Ivan Olita: You’ve been to Italy before meeting me, and then, you’ve been to Italy after you’ve met me. How did your perception change from when you didn’t know me to when you got to know me? And, as a consequence, Italy through my eyes.
Amanda Charchian: My prior experiences in Italy were either through work, fashion, or holiday. Italy through your eyes has become an intimate portrayal of what Italian characters are like: I see what parts of you are Italian versus what parts of you are Russian-influenced from your mother. I feel the sense of the soul of the country versus the output of the country, meaning art, food, or architecture.
IO: If you were to find three elements that you were not able to perceive as a guest and now you’re able to perceive as someone involved with the country.
AC: I recognize the need for tradition more than before, the need for consistency, and respect for the past. There is an insular nature that I also didn’t know about. It relates to the social hierarchy: social situations are not open. I come from California where the social ladder can engage with people from all different walks of life.
IO: We say it’s ‘horizontal’ instead of ‘vertical’.
AC: I wouldn’t have known that if I had not been exposed to the social aspect of Italian culture through you.
What parts of you have been shaped by Italy?
IO: I grew to appreciate Italy more when I left the country because it gave me perspective on its value in my upbringing, in forging a big chunk of Western culture for the past couple of thousand years. The same thing that I appreciate is the one that could be limiting. We are brought to wonder the reason why things are the way they are. We challenge the status quo for the sake of challenging it. We oftentimes are not able to disrupt it, but we question it as an intellectual exercise. Italy is the cultural sedimentation of beliefs, elements, ways of being, and living. They all build on top of each other to create a narrative made on different moments in time. You walk around Italy and you see buildings that inherently have many architectural periods built into them. Italians are the same: they might not perceive it and they come as a whole, but they’re formed by the sedimentation of experiences that the country has gone through.
AC: What has it been like traveling with your American girlfriend in your own country to many places that you haven’t been to yet?
IO: Every Italian is proud of showing off their country, better expressed when you are in the country. At the same time, it is exciting and a bit annoying because you miss on things that I consider obvious, and you want to just do them your way, such as eating salads for breakfast. Overall, you can take inspiration or just indulge in Dolce Vita. What’s your favorite place that I brought you to?
AC: Matera felt like a window to a world I didn’t know existed, a way a city could structure itself that I had never experienced before. This was one place where it wasn’t the mark of pride, but rather there was a sadness to it. How does Italy translate into images?
IO: The iconography of Italy.
AC: It’s about Estate Italiana. The images that are taken in the summer have a rare beauty that is unlike any other place. That’s a strong, heavy, overbearing summer sun. So many of my pictures are above the light. The natural landscape and backdrop of an Italian Coastal scene lend to taking pictures constantly.
IO: A brand of its own that goes very well with summer. When you portray snippets of an Italian summer, you are perpetrating a collective image that exists, that stands for far more than what it is. It stands for a state of mind, something that Italy does well: there’s no other place where summer is so embedded into the country, it could gift memories of beauty.
AC: You’re traveling there tomorrow. Buon viaggio.
IO: Grazie. You can come join me, even if it’s not Estate.
AC: Inverno Italiano. Ciao.