As a longtime live concert photographer, Lucia De Giovanni's work is entrenched in the local music scene. For her book, The Love Project, Giovanni decided to step away from the stage to capture something a bit more simple: The idea of love. This isn't her first foray into portraiture--De Giovanni has also built a long-running portfolio called My Life, a series of images of people in hospice, as well as being an accomplished photojournalist who has covered political and social events all over the world. We caught up with De Giovanni just in time for Valentine's Day, as she prepares to celebrate The Love Project's release this Sunday evening, February 13, at Flobots Community Space.
Westword: You started a Kickstarter Project to fund the production of The Love Project, and you surpassed your goal.
Lucia De Giovanni: It was a big success. Everybody really wanted to be a part of it--I think because it's such a happy project. When I started out at the end of 2009, it was for me. This project wasn't for anyone else. I just wanted to capture what loved looked like on film. What we see in the media, and in movies and things I never watch anymore [laughs], is so romanticized and stylized and everything is just kind of unreal. Even if you see photos of weddings, it is all posed.
I'm very blessed with amazing people in my life, and my friends are just incredible. Whenever I'm around them, I just get this energy that is like, wow. Wow, you are so in love! I know everybody has their ups and downs, but their bond, the way they relate to each other and the way they simply are, as couples--I found it inspiring. I see my parents, who have been together since 1957, dancing in the kitchen hand in hand and I think, that is a presentation of love. That is what I aspire to.
I've been doing the My Life project for so long--it is the last portrait series I do with people in hospice who are very close to the end--and the feedback I've gotten is great. People say they get a sense of dignity and peace and calm, just by looking at these pictures. It just made me think well, I wonder if I could get the same kind of feel from people looking at pictures of people in love? Like, could people feel that love? Maybe I'm crazy for thinking that. [Laughs.]
WW: No, I think you're talking about something we need and want to see--not the media interpretation. When we see love that is real, it feels different.
LDG: But there is still even a certain style--as a photojournalist, my style is very raw, an in-your-face-kind-of-thing. Even doing regular photo shoots--whether it's couples or bands--I see how people begin posing. It's subconscious. People know their "best side" or whatever. It just happens. That's why these photo shoots are a minute or less--I've found that people really are their genuine selves at that one-minute mark. Then they are aware of the camera, aware of themselves, and you can miss that spontaneous bond. So, that was it--I had to do one-minute photo shoots.
WW: You can't tell from a photograph that a photo shoot is so short--but it is an indicator of why these images look natural.
LDG: Basically, I wanted them to look at each other and show me what their love looks like. I have coffee with (the subjects) before the shoot, and I explained to them that I'm not going to direct them. This was the mind-blowing thing for me--people volunteered for this! I had people calling me from all over, volunteering their parents and grandparents for the project. I thought, this is kind of personal, but complete strangers were approaching me and wanting their picture taken. If it was me, I don't know if I would want anybody to come that close. [Laughs]
WW: So there was no shortage of subjects for The Love Project.
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LDG: I saw newer love, like people who had been together for only a few years. But then I saw love between people who had been together for decades and decades. One couple in the book had been married for 64 years, and when I saw that photo I just lost it. When I was taking their picture, well, the minute they started looking at each other, they just started crying. I thought, whoa. What is going on here? At the end of the shoot I just asked them what was so intense and emotional for them--the woman said, in one minute, it was just 64 years of love. I can only imagine what goes through someone's mind when they have been in love for that long.
WW: This is the first published book of your work?
LDG: Yes. Seeing photos on a computer is one thing, seeing the photos in print is a completely different experience. There is a sense of empowerment--not just for your own work, obviously--but for other people who are going to see this and feel it. They are going to experience it and know that it's real, and that love is possible and it's hopeful. I know so many people that are single, and question it and blah, blah, blah--all sorts of things you go through your mind. For me right now, it is a choice. I'm, quite frankly, very busy. But unless I have that, I don't want anything else. This is like, it! This is what love is supposed to look like and feel like, and I have the proof (in the book) in my hands! It exists.
Photos from The Love Project will be on display this Sunday, February 13, at the Flobots Community Space, along with a show celebrating the book's release. This event is free and open to all, and festivities begin at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.luciadegiovanni.com.