by Jerry ElengicalJun 17, 2021
While studying for her degree at the prestigious Politecnico di Milano, Alessandra Salaris developed critical design thinking skills that enlightened her sense of reception to the environment. “A grounding knowledge in interior design taught me to understand and design how humans will live, work, and communicate through interior spaces,” she says. She then channelled these learnings into her visual communication studio, Studio Salaris, in Milan. The architectural institution boasts of an impressive roster of famous alumni right from Nobel laureate Giulio Natta, visionary architect Gio Ponti to celebrated architect and designer, Patricia Urquiola. “It was here that I honed a solid design and professional thinking to define a conscious and mature methodological approach,” shares the photographer.
She then earned a master’s degree in Marketing and Communication, collaborated with top publishing agencies and corporations internationally, shot Italian luxury fashion house Armani to Swedish furniture giant IKEA and this year, brings her vision to life with her own colour palette for a top Italian decorative paint company. With an intimate understanding of light and form and a sharp eye for composition, Salaris has also extensively documented projects in Italy and beyond. Her works range from concept stylings to private residences to large-scale public installations. We speak with her to discuss her working practices, fast-paced digital media, and her advice for young aspirants.
Nitija Immanuel (NI): Could you tell us a bit about your formative years and how these helped shape your career?
Alessandra Salaris (AS): I topped classical education with the study of interior design in London and in Milan, where I graduated from Politecnico di Milano and IED. At the institute, I explored themes and methods related to interiors that play an increasingly important role in the contemporary age. This foundation has been invaluable in my pursuit of photographing interiors.
NI: What was your vision for Studio Salaris?
AS: I founded Studio Salaris - an interior design studio for creative consulting to provide creative solutions for brands that are interested in developing, defining and communicating the 'brand identity' of a high aesthetic value. Our process begins with an extensive analysis of the brand’s core values. We then outline the corporate image, focused on their specific needs and use a customised approach; these range from catalogue images to showrooms, trade fairs and expos and much more.
NI: Studio Salaris has been associated with iconic brands such as Armani, Lualdi, Rubelli, Rosenthal to name a few. Is your approach different for each?
AS: Our approach to each project remains constant. We aim to scratch through the surface and dig into the soul of the brands and represent them with images that we design and create. Since the vision is clear to us, they are often amazed by the result and we couldn't be happier with their responses.
NI: Do you consciously attempt not to distort reality? If yes, do you face challenges while doing so?
AS: While every project comes with its own set of hurdles, we are used to discovering and reimagining the best set in the world and it could be anywhere - on the seashore, the depths of the mountains or amidst extreme climatic conditions. On several occasions, we have even found ourselves having to capture winter settings in summers and vice-versa. A fun yet challenging memory that comes to mind is shooting for B&B Italia in Portugal, we were snowed in by a raging February blizzard, however, we continued pressing on.
NI: We discern a powerful and contemporary visual language across your projects. How would you define your style?
AS: At its core, all of our projects shadow the paradigm of beauty and efficient tailor-made solutions, which we design with a passionate and experimental attitude. Our approach stems from the belief that Italian design and style still has a very strong identity and is globally aspirational. The choice of style, tone and communication strategy is thoroughly investigated, aiming to accentuate each clients' identity and to create an emotional connection with the final user. Finally, the goal is to give a high-quality result that enhances the clients' image, therefore, adding extra value to their identity.
NI: How do you approach a shoot to ensure you capture the space in the best possible way?
AS: The most important thing before I even start propping is to get rid of unnecessary clutter. Anything that doesn't add to the frame must be eliminated from the frame. I need a simple, clean canvas to begin the propping process, followed by setting the right lighting for the space.
NI: If you could let us in on one trade secret to achieving that perfect interior shot, what would it be?
AS: I would summarise it as maintaining the perfect balance of elements. This can be through an exploration of materiality, colour, forms, an intuitive juxtaposition of contemporary and vintage, architectural and organic, graphic and instinctual. I curate a wealth of experiences into every space and image.
NI: How has your compositional eye for food photography evolved?
AS: The camera angle and orientation are of vital importance in the composition of food photography because they shape and replicate how people perceive the image when they first see their meal whilst dining on a table. The principal intent of the composition and food styling is to create balanced dynamic images to guide the viewer's eye.
NI: How do you keep reinventing your work in a fast-paced digital world?
AS: I keep myself open to learning new trends, participating in important conferences and fairs, keeping abreast with new communications tools and technology.
NI: Can aesthetics be an acquired skill? Or is it something innate?
AS: Art sense or aesthetics may come naturally to some but is something that can be developed through reading, practising, exploring, paying close attention to detail. In my opinion, it cannot be developed by attending schools or frequenting training programmes, it is something that an individual cultivates over a period of time. Cultivating a keen sense of aesthetics not only helps one to appreciate the beauty around us but also create beauty as well.
NI: What career advice would you give to today’s young aspirants?
AS: Have a great desire to learn, have different experiences and be curious, you know. To quote Jasper Conran, “Inspiration comes from anything”.
NI: What are you currently working on?
AS: We are launching a palette with 25 new colours created in collaboration with Wilson & Morris. The enamels are not only glossy and rich in texture but are ideal for reviving and uplifting any interior space. This project truly represents us as it helps us to express our vision and emotions better.