Behind the lens

Luca Tombolini: LS X

Born in Milan, Luca Tombolini began taking photos in university and has since used large format cameras to capture deserts and primordial places.

Where are you based?

Milan, Italy

How do you make a living?


What are you motivated by?

Make the most, and possibly make a sense, of this living experience we are all sharing. Taking into account our limited perception possibilities, I’d say we are more than we can think we are. We live in a frame of mind which is determined by where and when we’re born and the kind of culture we are exposed to. Seeking what we might be outside of this frame is what I’m trying to do in my solo trips.

What’s been your most memorable project to date?

I’ve been dreaming for a while of being able to take a long time to travel in the American west, and last spring I could do it. Needless to say the size and the majesty of that land is much greater than what you can see in two, yet very intense, months. So I’ll need to be back.

What do you take with you on your travels?

A large format camera and films, food, clothes and the few things you need for daily living. A tent. I carry everything on a 4x4 and go. After a while when I start to get really into that life, I always wonder how many objects I’m surrounded by in my city life.

What impact has travel made on your life?

Seeing it as a negative, I’m very much surprised how much I think about traveling during those periods of the year in which I’m not. My city life time has became a preparation time for the next trip; as finally the real thing is only to be able to be around in the places I wanted to be. Apart from photographing it became the time I could dedicate to what C.G. Jung called the ‘individuation process’; the time to ask yourself who you really are. 

What make up the best parts of an adventure?

Serendipity of places. It’s true that I take a really long time in preparation, checking the places I want to go on google earth, but in no case you can have an idea of the sensations unless you aren’t there in person. That’s when I decide to really stay, and when everything is right it feels so good and so special.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Go through experiences to find what you really are. Every bad experience and every error can be precious in terms of self-understanding, and keep adding to your Self every thing that you liked. Don’t rush it, if you have to compromise, do it keeping yourself in mind; keep going and finally you’ll get where you belong.

Anything else you’d like to share?

A thought about the loss of earth environment for wild life. Biodiversity needs space, huge spaces for wild animals and plants. Pollution of oceans, air, intensive logging, industrial farming, warming, hunting; everything is pushing towards a dramatic reduction of spaces for biodiversity. Life as we know it generated from this very place, and as far as I can think about this miracle I’d very much suggest that we seek a connection to the principle of Life and its cycles, since it’s true that we can live our lives totally detached from Nature, but that will not solve the final toll.

A silky sunset in White Sands national park. The blue hour there is an incredible experience as sky and sand literally merge together. It’s like standing in the middle of a light blue canvas.

A late sunset on New Mexico badlands. This looked like a cathedral to me, especially if you take an animist perspective.

Still in While Sands, a detail of backlit dune during sunset. Perfect carved shape by the wind.

The majesty of White Pocket and its stunning foamy texture. This place is absolutely a wonder.

Not far from the above stands this mesmerising geological formation, which I photographed in a clear early sunset, stoked by the play of colours.

Not far from the two above stands this other one. I didn’t photograph it the same evening but instead came back next morning to find find it even more beautiful at sunrise.

Back to New Mexico badlands I wouldn’t even talk about this as a picture of, but instead as the ‘sensation of’ melting.

Before heading back in total darkness this eroded hill top deserved one last picture.

Another silky sunset on the way back from the exploration of the badlands. No wonder indigenous cultures developed strongly towards animism.

Another blue hour in White Sands, just before the last highlights get blocked by Organ Mountains.

Luca Tombolini  |  @lucatombolini