Faculty member Juri Ciani teaches video production and editing courses at DIVA. In the below interview he cites significant moments of learning, professional growth, and inspiration throughout his career as a photographer and videographer.


Tell us about your background.

I studied scenography at the Accademica delle Belle Arti in Florence and my current career is without a doubt a natural progression of my university years. I subsequently got into photo reporting with a particular focus on social themes thanks to travels in Asia and Africa that refined my approach to image storytelling. One Middle East trip in particular produced some of my best portfolio images, taken during a bus journey from Damascus (Syria) to Beirut (Lebanon). My “terradiconfine” site represents an on-going series of photo reportage: I published two books about living conditions in Malawi (2008) and the earthquake aftermath in Aquila (2010), and produced photo reports for the La Repubblica newsletter and the La Feltrinelli publishing house on the Chinese student population in Florence and the “Caos Sublime” exhibition, respectively.


Describe your teaching method.

It’s developed as two layers: On one hand, I always suggest a theme to develop for the entire group because it’s important to examine how final project projects produce various points of view and infinite shades of creativity. I require students from the beginning to descend upon the streets of Florence and become acquainted with the people who live and work there. The other part of my method is to focus students’ attention on a tool that will help them to give substance to the images that they perceive. It doesn’t matter which type of application is used to edit a video, what counts is that it becomes a natural extension of the body when it’s used. When we breathe, for example, we don’t stop to think, “I’m using my lungs to breathe.” And above all, I seek to teach my students how to astound themselves and others through the work that they produce.


Can you name some professional experiences that have proved to be useful for teaching?

At the beginning of my career, I met two individuals who bent over backwards to teach me what they knew. I thought I’d return the favor by doing the same with my students. On the other hand, I also realized that as an instructor, I myself learn from the experience and this was an another reason to continue.


What types of projects are you working on now?

I’m working on several commercial videos, especially in the fashion industry. I recently completed two important video projects. One was done for Ferragamo and will be used worldwide, and the other was completed for the auction house Casa d’Aste Pandolfini for its 90th anniversary. As for personal projects, I’m working on a short film adapted from the book Cecità written by the Nobel prize author José Saramago.


What are some important changes that are happening in your industry?

New development in my field is primarily based on the evolution of technology and language. The first case is accompanied by a price decrease and the subsequent access to a substrata of technology for a growing number of individuals who would’ve otherwise had to grapple with video production using more rudimental tools. Thus rapid technological evolution has brought about an increase in the languages and codes used to create stories that represent images such as photographic reportage, music and commercial video clips, short films, feature films, etc. It’s definitely exciting to work with these new forms. On the other hand, a trend that I find perplexing is the use of “vintage” filters that add an analogical look to photos shot with high-tech smart phones.


Based on what you teach, what’s the core advice that you would give to your students
1. Ride the wave.
2. Share your knowledge and information. An interesting tale goes like this: Two friends exchanged a coin, then they each remained with a coin. Two friends exchanged an idea, then they each remained with two ideas.
3. Write a report about everything you do during production time.
4. Don’t forget the poetry that surrounds you. Great things live in small things and vice versa.
5. Never forget nature. The sun, moon, clouds, stones, animals, flowers, etc.


Name important figures in your field and in other disciplines that have most inspired you.

For photography, Josef Koudelka, the Czech photographer of the Magnum Agency who shot the images that always come to mind as I prepare for a video shoot. Stanley Kubrick inspires me for the central perspective he applied to cinema, with the fantastic assistance of Garret Brown and the steadicam. As for someone outside of my field, there’s a memorable comment made by Luca Cordero di Montezemolo (former president of Ferrari) in response to a journalist, “I was successful in my career because I was always surrounded by individuals more exceptional than myself.”


Which video makers and artists do you reference in class?

I like to cite and demonstrate works by video makers such as Chris Cunningham, Jonas Åkerlund, and Johan Renck. I also dedicate at least one lesson to the maestro of editing, Pietro Scalia, a 2-time Oscar winner. His initial sequence of the 1991 film JFK should be cited in all videomaking manuals.


Last but not least, one more comment about giving advice to students: the one piece of advice given by professors that I truly paid heed to comes from my high school years at the Istituto Statale d’Arte. “Whatever you try to approach in terms of learning, always seek to master the foundations. The rest comes by itself.”