The magic realism of Stilema Studio
Some encounters feel like they are just meant to be, like it was in the stars, or like a blurred old photo pulled out from a memory album. This is how Palorosa and Stilema Studio felt when they met. The making, shaping and evolution of the creative set design and prop styling duo, formed by Caminito Gasparro and Maurizio Gentile, who brought their creative interpretation to the Palorosa bags. The duo felt at home in Palorosa’s world, they felt like fate had brought them together on the road of symbols, dreams and an ever-changing image of the universe.
“It all happened quite spontaneously,” Caminito and Maurizio say. “Our conversations with Cecilia were as natural as getting to know and understand each other. This is why we decided to take the photos ourselves, in addition to doing the set design. We were inspired by the world of Palorosa and by the product, which we found both unusual and stimulating».
The inspiration behind the creative process was how to convey the Palorosa bag as a “natural” experience. «We are scenographers and we often use organic materials such as flowers or leaves». And indeed, there are tropical and Mediterranean elements here too, which reflect the very nature of Palorosa. “We used the Palorosa bag that Cecilia gave us to carry some of the set materials we needed in the weeks leading up to the shoot. We knew that the bag would protect and keep them safe. The bag fit in naturally with the havoc, turmoil and randomness of our profession.”
That very havoc that – whether or not accidentally – is found in the Guatemalan mold of Palorosa bags. “More than anything, we wanted that mold to emerge from the encounter between Stilema Studio and Palorosa. We imagined our havoc to be similar to that of the markets in Guatemala and of everyday life in that corner of America, where color predominates more than it does here». The photos were based on this sense of “orderly disorder”. “We used a double exposure technique to create an almost abstract effect. The bags were then staged in commonplace settings in order to sharply convey the craftsmanship, weaves and textures of the bags. The idea was to create an open dialogue between two completely different motifs: nature and matter».
How to depict an object in a given setting is the key element behind the creative process of Stilema Studio. “We are set designers who do not always create set designs per se. We try to integrate our work with the setting and sometimes the outcome is theatrical. We really love vintage and reportage photography, and our set design always endorses the image and connects it to the setting. We like to create an illusion between real and surreal, because that is who we are as people. In each situation, we go beyond fiction, but create an interaction with reality at the same time.
We love magic realism, as is often found in Italian paintings and in Alice Rohrwacher’s films, where the focus is on the commonplace, but where many small elements come together and for a fleeting moment, are transformed into something magical. “We always see the irony and lightness of the objects we photograph».
This is why the Palorosa bags appear in the photos by Stilema Studio with flowers, leaves, paper and sunlit drawn curtains. « The Palorosa bag is transported into “another” dimension, which is abstract, juxtaposed with commonplace settings, as seen in the image of the curtain. But, even then, the shadow of the bag is intertwined with the curtain, and with its decoration. Everything blends and becomes fluid in a natural way.” And reality, once again, becomes an illusion.
Words by Mattia Carzaniga