Behind the Scenes: ’Nzìm

Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni

November 17, 2023

The photography duo comprised of Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni set out on a visual exploration of Puglia, Italy. The outcome is an artistic mosaic caught between tradition and modernity.
LFI: How did you get into photography?
Caimi & Piccinni:
We hail from different backgrounds and, as a result, our motivations for pursuing photography have distinct nuances. For Jean-Marc, it all began with a youthful passion for black and white photography, and darkroom printing in a friend's basement, which later seamlessly integrated into his routine as a music journalist, and eventually blossomed into a full-time career as a documentary photographer. On the other hand, Valentina, an art history graduate, initially channelled her love of photography within the art realm, where she also held a role as a gallery curator. Her profound expertise in this field subsequently became pivotal in her burgeoning interest in documentary and reportage photography.

Who or what inspires you?
Our wealth of influences grows continually as our style matures and becomes enriched. Committing one’s life to photography is an ongoing voyage that runs parallel to personal growth, ideally marked by constant discovery and development. To offer a glimpse of the individuals who have resonated with our sensibilities, we can cite notable Japanese photographers such as Daido Moriyama and Shomei Tomatsu, along with the intimate photography of Masahisa Fukase. Additionally, we've been fascinated by the meticulous approach of contemporary American documentary photographers, like Alec Soth and the fervent photographic journey of Stanley Greene.

'‘Nzìm' (“together” in the Apulian dialect) is the title of the series. How did it come about?
In recent years, we've embarked on a series of explorations in various cities and territories, producing photographic projects that often culminate in book publications; places such as Rome, Istanbul, Naples, Normandy, the Umbrian Italian countryside, and Strasbourg. Through these diverse environments, we've sought to uncover the realities and zeitgeist of the times we live in. What unites these works is a profound fascination with humanity, a deep dive into the lives of the people who call each place home. It is akin to an anthropological journey. In all our photographic works, human connection serves as the initial spark, as our encounters grant us access to people's lives, offering a window into their unique worlds. This year, the theme of Being Human at PhEST, the prominent photography festival set in Monopoli, Puglia, resonated deeply with our approach. Consequently, the festival curators – Arianna Rinaldo and Giovanni Troilo – invited us to create a series to be the subject of the exhibitions set in the old city port.

We see quite unusual and very artistic photographic techniques in this series, which could be linked to fashion photography.
We frequently employ flash photography, even in broad daylight. Our preference lies in capturing images illuminated by intense, direct light that exposes every facet of the scene. We trust in the intrinsic visual potency of the situations and subjects we encounter, finding poetry in each scene, regardless of any softening effect of the available light. Our choice often involves using a handheld, off-camera flash, a technique that, as a duo, we can seamlessly manage, effectively assuming the role of each other’s assistant. This approach grants us the flexibility to use flash even in chaotic or challenging situations, eliminating the need for cumbersome stands or heavy equipment.
Carla Susanne Erdmann
ALL IMAGES ON THIS PAGE: © Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni
EQUIPMENT: Leica M11 and Leica SL2-S, Summicron-M 35 f/2 Asph

LFI 8.2023+-

You can see a selection of the ’Nzìm series in LFI 8.2023, where the duo speak about their background, their approach and their artistic practice. More

Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni+-

The two photographers have been working together since 2013, developing projects that concentrate, on the one hand on documentary, and on the other on personal photography. Their work is published regularly in the international press. Piccinni and Caimi have published three previous books: Same Tense (Witty Kiwi Books), Daily Bread (T&G) and Forcella (Witty Kiwi Books), a comprehensive oeuvre about the Mafioso district in Naples. In 2017 they received the Gomma Grant (UK) for Best Black and White Documentary for the project This Land Is My Land, dealing with the fading, rural culture of southern Italy. With Rhome, which also appeared in LFI 6/2018, they won the 2018 FUAM Photobook Award. In 2019, The Burning Plain won the Zine Tonic Award. More


Behind the Scenes: ’Nzìm

Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni