I think there is no place that I wouldn’t like to photograph. I believe that every place has a dimension to tell, even if it might be hidden sometimes.
There is a quiet intensity ever present in Gustav Willeit’s photography. You cannot casually consume his images; they have to be studied with an almost meditative purposefulness. From his architectural images, that force the viewer to see the surroundings as necessary white space to his warm captures of the people Togo, Gustav's work captures and deserves our attention.
Working freelance in Switzerland and Italy, Gustav has found a way to blend his poetic view of life with a photographic technicality that serves as a model for building a creative life. Enjoy this conversation with Gustav.
There is a clear love for scale and symmetry in your photography. What moves you to find these elements in your work?
I invest a lot of research in the composition of the image. My purpose is to find an equilibrium: scale and symmetry help to make the final work look balanced. I want my works to speak for themselves, with simplicity, clarity, and immediacy. The observer will just be asked to use his perception to understand what he sees.
Let’s talk about your architectural images. Your Perspe collection showcases your ability to create art in the form of mirror images. How did you develop this technique?
Perspe is certainly the series of images I have been working on for the longest time. I started this project when I was studying at the art school “F+F Schule für Kunst und Design” in Zurich already. I have always been attracted to a world that is modified, created, and altered. The symmetric doubling is a practice that has been used often in the artistic field in the past. I like to give this practice a contemporary look. The technique consists in merging two different realties to create and give life to new landscape and architectural facets. Beyond digital intervention there is the search for the amazement that the creation of a new subject can give. Perspe is the synthesis between thesis and antithesis.
What are the differences between photographing architecture and nature?
I think these two worlds often cross. Nature becomes architecture and architecture creates new landscape scenarios that integrate with nature over time. There is no clear separation between these worlds. Both are part of our way of perceiving, and I want to go beyond the landscape. In my research, nature and architecture represent with no doubt the single dimension we are living in.
What emotions do you want your architectural and nature photography to evoke?
As a photographer I try to induce the observer to investigate beyond the image. I would like that through the images the viewer can ask questions and give answers to himself. Photography is a way of stimulating new feelings. In this sense, I do not distinguish between nature and architecture, everything is inspiration.
Few photographers have developed the ability to master both architectural photography and images of people, yet you clearly do. How have you mastered this? What differences do you discern between the two types?
They are two different aspects of the same research. The approach may be different when you are faced with architecture or a person. But I always remain the same. My sensitivity doesn’t change. Sometimes the person is placed in an architectural context. There’s nothing more than the desire to show the link between the human being and the playground in which he acts.
It’s noticeable that the overall colour palette of your work tends to be reductively sparse, with an emphasis on natural tones and white space. Why does this palette appeal to you? And how intentional is it?
The colour is very important in my work, also because often there is almost none. Without a doubt, strong colours have great strength and in a photograph they can easily balance the scene.
Where are some of your favourite places to shoot?
I think there is no place that I wouldn’t like to photograph. I believe that every place has a dimension to tell, even if it might be hidden sometimes. Here, I am an image narrator.
On a more personal level, how do your roots in Italy and your time spent in Switzerland affect your creativity?
I grew up in the Dolomites—my roots lie here. Studies and work brought me to Zurich and there I began the search for that indissoluble bond that exists between city and nature. Even if today nature is turned upside down by metropolitan man.
Your Niday collection highlights the beauty of the untouched landscape. What responsibility do artists and photographers have to respect the places and people they capture?
When moving to different and new places you must always have respect. Respect for things that don’t belong to you. Although now there are no untouched places, some fragments exist and these fragments can not only be wonderfully beautiful, they must also be considered as a warning. This rare beauty must be a stimulus in creating awareness.
What photographers do you admire?
I think I’m quite classic, I still follow the photographers I discovered during my studies and at the beginning of my career as a photographer. Sebastiao Salgado, the Becher School, Gursky, Sasse, and I love Jimmy Nelson’s photographs very much. And then there are also many good young photographers. Today it is relatively easy to discover talented people.
Is there a place or location that you haven’t captured on film that you’d like to?
The list of places to photograph is certainly long and I also think difficult to complete. Besides, there are places that I would like to visit but which for various reasons are somewhat difficult to reach.
What are some of the obstacles to photographing nature, architecture, people? How do you move past them?
The biggest obstacle is reaching a place, having little time available and finding yourself in unfavourable light and weather conditions. It is also true that you have to be in the right place at the right time and you need positive karma. With people it can happen that they simply don’t want to be photographed. At that point it takes either a little magic or resignation. Anyhow, experience helps a lot to face any kind of situation.