Stefano Gardel

Extraordinary moments: How photography saved my life

Stefano Gardel is an award-winning fine art photographer based in Lugano, Switzerland. His aesthetic is built on gloomy atmospheres and almost surreal cityscapes that give an out-of-world dimension to ordinary spaces. Photography means the world to him. It’s the thing that came to rescue him from the darkest period of his life and offered him a new creative outlet, a new career, and a cure.

I first played with a photo camera one summer 15 years ago. I remember experimenting with long exposures and night photography, having a lot of fun and, for a brief moment, even thinking about becoming a photographer. But then I went on with my profession as a chiropractor. Fast forward to 3 years ago when I was at my lowest point, after my health had been getting worse for the past 6 years. I had Lyme disease without knowing it, my body was in a lot of pain, my brain was foggy, I couldn’t eat or drink almost anything, I could barely do my job. I was getting depressed and didn’t know what to do with myself.

Finally, as a distraction, I picked up a professional camera to travel with during the weekends, which very fast became a deep, intense real passion – something that finally made me feel good. While shooting, I could forget for a second about the body aches and the tiredness, I could not only take picture, but create images, make art. I found myself through photography, it became my medium for self-expression. After just a few months I was lucky enough to get noticed and sign with a couple of photography art galleries and start selling fine art photographs, both with the galleries and online. That’s when I decided that this time I wouldn’t let the train pass by again, and turned photography into my new career.

This photo was taken at the end of 2018, in Shinjuku, Tokyo’s red light district. It’s a panorama of two photos stitched together, shot from the rooftop of a love hotel, which I reached by climbing a fence and going up the fire escape. I had to do that twice, because the first night I accidentally zoomed in a few mm between the shots, and only noticed it as I was trying to stitch the photos. The other challenge I had with this shot was, after having managed to climb up the fire escape without getting noticed, to place my tripod on a totally uneven ground to take the shot. I had to stretch it in a weird way to get it levelled and squeezed between radiators, air vents and the border of the roof.

Any photographer is relieved to know they’re shooting with the highest technology possible, it allows them to focus 100% on the creative work.

The image is extraordinary to me because I know that all the buildings shown in the frame are love hotels, and I find it amusing to scan the image and read all their crazy names. I also like how this chaotic mass of buildings somehow create harmony and bring forth this cyberpunk vibe, this retro futuristic manga look from movies like Akira or Blade Runner.

This is part of my Neon Future project, for which I wanted to create a set of images in super high resolution that could be printed very big for possible future customers and galleries. I used an XF IQ3 100MP Trichromatic with a Schneider lens LS 75-150mm f/4.0-5.6, because I wanted to make sure I could have amazing prints corner to corner, regardless of the dimension of print needed. Knowing the sharpness of this lens and the size of the digital medium format sensor, I was confident with the output. Any photographer is relieved to know they’re shooting with the highest technology possible, it allows them to focus 100% on the creative work.