some cases, provides meaningful answers.”

Another kind of answer to Teo Giovanni Poggi’s artistic rise is the market’s reaction: Gramicci, The North Face, Satisfy, and ROA are some of the brands that have lately called upon the conceptual perspective of this Roman talent.His balance of technical awareness and sheer beauty is now synonymous with unmistakable campaigns, but also with revenge: the revenge of a Capitoline teenager who used to be teased for his hiking shoes and who today, thanks to his artistic vein and sporting skills, is succeeding in frescoing a new aesthetic cosmos and structuring a life devoted to freedom.

“I was the only one who wore Salomon’s in high school, which is why it makes me smile now that so many outdoor brands have become ‘cool’… Back in the day I was teased about my shoes, and I remember the same happening with the Boy Scouts and their connection to nature. This transition pleases me, the new outdoor perception is a payback, but at the same time it makes me reflect on the process of commodification and dispossession that is taking place. The same process that has involved skate culture in the past. It’s crucial to make it clear what is true and what is not. Now I would like to continue planning trips that are both personal research and commissioned projects, sharing this time and these adventures with the people closest to me. Together with my dear friend Alex Webb (another famous face of contemporary outdoor photography ed.) we dream of the great walls and adventures of mythical mountaineering.”

Photo Credits:

Teo Giovanni Poggi

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