The protagonists of his most famous shots also include Vittorio Sgarbi and the famous goat. With their shock wave going from swearing on live television, to social media catchphrase, marketing phenomenon (complete with brands for T-shirts, mugs and COVID face masks) and now the irreverent, surreal shot by photographer Antonio Saba, a nod to pop culture and television.
“Vittorio edited my anthological work Chasing Beauty. I wanted to portray him in my style: dreamlike, alienating and to play around with the cliché of the English nobleman depicted with the greyhound. In its place, I came up with the idea of a beautiful, immaculate goat. He liked the idea very much. So, we organized the set at his home in central Rome. It is true that he is a bit short-tempered, but also very kind; he was almost intimidated by the animal.”
The irony, the fun that lies behind each shot (along with a lot of work) is palpable in the stories told by Saba, many years working in advertising, resident in Dubai for over ten years. He answers the phone with an unmistakable Sardinian accent, careful not to lose it, even though his job takes him around the world at least six months a year. “Sardinian is a Romance language.
It is my second language after Italian and before English, I am very proud to say.” His exhibition ‘Oneirism, Dreamscapes in Exhibition’, curated by Rosa Cascone, opens in Dubai from 25 January to 23 February, at the EMAAR Foundry Downtown Gallery in Dubai, supported by the Italian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates and in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in Abu Dhabi. Sixteen photographic works that portray a visionary world through the technique of Staged Photography or Tableau Vivant.
There is a lot of Sardinia in his shots but also far-flung, unexpected places. Like the cactus labyrinth of La Senda in Costa Rica or a landfill in Bangkok where a Fiat Seicento has ended up
There is a lot of Sardinia in his shots but also far-flung, unexpected places. Like the cactus labyrinth of La Senda in Costa Rica or a landfill in Bangkok where a Fiat Seicento has ended up, who knows for how many more years, reduced to a rusty wreck.
“There is very little photoshop and a lot of production work and set organization. My shots are theatrical, they tell an imaginative story in a single instant. Unfortunately, I don't know how to paint, I put my camera on the tripod and not a canvas on an easel. But studying Caravaggio and Vermeer helped me to understand chiaroscuro.”
The astronaut, recurring in his works, is his avatar. "He is a traveller, like me, a perfect alter ego for my poetics. He is out of place anywhere in the world except in space
Saba tells us that the astronaut – a recurring figure in his works – is his avatar. “He is a traveler, like me, a perfect alter ego for my poetics. He is out of place anywhere in the world except in space.”
The oxymoron, in fact, really seems to strike a chord with him. “I love purity and essentiality and yet I produce works defined as Baroque. At the cinema, I prefer the Cohen brothers to Almodovar, but my images are often full of decorations and strong colors.”
His favorite works include the shot taken in Sa Nurre de Su Hoda, in Oliena, in the province of Nuoro. “It’s a cave with an entrance for speleologists; to get there requires a bit in an off-road vehicle and a long walk. I brought twelve acrobats, imagining a story à la Sergio Atzeni, with archaic, primordial characters, warriors or heroes of antiquity who pay homage to the almost vertical blade of light that is created at noon, which is stunning.”
Antonio Saba compie qualcosa che solo i poeti autentici sanno fare bene e solo i poeti più versati sanno davvero tradurre in bellezza
And then there is the angel flying in the skies of Dubai, projected against the futuristic background of the Burj Khalifa, which was selected as the poster for the exhibition. The director of the Italian Cultural Institute, Ida Zilio-Grandi, writes in the introduction to the catalog: “Antonio Saba does something that only authentic poets can do well and only the best-versed poets can truly translate into beauty. His photos are often veritable oxymorons, and disturb the mind, such as the strenuous inertia of Horace or the silent tumult of Giovanni Pascoli, or the eloquent silence, or the half-snow, half-fire angel of traditional Islamic literature"
“The large paper wings of the angel woman are, moreover, this too, says Saba, a tribute to the cultural dialogue between the Muslim and Christian worlds: “Archangel Gabriel is the angel of the Annunciation to Mary and he who revealed the Koran to Muhammad. The fact of catapulting a similar, biblical, Koranic idea against a very modern and current background seemed powerful to me. With an important poetic license, my angel could only be a woman.”
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