Interview with Ilaria Ronchi @freeilli
Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Italy, close by Milano, 30 years ago. I grew up in a small village surrounded by nature, and I was so lucky to have parents who loved travelling: I was a bit more than 1 year old when my parents brought me by car to the UK. I remember my dad always around with a film camera and an old enormous video camera.
Because of my childhood, I believe I have always felt my hometown too small for me and dreamed of exploring the world. This is why as soon as I started university I enrolled in Architecture programs in Madrid, Macao, Paris, ending up, after graduation in the Netherlands, where I have been living for 4 years now. Currently, I am working for a large architecture firm in Amsterdam.
You are an Architect who also takes beautiful images, can you tell me about your job and how photography became a part of your life?
Photography has been part of my life way before than architecture. I remember I got my first film camera from my dad when I was 10, while all my friends were getting video games. I liked the idea that I could frame my memories forever, of course, back in the day's cellphone were not a thing yet.
I did my first real photography course at 15 and assisted my ex-boyfriend at 21 during professional fashion shootings. Even tho I never liked it that much, I owe a lot to that since I learnt the big part of my post-production skills.
Weirdly enough, I was never interested in architecture photography, but I have always loved to picture landscapes, wilderness and animals. Photography was clearly a way for me to escape from my reality and adventuring in the unknown.
In this way, my job and my interest for photography look very disconnected, but I must recognize that my love for minimal and straightforward architecture influenced so much my image taste in the past couple of years. Gaining confidence in my work creative drive helped me a lot to define my photography style.
What drew you to study architecture as a career, and what do you enjoy most about it?
Can you believe me when I say that before enrolling in university I wanted to pursue probably 10 different careers? I decided to study architectural engineering because I felt it was an excellent profession to keep creativity in my life, to build something useful for people, flexible enough to adapt to the changes of our society (environment problems included) and to allow me to travel and live everywhere without having to reinvent my career. And I must admit, after 5 years of practising, that I made the right choice: just recently I have seen my very first two projects completed. I can't even explain the feeling of seeing something that you have worked on for months coming back to life: seeing all your effort in front of you and being enjoyed by people is the best part of our profession and makes you forget about the overtime work and the fights over the -always too low- budget.
What inspires your creative vision?
In my vision, the common denominator of photography and architecture is celebrating the beauty of nature. I would like the products of my creativity to be something so pure and simple that anyone can understand independently from their social and cultural background. Therefore, there is nothing better than getting inspired by the natural shapes, the geometrical patterns, the elegant lines, the materiality, the sounds that our planet can offer to us.
Which photographers have inspired you, and how?
In my first years into photography, I was deeply in love with the images of Steve McCurry and Frans Lanting. I used to dream of being an explorer and a NatGeo reporter, discovering the unknown and spreading awareness about our beautiful planet. With the years, I started to believe that we must convey something of ourselves in a picture and not just report a reality, this is why I particularly love the work of @helloemilie and @bejamin. They can really celebrate the beauties of our planet and hook you in their images in perfect contemplation.
What genre of photography brings you the most joy?
I have experimented with different kinds of photography, so now I can admit that nature and landscape can fill my soul with joy more than anything. Primarily I feel successful when I look at an image, and the combination of colours and light makes me remember exactly what I thought in the moment of capturing it. Of course, I can still appreciate different genres, and you will find them in my Instagram account, but when I look at a picture of the ocean or a deserted landscape, I almost feel like the image is talking with my soul.
How do you maintain your creative drive?
I believe creativity must not be forced. It is ok not to feel creative sometimes, and the best thing to do in those cases is just doing something else. It happened a lot that I didn't take my camera for months, or I asked at work to do practice stuff; those times the best to do was focusing on myself or outdoor activities or even another form of arts. Travelling, diving in new cultures, talking and learning from people from all over the world and especially having a "me time" while surfing, always fills me up with an energy that I mostly channel in photography and design.
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring Architects?
After working in different countries, I noticed that architecture is never as you have imagined while you are studying it. During university, I had this vision of architecture as a science that would help people to build a fair and sustainable society. Unfortunately, the real -money wise- the deal is entirely different. My best advice is, for who shares my same point of view, don't give up! Don't be discouraged by low salaries or companies that work like construction machine. Don't be afraid to refuse a position in a company that doesn't fit with your creative drive: if you love and believe in what you are doing, your creativity will flourish, and your design will benefit from it and appreciate by people.