Fighting against gravity | Charles Paul Azzopardi

Charles Paul Azzopardi is carving something of a niche for himself as a photographer who captures dynamic human bodies in striking black and white, specialising as he does in the documentation of performing arts. He speaks to us about his development as a photographer and his place in the ‘budding’ photography scene on the islands

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
5 April 2016, 8:34am
Charles Azzopardi photographs Gozitan dance troupe Naupaca Dance Factory
Charles Azzopardi photographs Gozitan dance troupe Naupaca Dance Factory
When did you first realise that photography was something you wanted to dedicate your time and energy to, and what were your initial steps in the field like?

I bought my first DSLR camera four years ago and initially I just experimented with different genres and learned the techniques on my own, the same path most budding photographers take. I settled on black and white fine art and architecture, as I find the black and white style suits my artistic vision perfectly. My first months were without a particular drive or direction, but once I settled on architectural photography and started getting commissions and travelling abroad a year in, it took off and never looked back.

What were some of the most important lessons you’ve learned about photography, and how did you implement them in your work?

Hard work, commitment, dedication and an endless drive to get to where you want to be are the key. If there is a particular dance company you want to shoot, persist and ask nicely until you get access, and then let the work speak for itself. Oh, and all the photographic equipment one could buy does not make you a world-renowned artist – sweat and toil does.

What led you to focus on performance photography as your main focus? What is it about this particular area that inspires you, and how does it come out in the ‘SOAR’ exhibition?

I had no inkling it would occur, as I have no training in dance, choreography or performing arts. I was asked to shoot a dance show for a Gozitan school as they had no photographer to cover the event, and it snowballed from there, just from the images from that very first show. Nowadays I shoot around 30-40 dance shows a year, mostly abroad but also locally, and I love each and every one of them.

I focus mostly on the movement and the emotion the human figure in motion evokes rather than the dance itself, and the whole focus of ‘SOAR – Anatomy in Motion’ is wholly based on capturing moments, instances, well below the threshold of perception of the human eye, but which can be manifested only by the trained eye of physician and professional photographer trying to elucidate the limits of human anatomy and motion.

What do you make of the local photography scene, and what would you change about it?

It may sound overtly critical but I do not sense the existence of a formal local photography scene in Malta per se. There are discrete, extremely capable, world-class level artists which have an impressive body of work in photography, but no concrete or holistic direction, and photographers tend to be considered as second-rate artists at best, underpaid (or not paid at all) and considered somewhat inferior to the burgeoning painting or sculpture artist market in Malta.

The fact that there is no centre for Maltese photography, despite repeated calls to multiple governments along the years, is testament to this. We have to move beyond the notion that putting ‘Photography’ behind one's surname automatically ensures one is an artist.

What’s next for you?

Collaborative projects with multiple dancers, as well as dance companies, in very innovative projects related to portraying dancers in a different light, as well as exhibiting in London and New York.

SOAR – Anatomy in Motion is taking place at Spazju Kreattiv (St James Cavalier), Valletta until April 10. Few limited edition prints remain available for sale. For more information, log on to and conctact: www.charlespaulazzopardi.com/soar, [email protected]

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...