Valentina Abenavoli is a photographer, a teacher, and a publisher. Publishing photo books is her passion and she holds a master's degree in book publishing. During Chobi Mela X, she conducted a workshop titled 'From the theory to the Book,' with a motto to find possible interpretations of the visual narrative by reading images collectively.
In a conversation with Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime, she talks about her work, philosophy, and how to be a photo book designer
Valentina Abenavoli is an editor and book designer. In 2012, Valentina founded the publishing house, AKINA Books, with Alex Bocchetto. They produce challenging photo books by both emerging and established photographers in limited editions, and often, handmade.
As a photographer and publisher, Valentina prefers to tell stories through photos, and read photos in lyrical sequence.
While talking about her work and what inspired her to be in this profession, she said: “I studied photography because at some point in my life, I realized something was missing from my life. As a creative person, I found photography was a medium through which I could illustrate my thoughts and isolate myself from harsh reality simultaneously.”
“I won a scholarship at a university in Italy to study photography, but I didn’t want to be a photographer, I wanted to read them, and tell stories through photos.”
Reminiscing about her childhood days, she said: “As a child, I always enjoyed reading, and I also wrote.”
“I basically transformed the idea of imagining, writing, reading and creating into visual communication.”
“I emphasize on visual storytelling, thus, I combine my interest in storytelling with visual communication,” she added.
Valentina did not plan to be a book publisher, but her passion for storytelling and photographs inspired her to design photo books.
“I never thought of being a publisher myself, rather, I was planning to work in a publishing house (hahaha),” she said, with a smile on her face.
In the beginning, it was difficult for her to start out as a publisher. However, she found the challenges fascinating.
In seven years, Valentina has published more than 35 books from her publishing house. While talking about her printing process, she said: “Most of the books we publish from our house are on offset paper and printed at home.”
“I had to learn everything from scratch, including how to bind books, edit them, and design.”
“Of course, I had some academic knowledge on this, but I learned more during the process.”
Self-taught, Valentina also spent hour after hour in the library reading and browsing books to learn the printing process better.
“I care about the semiotic aspect of any photo and how it can convey a story,” Valentina emphasized.
“I call portraits characters of the stories.”
When asked about the workshop she conducted in Dhaka, she replied: “This was my first time in Dhaka and it was an intense workshop. We became friends and the mutual trust we had helped each other to learn more.”
“I also used psychotherapy.”
In 2016, she published her first photo book, “Anaesthesia”, as an author, followed by “The Harvest”. Both books are part of an unfinished trilogy on the subjects of empathy and evil.
Currently based in Turkey, Valentina tries to communicate with the trainees who participate in her workshops and classes around the world.
“I suffered a lot in my life, and right now, I am the happiest person in the world because I value life now,” she said.
“Happiness is an overrated concept, thus, I try to find meaning in everything.”