Paolo Pettigiani: Making the invisible visible

Paolo Pettigiani creates a whole new world using the magic of infrared photography. Discovering Affinity Photo for iPad has changed the way he can travel and create.
Paolo Pettigiani editing his work in Affinity Photo for iPad
Where did your passion for photography originate from?

The first time I took a picture I was 11. I was on holiday in Patagonia, Argentina with my parents and I decided to do some photo reporting of the trip. I used an old analogic camera and it was then that I fell in love with photography.

I really like traveling and discovering a new reality because it is the best way to find inspirations for my work.

You’re well known for your infrared photography, how did you first get into infrared?

Infrared Photography first became popular in the 1960’s when Kodak introduced the Ektachrome Aero Infrared Film. Resulting from that a trend emerged—progressive artists used infrared but also artists like Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Frank Zappa or the Grateful Dead used infrared for album covers—mainly as it matched their psychedelic music.

But my own personal love of infrared came from when I saw Richard Mosse’s work (famous for his infrared reportage in Congo) in 2014. It created a desire in me to experiment with a new and alternative kind of photography. Then during my academic studies I decided to merge the two ideas of graphic design and photography in a single image—playing with colours, shapes and contrasts in order to distort reality.

About four years ago, I started working with infrared photography—shooting landscapes near Turin, my hometown. My first experimental series was taken in winter and was focused on the contrast between the snow and the colour of nature.

Talking about infrared, ‘Infrared NYC’ was the first real project as a mean of artistic expression for me. What I like about this kind of photography is to make visible something invisible. My aim is to show something recognisable with a new unexpected and personal point of view.

“What I like about this kind of photography is to make visible something invisible. My aim is to show something recognisable with a new unexpected and personal point of view.”

Can you talk us through the creative process you go through when photographing infrared? Is there an ideal landscape or preferred conditions for infrared photography?

The big challenge is to find the perfect place to ‘play’ with the infrared technique. A beautiful forest, a big tree isn’t enough for my shots. I want to create a strong contrast between vegetation, water and sky playing with colours and this is the reason why I spend a lot of time planning my projects, travels and work on the final photos.

You have some amazing photographs in your portfolio, do you have a particular favourite?

I can say that I particularly love my first infrared project, Infrared NYC I. I think it’s my favourite work, not just for the aesthetic element, but for the context in which it was taken. It was taken in the summer of 2016, it was my first real experience abroad and the three months I lived in New York were been simply amazing.

Your work surely means you get to travel to so many wonderful places, where would be (or has been) the dream destination to photograph?

I like to look at the world from my own point of view and with different eyes. I’ve seen amazing places in the past few years and I don’t think I have a favourite one. When I decide to create a new personal project, I want to invite viewers into a new world unseen, wherever I am. Even in the most classic of landscapes, I always try to find a new point of view that arouses amazement in those who look at the final picture.

“I want to invite viewers into a new world unseen, wherever I am. Even in the most classic of landscapes, I always try to find a new point of view that arouses amazement in those who look at the final picture.”

What are your thoughts on Affinity Photo for iPad?

Since I started using Affinity Photo, it felt like I had used it for a long time. Thanks to the very simple and intuitive interface I did not have any kind of problem during the workflow. It was simply amazing. For the first time since I started taking pictures, I can leave my laptop in the drawer and carry with me only the iPad. In addition, thanks to compatibility with the Apple pencil, working on my photos is not only easy and fast, but also fun! Much better than using a graphics tablet.

“It was simply amazing. For the first time since I started taking pictures, I can leave my laptop in the drawer and carry with me only the iPad. ”

Can you talk us through your equipment setup currently?

It depends on the work I have to do, but generally, for my artistic projects, I carry one camera body with two lenses: a 10-20mm and a 24-120mm. For landscapes, I need a lot of depth of field so these two lenses are enough for me. In some cases I carry a tripod too. Having a camera converted to the full-spectrum, I always carry with me three types of filters: 590nm, 720nm (for infrared photography) and an Ir-Cut filter to make the camera sensitive only to the visible light.

Did Affinity Photo for iPad change your setup for future trips abroad?

Totally. I am a photographer who specialises in infrared photography and to modify my photos I needed professional desktop software but from today, for the first time, it is available for iPad.

Thanks to the new generation cameras with Wi-Fi, I can quickly switch photos from the camera to the tablet and use it to professionally edit my shots without losing quality or work time. This will totally change my life and my holidays too because I will no longer need to always carry the heavy laptop, mouse and hard disks.

How has Affinity Photo for iPad changed the way you work?

Affinity Photo for iPad helped the workflow, especially in the details of retouching photos. Thanks to the Apple Pencil it seemed to draw on the picture.

Which photographers do you admire the most?

I do not have a favourite photographer but I take inspiration and admire anyone who dedicates passion to what they do. I like to stay in touch with new trends, and not just in photography, but in all the digital arts. I’m often fascinated by illustrations, photographs and drawings.

What does a day in the life of Paolo Pettigiani look like?

In the few last months, having opened the new communication agency I’m working really hard in the office. At the same time, I’m planning my artistic projects with the aim of continuing to experiment with new techniques and new photographic ideas.

What’s the ultimate goal for you?

Transform the world into an extra-terrestrial planet never seen before. Under a new and invisible light!

If infrared photography has piqued your interest why not read James Ritson’s shooting series on infrared photography here.

You can view more infrared photography by Paolo Pettigiani on his website and Instagram.