Watch an interview of Paolo Ventura in his studio discussing the work from his new book Winter Stories (Aperture, October 2009). In this clip, Ventura explains the origin of the project as well as his inspirations. He also shows the different steps of his work leading to the final photograph, from the drawings, crafting the characters and sets to the polaroids.

In Winter Stories, a luxuriously produced monograph limited to two thousand copies, Paolo Ventura presents an imaginative series of photographs depicting scenes from the memory banks of a fictional old circus performer as he looks back on his life during his final moments. What the performer revisits are not moments of great drama, but rather, fleetingly recalled glimpses of an everyday life: “images that he had thought to have never seen, quick moments he unknowingly observed as he raised his eyes to the clock hung at the corner of the block.”

Using his own childhood memories, beautiful miniature figures, and extraordinarily detailed sets constructed from props purchased at flea markets, Ventura’s narrative, staged photography creates a fictional Northern Italian town where a traveling carnival or circus has stopped. The atmospheric sets are populated by diverse and very lifelike characters, including clowns, harlequins, tightrope walkers, and lion tamers. Ventura’s work evokes the simpler time of 1930s Italy, but with a dark twist—shadowy backdrops and retreating figures remind us that this is not quite Eden. Skillfully crafted and hauntingly evocative, the work is filled with the sweet melancholy and whimsy of an era past, but remains timeless in its ability to resonate with contemporary audiences.

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