Originally from Rome, Claudio Santini is an architectural photographer who has lived in Los Angeles since 1995. He trained at the University of Rome’s school of architecture and earned a photography degree at Istituto Europeo di Design. He has photographed buildings and houses for architects, interior design magazines, advertising agencies and renownednewspapers for the past five decades.
Intrigued by the contemporary urban landscape of LA, his artistic work focuses on representing urban life through figurative abstractions of his photos. He uses mixed media—including digital collage, acrylic paint, silk screen and other printmaking processes—to add colors and shapes that do not exist in the original photo.
We caught up with Claudio to learn more about his process and explore what inspires him about the California landscape he photographs.
Tell us about how you got started with fine art photography.
I learned how to ignite my imagination and investigate what was giving me the inspiration to express myself at an early age. I believed that blindly following a sense of trust in those subliminal messages was the right thing to do. In order to channel my creativity, I started using photography to work professionally and, at the same time, I addressed the necessity to express myself as an artist producing work in that direction.
How has your artistic process evolved since then?
Studying, searching and working, I learned how to recognize the difference between a professional photography assignment and photography as an artist to represent my personal vision. The latter gave me the awareness and confidence to use the evocative power of this medium in conjunction with digital alteration.
What are you striving to capture in your images? A particular mood, feeling, the essence of a place, etc.?
Observing reality, we all have different reactions and impressions. From my point of view, the role of the artist is to represent what is not visible to the normal eye. As artists, we should be able to evoke in the observer the intangible feeling that goes beyond the documentation aspect of photography. I’m interested in what evokes silence, a feeling of suspension, peace of mind and how we respond to that.
California is featured prominently in your work. What is it that you love most about taking photos here?
Here in California, I’m impressed with certain ordinary elements that are so iconic of the landscape, such as the plants—the agave, banana and palm trees—and how these elements are integrated with modernist architecture and other structures. Old brick walls and buildings, train tracks, freeways, trailers and many other elements that I like to photograph all have a special value to me. They evoke a kind of unique lightness, and they speak about the identity and the lifestyle of this part of America that I was dreaming about before deciding to live here.
What’s your favorite destination to shoot in California?
When I look for my subjects, I’m drawn to the suburban areas and industrial environments. The sprawl of Los Angeles is where the city expresses itself through the ordinary and the isolation. I discover in these places an interesting form of peace and silence.
Describe your perfect California day for us—where are you waking up, eating, hanging out? What activities are on the agenda?
I’d say my life is a mix of work, social and solitude in equal parts. That would be the ideal combination of factors for me to funcion at my best. Often, that perfect balance is altered because life is not perfect, and I suffer for that. However, I have to say that California living, generally speaking, facilitates that balance. I sometimes recognize how rewarding it is to wake up with a cup of coffee in the morning and have a photo assignment scheduled to conclude the day with sailing at sunset, and I feel the noise of that silence. It inspires me to represent in my next artwork. After the pandemic, I enjoy eating outdoors, day and night, with my Italian friends! I’m preparing for my next show in September here in Los Angeles, and am continuing to work on a series of subjects I perfected during my recent artist residency in Naples, Italy for a collection of new works.
How would you describe your particular approach to capturing California in photographs?
When I capture California’s iconic places, I don’t mean to celebrate them. That landscape is an occasion for me to organize some elements to evoke the sense of suspension that is at the base of my work. I’m not interested in sensational representation. My subjects should float motionless and silently.
What’s on your bucket list of places to photograph in California?
Nowadays I’m interested in different people’s ethnicity; I photograph them in public spaces and insert them in abstract locations organized in digital collage.
An impossible question, but still: What’s your favorite image you’ve captured, and why?
I’d say the latest: ”Be Kind.” I feel this should be the statement of the man of the future: kind to diversity, kind to the planet.
What tips can you share for amateur photographers to help step up their game?
I’d say discover and recognize the voice of your uniqueness and have the awareness and the courage to address such a different vision.