the Aspire project / by Giacomo Cattaneo

The Aspire project focuses on providing role-models, mentorship and inspiration for women interested in an entrepreneurial career. The founders are a trio of extremely dynamic people, very connected and involved in the Swiss start-up ecosystem - together they came up with this amazing project. The idea of the launch event was to display the portraits of successful women entrepreneurs that could serve as role models. Because of my interest in entrepreneurship and my passion about photography, I was involved in the project.

It was my first experience as a photographer, meaning that I was hired by somebody else to carry out a photographic project. Very different than my usual “having the camera in the bag and take it out when something exciting happens”, maybe in a distant and exotic country. Here you have a subject: successful women that I had to direct and get the best shot possible. Most of them were not used to photoshootings, and neither was I. Still, it was a great opportunity, and I had a lot of fun!

Every photoshooting was preceded by an hour of interview by an Aspire's member or myself, in which we would discuss the story of our guests and how they came to be entrepreneurs. Fascinating stories that allowed us to get to know our guests, meaning that we knew who we were photographing - we could represent them in a picture with their unique features and qualities, and not as a random models that just had to pose. We agreed that the common denominator would be either a piece of paper or an object that would remind our subjects of the "trigger moment" when they became entrepreneurs. 

 

Olga - Switzerland

 Olga -  Switzerland

Olga - Switzerland

Olga is a successful entrepreneur from Ukraine, that told us how her coming to Switzerland opened so many new opportunities, that she eventually took. Considering that her "trigger word" was Switzerland, we tried to find a very cliché image of Zurich. I guess we managed! We joked later that we could send the picture to the Swiss Tourism agency to be used in their promotions! Regarding the picture itself, I had to play quite a lot with the zoom as I wanted to get the three levels: the flag in the front as main subject, Olga still  in focus and the background. To get this sense of depth I avoided using too much zoom as it would compress the picture. We had to turn the final picture into black/white for the exhibition, but I personally prefer the colour version as it shows how great the light was.

 

Michelle - The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

 Michelle -  The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Michelle - The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

This was a fun one - we had all of Michelle's cupcake shop at our disposal, a dreamy place. Her "trigger" was a book - the book that made her decide to embarque on this journey to open a cupcake shop. She was fun and sweet, so I wanted to create a picture that would reflect that, which a lot had to do with her position and expression, but also embed her in the coloured environment of her shop. We thought together about the possibilities, and after several unsatisfactory shots, we decided to try something out of the ordinary - sitting on the counter - with a dreamy expression as if happily remembering the first cupcake she baked. I was so happy she was wearing such leggins, as they really stood out and create a sense of depth in the picture. 

 

Nicoletta - Ring

 Nicoletta -  Ring

Nicoletta - Ring

This picture represents one of my favourite stories. Maybe because I got to interview Nicoletta personally, hence I knew her story better than any other of our entrepreneurs. The word Ring is the name of a conference room in which she sat for two hours, and that even had a pair of boxing gloves hanging in the corner. She entered with the aim of selling a technology to a larger company, and she got out as the new CEO of a start-up producing it. Being in an office of course limits the creativity in terms of spaces and light, hence we had to play with the word a bit more  - give me the boxing fist! 

 

Sabrina & Severin - Road Trip

 Sabrina & Severin -  Road Trip

Sabrina & Severin - Road Trip

In this case I did not use the word a lot, because I though that the window of Sabrina & Severin's salad shop in Langstrasse was an interesting frame. I decided to shift a bit the angle so to have different subjects: the two girls, both in action, and the notebook with the “trigger word”. Still, the word relates to happy times on the road, and I wanted to bring that into the picture. Having those red tomatoes (ready to be cut and put in a tasty salad) and the green background of the walls, we came up with a few things to do - playing around with them gave the best results, as also the expressions are the most spontaneous! And yeah... i went with the old-fashioned "color-splash".

 

 

With no disrespect to the other fantastic subjects, these are the pictures that I thought would be more interesting to comment upon. Not surprisingly, these are also the subjects of which I could listen to their interviews and hence get a bit more creative as I knew their stories better. 

So this would be my take-away from this project - the more you know of the person standing in front of your camera, the easier it is to take a unique shot. I have still a lot to learn, also from a technical perspective, about how to take portraits, but this was absolutely an experience that I would like to repeat =)