6 questions to …Giovanni Hänninen
4 February 2023
by Alessandra Lanza, also known as @ale_theia
Giovanni Hänninen is one of those professionals in which aspects that would seem hardly compatible merge: he is half Sicilian, the other Finnish, he studied aerospace engineering, fulfilling his dream of becoming an airplane pilot and today he works as a highly appreciated photographer architecture. Today he lives and works in Milan, where he also teaches photography at the Polytechnic. He answers our six questions below.
If you hadn’t been an architectural photographer what would you have been, and why?
If I hadn’t been overwhelmed by my passion for photography, I would have continued to be an engineer. I have worked for years in the research field. I was lucky enough to work in very stimulating fields such as ESA and deal with topics closer to science fiction than reality. I have worked with incredible people like Prof. Amalia Finzi (known as the Lady of the Comets) from whom I have learned a lot. All this was not swept away when I decided to follow the dream of becoming a photographer, but it helped me to make it come true. And everything I’ve studied and achieved I always carry with me in the realization of photographic projects.
What is photography for you?
Photography is many things, there are different genres that are unpacking and mixing. There are different fields of application and ways of representing them. As far as I’m concerned, photography is about showing what we often have before our eyes with a new look, a look that makes you think and attracts the public’s attention. For decades now we have been bombarded with images, more and more every year. It is a long-debated theme that crosses over with how much photography can represent reality today.
What is the photograph you took that best represents your way of seeing?
I believe that the photographs I like most to take are those related to an idea or a project. I like to think that there is a thought that is conveyed in the images. The photography here is the result of a crazy idea shared with the great director and set designer Pierluigi Pizzi as the cover of his exhibition Va Pensiero at the Museo del Teatro alla Scala in 2020. The idea was to represent the relationship between culture and the theatre. Thus was born not so much this image as this installation that I made to be able to then photograph it.
This image represents one of the great potentials that photography gives us: imagining something and then fixing it over time. But imagination alone is not enough, you also need planning and the vision of what you actually want to achieve. And this challenge is the thing I like to carry on. Without revealing anything yet, at the beginning of March a giant image will be exhibited at the Milan Triennale based on a work by Studio Ossidiana which once again represents this challenge.
Va Pensiero, Teatro alla Scala 2020
Where can we see your works right now around the world? And coming soon?
Until the end of March at the MUFOCO, Museum of Contemporary Photography, in the Villa Ghirlanda headquarters in Cinisello Balsamo, the collective Landscape after Landscape is on display, curated by Matteo Balduzzi. This exhibition is the result of the new acquisitions of the photographic projects of six Italian authors. In my case it is the unexpected city work created with Alberto Amoretti. This work was born under the impetus of Gabriele Basilico who in 2012 invited us to participate in an exhibition at Casa Testori. With Amoretti we therefore thought of building an ideal city made up of forgotten, abandoned places in the city. We wondered what a city does: a factory, a church, a theatre, a tower and so on. On these typologies we have created a model that holds within it the very history of Milan, often a forgotten history. In this exhibition the texts, an integral part of the project, become objects that can be read, touched, explored as in a journey through time that shows the change that Milan has been undergoing in the last decade.
In the coming months, many of the projects developed over the last three years will come to light. The first to be presented will be at the Dalmine Foundation for Bergamo-Brescia, the Italian capital of culture. As part of the exhibition itinerary on Industrial Landscapes, I will present a preview of the project done on the Company-Town of Dalmine. A little forgotten architectural jewel. Then this summer we will present in Trento an exhibition and a book on a research work carried out between the Milan Polytechnic and the Brenner motorway. It is a work that I am very fond of because on the one hand it is in continuity with other research projects on landscape change that I have been carrying out for many years, on the other it marks the beginning of my broader work on infrastructure and the flow of goods and people in Europe.
A film, an exhibition, a book, any work of ingenuity that has inspired you lately and that you recommend (and why)?
Oliver Sacks, An Anthropologist on Mars. A book written by the great British neurologist who died a few years ago which recounts various borderline cases he encountered in his career.
I think everyone should read it, and I always make my students read it in college. It is not a book on photography, but it is a book on the perception of the world and on the relationship between us and reality. In fact the basis for anyone who wants to approach the world with new eyes and try to tell it with their own eyes.
Last question: a forecast for the future? (of the world or a part of it)
I think you’re confused, I didn’t deal with astrology but with astronautics.