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Mobile Photography Intimate Interview with Massimo Bortolini from Belgium

Our ninety fourth interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Massimo Bortolini from Belgium. You may know him from his popular Instagram page @bortolinimassimo. This is a wonderful interview celebrating really wonderful mobile photography. Enjoy!

To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry MitchellFiliz Ak, Dale Botha, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki CooperPeter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Wahlberg, Andrea Bigiarini, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark SchnidmanFatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer GrahamCathrine HalsørPaul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen MessickSerap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe),John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny, Joy Barry, Max Lies Derdonk, Rita Tipunina, Violet Martins, Nizzar Ben Chekroune, Lynette Sheppard, Paul-Andre Hamel, Rejane Rubino, Susan Detroy, Rosalie Heller, Wayman Stairs, Cintia Malhotra, Anita Elle, Juta Jazz, Cheryl Tarrant, Hanni König   Kaoru Shintaku David Gilbert Jana Curcio, Mary Lorincz Amado Ergana, Francesco Sambati, Philip Parsons, Kathryn Garkut and myselfgo here.


What was your earliest childhood ambition?

I had two ambitions. One was to be a football player. Everything ended on a grey windy rainy morning, I was 10. For weeks I had been asking my father to register me to the club near our home, and one day he told me, ‘we are going to the club!’ I was so happy… It was the summer holidays, the club administration was closed and my football player career ended that day, because we never went again. I used to play football at school and in amateur leagues for years, but never much more than this.

The second ambition was to become a writer. I was about 15 and I saw a television series – Jean-Christophe – with Klaus Maria Brandauer in the role as an unsuccessful writer who tried again and again to be published. That romantic figure attract me. I began to write at that time and I never stopped. In January, a new little aphorisms book will be edited. I like short texts (short stories, tales, aphorisms, etc.).

First recognition?

At school, at 13, I won a prize in the German class.

More seriously, the first recognition was the first book being published. It was in 2011. I was 50. I thought it was a good moment, I dared to send text to an editor. It was a sort of first life overview. From then I published (and translated) some others.


First job?

Bookkeeper. I studied economic’s at secondary school. For two years, I worked in the chemical society. I had to do my military service; it was obligatory at that time; so I know that the job would be for a short period. I didn’t want to be in the army, by conviction and then I begin the procedure to be recognized as a conscientious objector. I did civil service in a hospital, the duration of it was 50% longer than the normal duration of the military service, 18 months.

Private or State school?

Public school. I went to the nearest school from my home. In Belgium, there are not really private schools – except for expats like the British school, the European school or let’s say religious schools; but these are exceptions – since the called « guerre scolaire » in the ’60, we have a public school system and a libre/free school system  (more than 90% catholic) which coexist ; both are funded in the same way by the State (since 1989 by the autonom official linguistic communities (Francophone, Flemish and Dutch) the teaching programs are similar and you can have religious courses in both systems. In Belgium, to choose a school is more often based on the reputation of the school, rather than on a  philosophical basis.

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University or Work?

After my civil service, I returned to look for a job. It was difficult, so I had a lot of small jobs: cleaning offices, selling apples, renting apartments, … always for some weeks or months. Then I found a job in an organisation, where I created the documentation centre. I began training to become Documentalist. I worked and went to the high school in the evening/night for four years.

Who was or is still your mentor?

My grandmother and Georges Perec. My grandmother because I still remember her telling me ‘enjoy life because it passes very quickly’. A common sentence, I know, anyway as I cannot stop time, so I try to enjoy each day.

Georges Perec because of his book « L’infraordinaire » in which he questions the quotidian, the everyday life, saying that we should look to the endotique (I don’t know what is the word in english) in opposition to exotic, look to the banality of what we live and see everyday, but because we live and see that everyday, we finish to not see anymore. That’s what I try to catch with my photos, the detail that we don’t see.

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How physically fit are you?

I stopped playing football at 50 (I am 58), because of my knees. Then I began to run. I try to do it as often as possible, in addition to giving me a good physical condition, it’s a moment that gives me the possibility to think, to imagine stories to write. I used to run almost every day, but since last May, I’ve had a long series of eye surgeries and during the recovery period, physical efforts or sport are forbidden. I will have another surgery next January… so I imagine that – hoping it succeeds – I will have to wait till March to run again.

Ambition or talent: What matters more to success?

Work. I will use another common sentence, ambition or talent without working are nothing. As if I had to choose, I would say ambition, because it gives you some goals. « Bad » (money, public recognition, …) or « Good » (to dare to finish something, …) goals; bad or good being of course personal judgements, I know. Anyway, I think that without working, ambition or/and talent do not mean anything.

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How politically committed are you?

I am less than I used to be. I already mentioned my non-violence philosophy of life; when I was younger I was more politically active than nowadays. I have never been member of any political party, but I participated in collectives or groups which were in a way a political commitments (giving time to help homeless people, to give post school lessons to children with difficulties, taking part to demonstration or strikes, etc.). Today, even if I continue to do some of those things, I guess that a sort of wariness makes me less active than before. Anyway, for 35 years I have worked in an organisation involved with (im)migration issues and ethnic minorities rights. It’s a job, of course, but not only.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

Patience and/or serenity.

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What’s your biggest extravagance?

I guess buying books again and again.

In what places are you happiest?

Alone in front of the sea or with friends sharing wine and blabbing.

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What ambitions do you still have?

To continue to write and publish some more books.

To print more of my photos, and maybe exhibit some.

What drives you on?

It depends of what we talk. Becoming a grandfather recently, I would say to see and enjoy that new family generation and see my children facing that new responsibilities and life. And also waking up in the morning and enjoying the day that is beginning. Facing adventures that are waiting around the corner. I like to be surprised.

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What is the greatest achievement in your life so far?

I guess not to be too ashamed of what I became. It’s commonplace to say that when we are young we have dreams. After years, sometimes, we may have taken another way, may changed in a « wrong » way regarding these dreams of what and how we will be later. In that perspective, I guess that I can face myself without too many regrets. And, as I mentioned earlier, to have grandchildren, even if I haven’t done anything for it.

What do you find most irritating in other people?

People who shuffle their feet. I cannot bear that. The noise of the shoes on the ground, but also to imagine that someone cannot even not be able to lift their feet.

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If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would he think?

I already mention part of this before. I guess he would say Not bad. But… try again.

Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you’d still had?

The wedding ring of my mother.  Just before she died, she gave it to me. I wore it around my neck, with a little golden chain. I was attacked in the street some years ago, and in the fight, I lost it.

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What is the greatest challenge of our time?

Distribution of wealth as well at the local and at the global level. I think that if it is not done, we will have to face massive revolutions; like what’s beginning to happen in different places today ; and repression with the risk of undemocratic system, maybe local wars that can degenerate in global conflict.

Another one is to take more care of nature and the environement.

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Do you believe in an afterlife?

With the years, it becomes a common question, but, I have no idea. What I do know is that I am surrounded by what I could call ghosts. I regularly feel presence, sometimes things disappeared for some days and reappear some days later, sometimes I know that somebody/something is close to me, watching me. Do I create them ? Are they real ? Is it only my imagination ? Am I the one who hid those objects ? No idea. Maybe. Maybe not.

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Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website—— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said. Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London. Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art. Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK. She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: [email protected]