The Wild Strawberries series speaks of the sweet fruits of a childhood in Sicily, of people, places, items and memories. Federica Cocciro captures images of all the small and important things in her life before they disappear. The Leica photographer’s project represents an examination of the past, while also preserving it for the future.
What is the taste of “wild strawberries” like for you?
It has the taste of a song that you’ve already heard, but don’t remember where. It’s like the madeleine that makes Proust travel through time. It has the taste of something familiar, something that you’ve already lived, but memories are so confused. Wild strawberries is my childhood, my story between reality and imagination, but I hope that everyone can taste a familiar sensation.
Where do you find the wild strawberries, and why is this the title of your series?
The idea for the title was inspired by the film Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman. The movie talks about an old man who looks back on his life and comes back to the places where he grew up, thinking about the sweetness of youth and the regrets that he always takes with him. And this is the same process that I’m following in my photographic research. But the reference of the title is not only the movie. Wild strawberries are all the people who populated my life when I was a child, sweet fruits which grow up in a cruel and beautiful land, Sicily – a land that it’s so difficult to live in, but from which it’s impossible to stay away.
What is the idea behind the photographic project?
I’m trying to create a tale using different photographic languages – portrait, still-life, reportage, landscape… and the result at the moment is a collection of memories, people, things, sensations, and dreams represented as single images. But every pin on this atlas is not an entity in itself, it is connected to all the others. As in dreams, there’s no straight road. Life is a tale to get lost.
Do you try to capture what may get lost?
The project is an attempt to recreate in pictures my childhood memories. The more I grow up, the more I lose. Memories are sometimes confused and I’m trying to fix them as much as I can, everything I remember about that “perfect” time. This is the reason why in some pictures reality is confused with imagination. Are all the things I remember true? Did they really happen? Or are there many memories of a child who imagined things and saw things while daydreaming? Probably. Magic is the heart of my project.
You refer to a poem by William Wordsworth, which speaks of change, of past beauty. Is change something dramatic?
Change is dramatic if we see it only in its dimension of loss. But we must consider that change is inevitable, because it is part of human life; then it’s not necessarily always a bad thing. The Wild Strawberries world is full of the melancholy of a time that will never come back; but at the same time, like in Wordsworth’s words, we must accept the change and enjoy the most we can of what remains. This is a sort of mantra in my life. For example: my relatives sold our family house in Sicily, where I grew up and from where Wild Strawberries starts. It was a trauma for me. Especially seeing someone else living in our house, the house my grandfather built with his hands. Then the time passed by, and I’ve understood that you can’t fight with the circumstances of life. Now I’m friends with the lady who lives in my family home, and I can go there whenever I want.
How can you capture the change photographically? How did you go about choosing the subjects?
Not all the pictures talk about change. Sometimes I play around with photography to recreate the world from before as accurately as I can. For instance, in some pictures I delete the environment, showing only the detail of an action or a place or a person, creating the illusion that time has never really passed. On the other side, this work is so long: I only take pictures one month in the year, so every year I portray the same people and places, documenting the inevitable changes, but also adding something more, step by step.
Empty coffee cups, fruit, a table, sometimes the pictures seem to have been created spontaneously…
The process by which I choose what to represent with my photography is partly spontaneous: for example, I see things that remind me of my childhood so I take them with me in my camera; but sometimes things have changed so much that I have to recreate the situation, as close as possible to the past.
How did the work go with the cameras?
For the first year, I used a Leica M10 and it was perfect: small and discreet. This camera gave me the time to think about what I wanted to say and how to say it. It was a great mate with which to think and develop my project from the roots. In the second year, I used a Leica SL2-S with 24-90mm lens, the camera that I use for my commercial work. It gives me the freedom to create the languages and to develop the work, from portrait and still lifes, to landscapes, for instance.
Preserving something for the future – is that your aspiration for photography?
I think I’m following this path, yes. What I love in photography is telling people’s stories. For me, this means preserving their lives, their love, their pain, their dreams, and their teaching – from the little details that create their identity to scenes of everyday life. It’s something I do for them, for me, and for all those who want to dive into the lives of others, by finding a bridge with their own story.
Federica Cocciro (1989) was born and raised in Milan. She has degrees in Italian Literature and Publishing. As a freelance photographer, she creates personal projects and authorial reports about social issues, published in national newspapers and international magazines. She has been part of the Certified by Leica project since 2020. Find out more about her photography on her website and Instagram page.