What happens when you mix the historic winery Tenuta Tenaglia with a talented group of young Italian and international creatives? What about when you mix sensual reality with trade unionist Aboubakar Soumahoro? You get photographer Riccardo Raspa’s latest project, the limited edition 2021 calendar titled ‘Tenuta Tenaglia for Aboubakar Soumahoro’, whose proceeds will be donated to the inclusion projects led by the political activist Soumahoro. As the winner of the first round of the Image Series Challenge, we spoke to Raspa about this charitable initiative and his career as a young photographer.
This calendar is actually the first project that resulted from the winery’s ‘Tenuta Tenaglia Residence’, a creative space that welcomes and produces artistic projects by international designers and talents for charitable purposes. By building a network of young entrepreneurs and creatives who share strong ethical and social awareness, led by Isabella Ehrmann, Tenuta Tenaglia has been reinvented through a modern twist integrating a diverse programme of artistic residencies.
The ‘Tenuta Tenaglia for Aboubakar Soumahoro’ 2021 calendar, which had a small run of 300 copies, had all of its funds donated to the renowned trade unionist, activist and author of Umanità in Rivolta, Aboubakar Soumahoro and his inclusive projects. Soumahoro’s work is focused on defending people’s labour rights and ensuring the happiness of the “Invisible”—Italian and foreign citizens who have been crushed by inequalities.
Following Sardinian art director Roberto Ortu’s direction, which was inspired by “the eroticism found in the celebrated work of Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and the cinema of Tinto Brass and Peter Greenaway,” Raspa was in charge of the photography, while designer Daniel Sansavini, French fashion director of the famous Lui Magazine Dan Sablon, top model Malick Bodian and Isabella Potì, the youngest chef awarded with the Michelin Star, all participated in the project too.
Speaking to Screen Shot, Raspa explained how he had always been attracted to images in general, “I have always been greedy about imagery, I grew up glued to my screen watching amazing movies with incredible stories. I had to read my dad’s newspaper every morning while going to school, and the photos were always there for me to analyse—all those patterns!”
Right after finishing school, Raspa moved to the UK barely speaking any English at the time. He went to university to study photography, “and worked my way up from the very bottom.” As a photographer, Raspa tends to develop imagery around a specific subject; a story, which is probably why he was the perfect creative for ‘Tenuta Tenaglia for Aboubakar Soumahoro’.
“Thanks to Roberto Ortu, I was invited to produce this crazy project. We spent 15 days as guests of the Tenuta Tenaglia Art Residency, working on this idea, the research, the casting and so on. We then decided that Tenuta Tenaglia was going to host a ‘majestic wedding’, filled with hedonistic guests and devoted to wine, pleasure, and sex. Luckily for us, it snowed, and we took full advantage of the situation.”
But producing sensual images during lockdown while under the snow doesn’t come easy, “It really was a challenge, I never thought, never, that I would produce erotic work. We photographed and filmed for two days—the wine helped the flow,” shared Raspa.
As COVID-19 continues to affect young creatives all around the world, the ‘Tenuta Tenaglia Residence’ and its latest charitable project come as a refreshing initiative bound to inspire more artistic people to come together and produce new types of ingenious projects. As for Raspa, “more crazy projects” are on the way, and we can’t wait to see them.
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New gen bosses is a new series created to guide and inspire more people to go out there on their own, either as new business founders or freelancers. And what better way to do that than to ask the ones that already succeed at it? We want to know about big fuck-ups and even bigger successes, and the risky decisions they had to make along the way. We want to be the last little push you needed.
Job title: Photographer
Industry: Fashion and portraiture
Company founder or freelancer: Freelancer
How long have you been doing it: 5 years
Location: Los Angeles, California
What pushed you to start on your own?
I blame being raised as an only child for a stubborn sense of independence. I struggled with making images that weren’t ‘my own’. Two years ago, this frustration and lack of satisfaction pushed me to save up one month’s rent, pack up my car, and drive to LA. Somehow I’m still here.
What was the very first thing you needed to do to set everything up?
Truly, I just needed human connections. It was humbling when I realised that I wasn’t going to be successful with the stubborn independence I mentioned. It’s impossible for me to make art unless I have humans to collaborate and grow with. Making friends in Los Angeles is difficult, but when you find the right team, everything falls into place.
What was the riskiest decision you had to take?
I had enough money to live in Los Angeles for one month, but I did it anyway. This city loves extravagance, but Trader Joe’s frozen dumplings really saved me.
What was a skill you didn’t foresee needing that you had to learn?
I didn’t expect to interact with so many difficult personalities through this process. There will always be a human that you cannot connect with, a human that won’t speak to you respectfully, a human that doesn’t value your work. The biggest lesson for me was learning to stand up for myself and not compromise on my value.
Everywhere around us, new gens are founding businesses and redefining their careers. New gen bosses is here to inspire those who might want to do the same, this time with extra tips, some lols from those who have been there, done that, and £20 in your new ANNA business account if you dare to take the leap.
At what moment did you realise that this was going to work out?
My favourite memory so far is seeing my cover of Playboy on my friend’s coffee table. Things felt right, yet wildly humbling.
What did you spend your money on?
Trader Joe’s and film processing.
What was your biggest fuck up?
One time my camera was on the ‘emergency setting’ and I shot 40 rolls of film underexposed by 2 stops. That kind of fuck up will teach you to check the emergency setting every dang time.
What was your biggest success?
Oof, this is hard to answer. I’m very proud to have shot the cover of TIME. The amount of respect and reputation the publication has, and the fact that they trusted me to make something. Working with Lil’ Nas X felt like making history. I mean, he did make history. I got to capture that.
What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
I used to think that if you were technically capable, you could be a great photographer. I’ve learned now that my technical ability has become 0.01 per cent of my images. That part is second nature. The rest of my work is my connection with the people I’m photographing. (I’m sure a lot of tech nerds are rolling their eyes at this. Sorry.)
What are three tips you would give someone who wants to start on their own?
One: There will always be a backup plan. Failure is a concept relative to your perspective.
Two: Trust your gut. Trust the images you feel proud of. Trust your intuition. This work is yours.
Three: Stand up for yourself (respectfully, of course). Being an artist is painfully personal. Do not let someone make you feel less than because of the incredible gift you are utilising, nurturing and demonstrating. You’re strong, but you’re also graceful.
Feel like you wouldn’t have to survive on frozen dumplings? There’s only one way to find out. Take the leap, open an ANNA business card completely free of charge for the first 3 months and get £20 in it, too.
Want to discuss taking the leap with other new gens? You’re in luck! We’ve created New Gen Bosses, a Facebook group to continue and expand the conversation started through this new series.