Alba Deangelis

Architectural Photographer


«A building is like a person that speaks its own language.»

«A building is like a person that speaks its own language.»

«A building is like a person that speaks its own language.»

Please, introduce yourself…?

I grew up in the sunny South of Italy, where I was lucky to live until 2007. Then I moved to Milan to study Architecture. I was very happy to live in a big city, I felt the need to see how the world was, even if far away from my home. The change of environment was not easy and shaped me visually. The horizon I used to see everyday was missing, same for the blue sky and bright colors. This was for me visual and emotional chaos. Using the camera was my way to put a chaotic world under my mental and aesthetic control.

How did you find your way into the field of Architecture and Photography?

Since high school I leaned towards arts; I just didn't know which one was mine. Meanwhile, I discovered Architecture and loved it, so I decided to study it at Milan's Politecnico University. I stumbled into architectural photography during those years. Architectural photography felt very natural to me since the beginning, because of my studies, but I also think it suits well with my personality. A building is like a person that speaks his own language; you need time and patience to understand it and interact with it. This slow and immersive process definitely suits an introspective person as I am.

What does your desk/working space look like? 

It's a very minimal space, with a big map of the world overlooking it. I love to travel, and my work is also a good excuse to do so.


What is the essence of architecture for you personally?

Architecture shapes our inner universe as much as people that surround us. It can makes us feel happy or sad, focused or not centered. We can simply feel connected to it or not. The places we choose to go to or to live in, tell us who we are. Architecture is deeply a part of us.


Church of the Assumption of Mary
Alvar Aalto
Riola di Vergato 

The first time I shot the Italian church designed by Alvar Aalto was in 2016. I was still building my portfolio but I was already into sacred architecture. I didn't have a religious motif to do so, but I felt attracted by the amazing freedom and variety of designs. It's very interesting to see how in different places and times, architects interpret sacred spaces in completely original ways. Before 2016, I have never seen one of Aalto's buildings except in the books that I studied.

My approach before a shooting involves media detachment. After a necessary but quick research phase, I stop looking at images at least one week before shooting. I think that nowadays we are too much influenced by information and this prevents us from really experiencing and enjoying something. I also think that – as photographers – this process influences too much our stylistic and compositive choices, with the risk of making us too similar one to another but empty of personal meaning. The Church of the Assumption of Mary was no exception for me; I wanted it to be a unique and personal experience.

Riola is a very little town that counts less than 1000 people and it’s more than one hour away from the biggest town. As you get out of the train station you have to cross the Rhine. At that point you start seeing the extremely high bell tower and distinctive exterior profile of the church, which is an amazing abstraction of the surrounding mountains, perfectly blending into the landscape.

Reaching Aalto's church is a slow process of walking towards the light. The diffused, mesmerizing light that welcomes you and fills you up with joy once you're inside.

In 2017 I was commissioned an article on sacred architecture by Italian publishing company Mondadori. I went back to Riola twice more, and that allowed me to focus more on details, like furniture, materials, and little passages that I haven't discovered yet. On the last time, I wanted to shoot the church with main doors open. This was a very important feature and I thought I had to show it. Aalto wanted to have a deep connection between the church and the square in front of it, thinking it as a unique, continuous space. Linking, not separating. People still open all the wooden doors but just on major festivities and when it's not too cold.

Like I said before, if a building is like a person, I am happy to know this church's personality traits so well at this point, and I am looking forward to visit and photograph other buildings designed by Aalto in the future.

Website: www.albadeangelis.com
Links: Instagram, Facebook, Archilovers
Pictures: © Alba Deangelis
Interview: kntxtr, 02/2019