Doco heavyweight at Semi-Permanent

THOUGH NOT SPECIFICALLY a photofocused event, this year s Semi-Permanent design conference had photographers abuzz with the inclusion on the bill of world-renowned documentary photographer Stefano de Luigi. The photographer, a multiple World Press Photo award-winner, visited Auckland to talk about the practice of documentary photography in a changing media world. Sharing a schedule with the likes of Ron English, Alex Trochut and Wallpaper magazine s Meirion Pritchard, de Luigi s earnest presentation on the history of the genre was both complimentary and markedly different from the other speeches on the day. When compared with some of the quirky personalities and slick advertising presentations at the two-day event, the photojournalist was not the most commanding presence at Semi-Permanent, a fact he apologised for at the top of his speech. Even if English had been the Italian photographer s first language one gets the feeling he would still have been rather uncomfortable at the podium, after all he counts becoming invisible as one of the most important tricks of his trade. But his stage presence took nothing away from the informative, inspiring and endearing presentation that followed, beginning with a brief history of the documentary photographers who have inspired him, followed by a fascinating overview of de Luigi s own work. Looking at two strains of historical documentary work, described as the classic, detached approach and the more subjective, artistic images of  new  documentary, de Luigi gave the audience an effective short-order foundation upon which to view his work. He then proceeded to exhibit his own projects: Pornoland, his intimate look at the adult film industry; Blanco, examining how blind people experience the world and Cinema Mundi, focusing on cinema practices outside the first world. Throughout the photographer talked animatedly of his feelings of being an  outsider  and negotiating his alien presence to somehow take images of a situation in its most truthful and natural form. Just before being unceremoniously yanked off the stage by MC Te Radar, the photographer began to tell the audience of his recent exploration in mobile photography —charting a course following Homer s The Odyssey, de Luigi has used his iPhone to re-imagine Ulysses  journey in modern times. What the multilingual photographer might have lacked in public speaking skills he more than made up for in passion and inspiration —besides, his work has always been capable of powerfully speaking for itself.

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