Manuel Colombo – I don’t remember my actual age, but I’m sure I’ve spent more than half of my life taking photos

Manuel, born in Desenzano del Garda, Italy in 1972, began his lifelong love affair with photography in the ’80s, as a self-taught analog photographer – ultimately however, he made the switch to digital photography.

He has also been a jury member of many highly respected national photography contests. In 2012 Saatchi Gallery selects one of his photo to represent Italian Contemporary Art. In 2013, Manuel begins to exhibit in the United States and in 2014 he’s one of the resident artists at the Photographic Art Gallery “OnePound Gallery” in Virginia. Manuel’s work has been published in magazines and newspapers of national importance, book cover and Musical CD covers and booklets. He loves red, black, dark and light. And chocolate as well.

Having started out as a landscape photographer who captured his images using long exposure, Manuel has since evolved into a fine art photographer and he is known for his elaborate preparation for his conceptual, staged shoots – yields thought-provoking photographs that embody a radically different aesthetic than his earliest work did. His extensive knowledge of the history of photography, along with his technical expertise – equipped Manuel with the skills necessary to allow him to begin teaching both subjects in 2009. He also leads photographic workshops at high schools in his area. Under the auspices of several different art galleries in Brescia, Rome and Merano, Italy – Manuel has enjoyed the privilege of exhibiting both his personal, and his fine art photography collections. In 2011, he’s one of the resident artists at the Photographic Art Gallery “Galleria Gallerati”, in Rome and he signed on as a supervisor and promoter of the, “ISO600 – Instant Photography Festival”, the first Polaroid Photo Festival to ever be held in Italy.

Ainé Atum Fetish Demon Doll Photo by Manuel Colombo
Ainé Atum Fetish Demon Doll Photo by Manuel Colombo

Manuel Colombo, now tell us what’s your preferred motif? I don’t think to have one preferred motif. For sure I’ve recurring ones. Nude (the dress I love the most), tattoos (I love them so much not to have any on myself), the red color, latex, fetish and eroticism.

If all of these motifs are in the same shooting with one model I love more to photograph, Aine Atum, then this could be considered my preferred motif. Just like in the two series published here: “Fetish Demon Doll” and “Fetish Snow White”.

Who is this creative photographer at Manuel Colombo Photography? I’m not sure I know him very well even after all these years. I know he has weird visions, sometimes. Some other times he’s lucid and rational. Head over heels with his passions. Always dreaming. And sometimes he’s able to photograph the result of all these things. I’m sure he’s not able to stand still for a minute.

And, unfortunately for the people around him, he’s not able to shut up. I know he was able to realize just a few of the stuff he dreamed of. So far. He just needs a 36 hours day. Or to be immortal. If he had to choose one I am sure he would go for the second.

For how long have you been a photographer and is this something that you always wanted to do? I began when I was 15 years old. I don’t remember my actual age, but I’m sure I’ve spent more than half of my life taking photos. With some long time off in the middle. It’s not something I’ve always wanted to be, because I don’t think of myself as being a photographer. I’m not a photographer. I “make” photos. In my mind it’s different. Not easy to explain. Let me try. Do you remember Jessica Rabbit? “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”. Ok. That’s me. “I’m not a photographer… I’m just drawn that way”

Ainé Atum Fetish Snow White Photo by Manuel Colombo
Ainé Atum Fetish Snow White Photo by Manuel Colombo

What happened at the most crazy photo shoot you ever had? There have been several weird and absurd situations in the past. Especially for outside shoots where I cannot control what’s going on around me. One day I was shooting in a port in Venice. A huge ship was docking and all the crew started watching the model with binoculars and the captain, as the ship was approaching, horned the siren to wave at the model. I still remember those fucking powerful vibrations in my stomach. One other day we were shooting in a container depot. One prostitute was warning us about the police and another one was yelling at us because we were occupying her working place! It was surreal. Another time some cops wanted to see the photo we were taking. Maybe they became suspicious because we were in a dangerous abandoned house. Or maybe because we were naked. Don’t know it for sure. On another time I found myself licking the model’s shoes. You know, she was an Australian stripper: I had to taste them! But the craziest things, they’re better left unsaid, if you know what I mean.

Tell us about Manuel Colombo Photography. How did it all begin? The real beginning was when I stopped with landscape photography. I owe a lot to landscape photography. I was able to do my first exhibitions and my first sells with it. But I get bored doing the same stuff for a long time and landscape photography ran out its appeal for me. The rebirth, or the birth, of “Manuel Colombo Photography” was when I started to photograph bodies. I find bodies very interesting. Just like puppets, they are adaptable to my ideas. The more adaptable, the better they are. That’s why I like to work often with the same models: they support my ideas and they know how to give me what I’m looking for. I can say “Manuel Colombo Photography” began when I’ve found out I can photograph the images I had in my mind, more like a painting than photography. I’d rather “create” or “build” my image than photograph what already exists. And I’m getting older, my friend. The older I get, the less wise I am. And I can really tell a naked female body is thousand times sexier than a sunset.

Ainé Atum Fetish Snow White Photo by Manuel Colombo
Ainé Atum Fetish Snow White Photo by Manuel Colombo

We notice a beautiful sharp photo style with rich colors in your photos, but how would you describe your photo style? One of the things I’ve always tried to do is not to repeat myself, or trying not to be recognizable. This doesn’t mean I was always able to do it, but I’m doing my best. I’m sure that being recognizable, connecting a photo to the photographer regarding the style, is not a merit, but a shortcoming. Nothing worse than finding the perfect recipe and going on and on about it. Deadly dull. My effort is about finding different styles, different genres, different techniques. Hoping not repeating myself and not to be recognizable. Despite this, I know there are some recurring elements in my photos, just like signs: one of them is the red color. But it’s not the only one. I like rich colors, as you have noticed. There are many revealing Easter eggs in my photos, but I don’t want to reveal them.

Do you have any exciting photo shoots planned? And if so where can we see them online? Of course I have. I’ve many exciting photo shoots in my mind and some of them are already planned. I’ve told you: I can’t stand still for a minute. You will see them online for sure. Where? I hope on your magazine.

Please explain to us what makes a photo not just good, but great? First of all, to be a great photo it has to be one of mine! Joking aside, talking about other’s work, when I find myself thinking “Holy shit! I wish I had taken this photo!”, then that is a great photo. I’m not used to be envious, but I can recognize a great photo. Talking about my work, I can feel immediately when I’m taking a great photo, right from the very moment I’m shooting it. In a very odd way and I’m not sure I can tell it. Let’s say my body tells me if I’m taking a great shot. If the photo shooting and the live preview turn me on (literally, in a sexual way) then yes, it will be a great photo. Maybe I’ve got a “great photo” fetish!

Describe to us your best photo and tell us the story behind it? I’m fond of the Italian writer Maura Chiulli’s photo I’ve taken a couple of years ago. It was a Saturday of a rainy May, but that day it was not raining. There were perfect clouds shading the sun, giving me the right soft light. We were in Milan, under the “Arco della Pace”, with a very long red drape. Some cops wanted to see what we were doing there, in a public place.

One of the cops was an amateur photographer and asked us if he could watch “the show”. Then a strong wind started to blow. The 15 meters drape started to fly and the composition was very evocative. It lasted for just a few seconds. But I was able to shoot one of my best shots ever. Till now it’s one of my most published and exhibited photos. I love it.

A desolate island and a boat without gas… oops… Who do you want to be rescued by? Who says I want to be rescued!? If someone really needs to rescue me, then I want to be rescued by Shirley Manson, from “Garbage”, the band. I’m sure she’s looking forward to rescue me, even though she doesn’t know it yet.

Explain to us the alternative lifestyle culture in your part of the world. Is it a good place for great photos? And how about that oh so important light? Italy is the land of sunshine. As an Italian guy I love the sun. But as a photographer, I hate it. Actually I’m in a love/hate relationship with the Italian sun, but I think there are much more pros than cons. In Italy we have mountains, lakes (where I live), sea, big cities and lovely small towns. We have all the locations we need to take shots. And yes, a great light. It has just one big fault: it cannot be booked. But we are working on it. Talking about photography culture, well I’m afraid there’s not much to say. Italian culture is too tied to “painting” to think of photography as a real expression of art. Somewhere else in the world, photography is already dead, in Italy it’s still unborn. Maybe it’s a good thing. I just hope to be still alive when the baby sees the Italian light.


The Azaria Magazine is an international magazine focusing on the alternative lifestyles extreme internationally with focus on fetish, tattooed models, tattoo artists and music.

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