Text by L'Oreal Thompson
"Photography is my passion," smiles world-famous multimedia projection artist, Paolo Buroni.
Buroni calls his work "arte visuale." Looking through Buroni's portfolio of past projects is like taking a trip around the world. He has projected larger-than-life images onto the walls of St. Peter's Square in Rome, a desert in Dubai, even Roman ruins.
While sitting at Cagli's Caffe d'Italia, Buroni is constantly greeted by neighbors and friends from businessmen to a young man on his bike.
"Francesco!" Buroni calls out to the young man, and they engage in a brief conversation.
Buroni may be renowned all over the world, but in his hometown of Cagli, he's simply Paolo.
His multimedia projects often include sound and motion as well as photography and have been featured everywhere from runways in Milan to massive outdoor productions in Seoul and Istanbul.
"It is a different form of language to project," says Buroni, dressed in designer blue jeans and a simple button-down black shirt. "It's more emotional, more communicative. It's multi-vision."
Born in Cagli, Buroni, 54, began his obsession with photography at 11. He became a freelance photographer in Milan in the 1980s but quickly grew tired of his editors' requests.
"I was dissatisfied with the final project because of the editors," explains Buroni, gesturing wildly with his hands. "They treated me like a machine, making photos. I wanted more artistic control."
And he got it.
According to his official website, Paolo Buroni has been referred to as an "urban invader" for his ability to assault public spaces with his visually powerful art. His projection onto buildings and architecture is one of the most important elements in Buroni's work.
"It is fusion," he says, his light blue eyes sparkling with delight. "It's a connection between architecture and images. I project on many screens because I like to create ambiance."
"In squares," he said as he gestured toward the main piazza in Cagli, "I like to create change - to change reality with imagination."
Earlier this year, Buroni transformed the Pisani Moretta palace on the Grand Canal in Venice into a visual spectacle. In celebration of the masked ball, Buroni flooded the facade with fresco images to create the evening's theme: "the garden of delights."
Paolo Buroni believes his work is more than just art; it's a form of communication. "All [the] projection together, synchronized with music," he explains, "I like this type of communication."
According to Buroni, the most difficult technical aspect of his art is working with big spaces. In addition to creating the art that is projected on different screens and buildings, Buroni also makes the projectors that he uses.
On the artistic side, Buroni explains that dealing with so many images can be daunting. "I've spent all night in a piazza, getting things perfect," he says. "But you can't control the weather, and that's difficult in this form of art." "I fear the project will fail," he confesses. "It makes me nervous from a technical standpoint."
Paolo Buroni's art also has the power to cross language barriers. "It is a visual language," he says about a recent exhibition in China. "They speak a different language, completely different from the West. [But they're] learning a new language, exposed to a visual language and it makes me very proud."
Although he's traveled the world, Paolo Buroni always returns to Cagli - his home and undoubtedly favorite place. "I like the way of life here," he sighed. "It's an inspiration. It's inspires my creativity and artistic image living here."
A car with two women stops in front of the cafe to chat with the famous artist for a while. But Paolo Buroni doesn't let his status go to his head. He remains cool, calm, and collected. Perhaps living in Cagli is the reason.
"I like the atmosphere here. It doesn't matter where you live," he explains when he returns to the table. "[As long as] you have the artistic vision and space to do it, you're able to live anywhere."
A down-to-earth, humble man, Paolo Buroni advises young artists to "never give up."
"Express yourself, and even if things aren't working out, never give up. Do it for yourself. Do it to make yourself happy," he smiles.