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CVLT Nation Exclusive
Interview with Lele Saveri
And web premiere of To Lie Under

Lele Saveri is a prolific photographer, investigative journalist of sorts, and just a rad guy! He’s done a ton of freelance work for publications like l’Uomo Vogue and Rolling Stone, and has also been on staff at VICE Italy, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY. He recently published a book of his photography entitled Incubi et Succubi, and it is a journey through his worst fears and nightmares, full of mysterious and creepy yet beautiful imagery. Incubi et Succubi is out now via Seems Books, and to accompany the release of his crimson-bound tome at Family bookstore in L.A. in December of last year, Lele screened the short film he filmed and directed with Giulia Maria Venturini, To Lie Under, with an original soundtrack by No Age. Today CVLT Nation is lucky to be the exclusive internet home of To Lie Under, which you can view below, and after the jump check out my interview with Lele Saveri about his background, his book and his photographic travels, as well as unpublished photos from Incubi et Succubi and some of his upcoming projects…

Meghan: Hi Lele, how’s the weather in Milan?

Lele Saveri: VERY hot…an Italian middle-of-summer hot…super wet!

M: Oh I don’t do humidity!! I can’t handle NYC summers either!

LS: It’s scaring me, cos I know as soon as I go back to NY it’ll be worse…

M: How are you today?

LS: Pretty well.

M: Awesome! I want to know a bit about how you started as a photographer…When did you first pick up a camera?

LS: Not so long ago, about 12 years ago. I moved away from Rome to London when I was 20. I was working at Pizza Hut, and on my days off I used to go out and take pics of graffiti around town. I have been into graffiti since I was a teenager.

M: You were a young punk right?

LS: I was more into mods and skinheads, which is kind of similar, but very different in Italy.

M: What does “skinhead” mean in Italy?

LS: Well…very often it has a lot of political meanings. Skins were the strongest youth culture when I grew up. There weren’t too many of them, most of my friends were just average Italians – really into soccer and some kind of dance/techno music.

M: Yeah, you told me that they were kind of Jersey Shore types, right? Haha…

LS: Yes, I was living in the suburbs, and most of them couldn’t understand what I was, the music I listened to, and so on…

M: What bands were you into?

LS: Nabat, Negazione, CCCP, Pinta Facile, and then a bunch of Italian rappers – Colle der Fomento, Lyricals…Not only Italian bands, obviously; I liked punk, but I also liked other stuff: oi, reggae, I was really into Wu-tang, I wasn’t too strict. But that’s Rome for you, cos the underground is so small that you end up going to see any type of bands that are playing. I was even into this hard techno from Holland called Gabber.

M: Why do you think the underground is so small in a huge city like Rome? Is it still small, or do you think it’s grown?

LS: It’s hard to say…we had a conversation just this week with a friend who’s there, and he has an art magazine called Nero. We were saying that the fact that Rome is so big, and has such a bad public transportation that people travel with cars and scooters, it means that people end up never seeing each other like you do when you’re commuting. So they never see diversity; most people only see the people they study or work with and the people on TV.

M: hmm sounds familiar…a lot like LA!

LS: Very true, but LA is full of weirdos!

M: haha!

LS: Plus in Rome there is a lot of attachment to the past, so they hardly ever look at what’s happening outside the city. They’re pretty snobby.

M: Yes, I was going to say that, there is so much history, and it seems like people might be stubborn about their culture not changing or accepting new things…

LS: I think people find it hard to accept everything new. I’m actually starting a project now on the main youth culture in Italy, which are the “tabozzi” or “coatti”…basically the Italian Jersey Shore.

M: Awesome!

LS: I think so.

M: I admit I am fascinated by that culture…

LS: I am too!

M: What are some other projects you have up your sleeve? Anything new in the States?

LS: I am doing a project about college and high school softball and baseball. It’s a sport I don’t know anything about.

M: It’s very American!

LS: I know! And it’s a way for me to understand the culture of the country I’m living in. In Brooklyn, depending on which area you are in, the kids that play are from totally different backgrounds. It’s so American, and so interesting – that’s the idea of the American dream of becoming who you want to be. I love it!

M: I always wondered why guys play baseball and girls play softball…decided by a man no doubt! Softballs are not soft! It’s just a bigger thing to hit you in the face.

LS: And the movement of throwing, so much harder to do! That was my starting point in this project.

M: Really?

LS: Yes, I wanted to photograph strong females, but it was too hard…

M: How was it too hard?

LS: The girls were too young, and the parents were too worried about this Italian photographer with tattoos…

M: haha that’s pretty funny! Probably the mustache…

LS: With boys was easier, the parents all think their boy will become a famous player, whereas girls only do it for fun…weird.

M: Even if you make it to “pro” as a woman, you still need a day job! So I guess you have to be having fun!

LS: True.

M: I want to ask you about your recently published book Incubi et Succubi…this is a seriously rad and creepy collection of photos!

LS: Thanks

M: What does it mean to you – the title, the dark images? What’s the overall inspiration? I see a lot of snakes, religious iconography and occult…

LS: My girlfriend, and my nightmares. I wanted to describe visually what was happening in my worst dreams, so I thought about what scared me and where was that coming from. I went back to my childhood, my fear of snakes, and all the fears that came to me from growing up in Rome as a Catholic.

I went to Sicily to follow religious groups that celebrate weird Catholic festivals, always to do with exorcizing demons, covering their faces and playing weird loud music with their trumpets. Then I had in mind some kind of a guide through this weird dream, so I decided to use my girlfriend, who’s the girl you see appearing every now and then with a black cloth over her head, she’s the succubus.

M: With the black headdress? She’s beautiful!

LS: Succubus and incubus are demons that come to you at night and attract you to them, and then take your soul through sex.

M: So she is sucking your life force? haha

LS: hehehe…basically!

M: Is this a nightmare version of her then, or is she a good figure in this book?

LS: She’s a good figure to me… but that’s probably why she’s a demon, cos I’m attracted to her.

M: And are you still Catholic?

LS: Well, I dunno…that’s probably why I’m questioning myself…I am…I think…I don’t really respect the church though, and the way the pope is still acting in 2012.

M: Hey! He’s just trying to make a dollar!

LS: But he has golden rooms around him, so he doesn’t need a dollar!

M: Don’t you think that it’s interesting though, to tie the “American dream” of becoming rich to figures like the pope? Part of it in America is tied to the idea that god helps people get rich, he “blesses” America personally, so if you live here you might be blessed too…

LS: I see that very much in Brooklyn, where I live. All the poorest people still make so much effort to follow Christ, just hoping to get something back from it.
Well, don’t get me started….

M: haha me either!! Ok, more about the book…where were most of the photos taken? Were they all originals for the book?

LS: I think maybe 2 or 3 photos were taken before I started working on the book, but the rest I took for it. It took me about 10 months – all the festivals are in Sicily; all the house landscapes are haunted houses on Staten Island; the snakes are mostly taken in New Jersey; and the statues are in Milan and Rome. Then there are a bunch of portraits taken in Milan – those are mine and my friend Camilla’s version of the boogie man.

M: I love the houses! They are legit haunted houses?

LS: Yes, we researched all the haunted houses on Staten Island, cos apparently there are the most intense haunted houses in the eastern states.

M: Did you feel the hauntings?

LS: Only in one of them…actually maybe in 2…it was a little scary.

M: What made you move to Brooklyn?

LS: I don’t know really, I wanted to change…I lived in London for 8 years, then moved to Milan for work, which only lasted 3 years, then I had to find something else, and NY was kind of the natural “other place.”

M: In Milan, was that working for VICE Italy? Are you still working with them?

LS: It was…I still do stuff for them occasionally, but I don’t go to their office every week like I used to do.

M: When did your photography first get “noticed” by people?

LS: mmm…not so long ago, if I can even say people notice it now…but I’d say about 3-4 years ago I started getting more jobs and people started writing more to ask for projects, but I feel there is still long way to go.

M: There always is, especially with creative things! There is always more to learn, or it gets boring.

LS: Exactly.

M: What has been your favorite project so far?

LS: mmm…that’s hard…I really like working on documentary projects – every time I go somewhere and I follow some story, I feel like one of those old fashioned reporters on some adventure! Recently, I did a project in Peru, in the middle of nowhere, where people fight with each other every Christmas Day. I spent 10 days there, where the men spoke Spanish and the women spoke an ancient Inca language.

M: You mean like organized fights, boxing matches?

LS: Not really…if you have issues with someone there, you just tell them to meet you on Christmas Day, and then you meet in the main square of the town and fight, two at a time!

M: And then the issues are done with? Is there a winner?

LS: Yes, there is a winner, but even the loser is kind of happy cos its all sorted. Everything gets sorted like this – women vs women, men vs men, kids vs kids – it’s pretty crazy.

M: Wow! That’s amazing!!! Sounds like something we should do here, but no guns allowed!

LS: It’s the most amazing and truly equal system I’ve ever experienced! Only bare hands!

M: In the US, someone would bring a gun. Do you have plans to travel in the US for any of your projects?

LS: I would like to, yes…I’m trying to see as much as I can this year, I am looking for some crazy festivals around the US, I’m still in the research state now, though.

M: I can recommend some in Canada for you!

LS: Really? Please do!

M: Lots of weird hippy festivals up there! Where everyone’s on mushrooms…

LS: Oh I bet!

M: Any exhibitions coming up?

LS: I’m working on a couple of books and videos, so I think some show will come up, maybe in September, and I want to do San Francisco to NY on a Vespa and do a show with that, but that’s probably next year.

M: That sounds like an adventure…by yourself?

LS: I need someone with me for sure…I did London to Milan some years ago, 1 Vespa, 2 people. Now I want to do it with 2 Vespas, more comfortable…

M: Any last words?

LS: No last words 🙂

M: Thanks for talking to me!

LS: Thanks so much!

Check out more of Lele’s work on his site, and pick up Incubi et Succubi on



To Lie Under

A film by – Lele Saveri & Giulia Maria Venturini
Original soundtrack – No Age
Produced – Serena Pezzato
Starring – Gerri Noack, Giulia Maria Venturini
Costumes – Camilla Candida Donzella
Make up – Susie Sobol
Lettering and credits – Giuseppe Furcolo & Alessandro Maida

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