I LOVE L.A.: Francesca Forquet: Santa Monica
…it comes natural to me, as I try to get to know this country walking through the deserted alleys of Santa Monica, to notice these little clues, and to take pictures of them.
I recently met Francesca Forquet while reviewing portfolios at the Palm Spring Photo Festival. It was like meeting an old friend who shared a similar sense of humor and joie de vivre, who happened to be Italian. I have always loved the small, absurd details of city life, not unlike what the brilliant television show, How to with John Wilson has done for New York.
Forquet moved to Santa Monica from Italy and on her daily pandemic walks, explored the city using her camera to document details and absurdities of LA life. These expressions of humanity were a window into an unknown country, as she discovered the clues not often seen from a car window.
Francesca Forquet is an Italian photographer and art director based in Santa Monica,California. She’s had a passion for photography since she was a little girl and while she was attending the Academy of Belle Arti in Bologna, Italy, she landed a job as aphoto reporter for a local newspaper. She later moved to Milano, where she continued to do photoshoots for magazines and fashion designers and she also started to collaborate as an art director with various Advertising Agencies and Art Museums.
In 2017, Francesca moved to Santa Monica, California to work as an AD for an Entertainment Ad agency. She enjoyed a lot creating posters for the movie industry because the creative process is very similar to what she was used to as a photo reporter: convey her connection and perception of a specific project and combine it in the most beautiful way into a single picture. Since the beginning of 2019, she decided to go back full time to pursue her original passion for photography and reportage and started to work mostly as a freelance photographer.
Combining photography and graphics makes her work as a photographer primarily commercial. Her personal projects and reportages are usually her take and commentary on the environment and the society that surrounds her or on the events she happen to participate in. She likes to call herself a “photography comedian” because she tends to capture the tragicomic side of the situation she find herself in or to add a touch of irony or a joke to all the images she produces in both personal and commercial settings.
Recently some of her projects have received recognition from important organizations such as American Photography and IPA International Photography Awards.
In 2022 she was selected as FRESH EYES 2022 Talent by GUP magazine.
Since I moved to Santa Monica, I’ve been fascinated by its residential neighborhoods and their “flip side”, the back alleys. Hidden from the apparent uniformity of the streets, there are clues, objects, messages that tell us who we are, what we believe in and how different and diverse we are from each other. In fact, it seems to me that, as human beings, we have a constant need to express ourselves and, since the dawn of time, one of the most effective ways to do this is through the possession and display of objects that become symbols of our individuality. Think for example of the importance of objects in cultures and religions, entire museums are crammed with artifacts of every origin, meaning and make. I, myself have a particular fondness for objects. I feel their deep symbolic value and, as a result, I collect and exhibit the things I like, find or buy in my home because I feel the need to communicate my inner world through their display. I think they express my aesthetics, that they express aspects of my character better than a thousand words, they describe my artistic sense, in a nutshell, they are a reflection of my personality. So it comes natural to me, as I try to get to know this country walking through the deserted alleys of Santa Monica, to notice these little clues, and to take pictures of them.
Sometimes because they are a message that the people who live in that house or possess that particular car feel the urge to transmit and expose to all the others. More often because, being attracted more by illogical systems than by logical ones, I think they have a very particular communicative value, they convey funny, surreal or illogical situations, almost unintelligible, and I am magnetically attracted to it. At times, I act as a vehicle and I amplify the voices of these people. I narrate the events that affect the city, the pandemic for example, the elections: the people of Santa Monica react, they talk to me, everyone communicates what they feel. At times, I play with these images and, through the association or contrast of them, I create new meanings or expose their contradictions, I pair and match the images to emphasize the ironies or I isolate and extract them from context to create other concepts or symbols.
Indeed, the collection of these photographs reveal to me a very playful, sometimes ironic, sometimes funny, surreal aspect of the people in Santa Monica, a city that seems completely ordinary, sometimes even boring, where you rarely encounter much human presence during a regular walk. These photographs are portraits, even if there are no people, these are the portraits of us, the citizens. An on-going work on American society and its contradictions in the alleys in Santa Monica, California. – Francesca Forquet
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to Los Angeles?
I am an Italian photographer and I was born in Milan, Italy, 36 years ago. I have always had a passion for photography and visual arts so, after my classical studies, I enrolled in the Graphic Design school at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, Italy. During this time I also worked as a photojournalist for a local newspaper. This job was very formative as a young photographer because I was able to learn to focus my attention on my surroundings and very quickly combine the narrative aspect with the aesthetic and stylistic one.
After graduating from the Academy, I moved to Milan, where I learned the techniques and aesthetic rules of fashion and advertising photography while collaborating as an art director and photographer with various advertising agencies, fashion designers and art museums. This is when I started to feel the need to complement my education with a work experience abroad. As a graphic designer, I’ve always really enjoyed creating posters because the creative process combines photography with graphic design. Therefore I sent an application to Leroy and Rose, an entertainment advertising agency in Los Angeles, California. It was a strong emotion for me when they answered affirmatively.
How did you come to settle in Santa Monica?
I settled directly in Santa Monica, because the agency is located in the center of the city, and since Los Angeles is a boundless metropolis, for a European immigrant a smaller urban dimension bordered by the ocean seemed more reassuring and more like home. Even though my work at the agency ended in 2019, I still stayed in Santa Monica because my photographic project about the city had begun.
Has your project changed the way you see the city?
The immediate perception of the city of Los Angeles as a European is that of a metropolis in which it is difficult to communicate and socialize. There are apparently no meeting places, people are locked up in their cars, at their workplace or in their homes. This aspect of incommunicability is very strong at first.
It came natural to me, as I was trying to get to know this city and this country while walking through the deserted alleys of Santa Monica, to notice clues, objects, messages hidden from the apparent uniformity of the streets, and to take pictures of them. I think they have a very particular communicative value, they convey funny, surreal or illogical situations, almost unintelligible, and I am magnetically attracted to them. Sometimes they are messages that the people who live in that house or possess that particular car feel the urge to transmit and communicate to all the others. At times, they narrate the events that affect the city, the pandemic for example, the elections: the people of Santa Monica react, they talk to me, everyone communicates what they feel.
Indeed, the collection of these photographs reveals to me a very playful, sometimes ironic, sometimes funny, surreal aspect of the people of Santa Monica, a city that seems completely ordinary, sometimes even boring, where you rarely encounter much human presence during a regular walk. These photographs are portraits, even if there are no people, these are the portraits of us, the citizens.
What do you love about Los Angeles?
Nature, palm trees, flowers, always sunny weather (not lately!). The light! The expansion of space and time, the powerline poles and their web of cables that delimit the sky, the vintage cars, the decadent “Mexican” downtown, the constant contrast between the “Snoop dog” atmosphere and the boulevards in Beverly Hills, the billboards on Sunset Strip, the smell of cannabis, the sunset over the ocean, the desert as a suburb. I could go on and on… I love Los Angeles because it is a huge and diverse city, which has been and is, with its imagery, my constant source of inspiration and has taken me to another level as an artist.
Are you working on a new project?
yes, I have a couple of projects in mind, one of which is once again inspired by the city of Los Angeles.
Finally, describe your perfect LA Day.
My perfect LA day would begin with the usual morning walk with my camera and Zita, my dog and assistant, through the alleys of Santa Monica (If it really is my perfect day we are talking about, I would take some very interesting, funny and unmissable pictures). Pasta for lunch, then I jump in my orange Jeep and drive around the city, discovering new neighborhoods in LA, to pick up a bizarre object I found on FB Market that I might use later as a complement for some product shoot, but for sure will add to my collection of objects at home. Later in the afternoon a quick stop at the Hammer Museum to get inspiration before heading to a party at my friends’ house where of course I will have a Margarita.
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