Seeking Happiness: The Life of an Artist through the Lens of Photographer Yari Sacco

When Yari Sacco first arrived in Toronto for a six-month stay from Italy, the only person he knew was an uncle living in Oshawa with his family. But within the first couple of weeks, he had already begun to build up an extensive network of friends – artists, musicians, photographers, dancers, and other Italians living and working at the heart of Toronto’s creative life.

This is typical of Yari. The Italian-born photographer travels incessantly, almost compulsively, and he’s developed a knack for picking up friends as easily as he picks up languages (“After the first one it’s easier,” he says. “Your brain is working to learn something different.”)

As a result, he speaks not just Italian, but also Spanish, English and sprinklings of French, something he began to learn after he arrived in Canada in January. In fact, his former French teacher, Vincent – himself in the city on a one-year work visa with his girlfriend – soon became a part of his circle of friends in the city.

It’s natural that he is drawn to creative types because he is an artist himself. His university degree is in Fine Art, with a focus on painting. He has also been to all the major museums of art and history in Rome, Paris, Bilboa, Madrid, Barcelona and London.

But he admits that doesn’t like to paint.

“Because painting it’s very old, everything is done, with painting,” he says. “All the same style. Sometimes it’s abstract, but abstract was made in 1920 by Kandinsky. So why you make abstract now? Nothing change. If I paint Expressionism, like the painters during the 50s, it’s same. So with paintings you can create, you can make the same style that other painters they already make before, like pop art, or Realism, Surrealism. If I make a Surrealist painting like Dali, it’s nothing different, you’re just copying. It’s like a remake, like music.”

For Yari, his true sense of his place in art began when his father gave him a camera and he started to take photographs, initially blending them with his painting in collage-style art, before switching over entirely to photography. This was where he found his vision.

“It’s not just for the time, that it’s faster or what, it’s for the concept,” he says. “What image, what I have in my mind I can express with photography, I don’t need painting.”

He came to Toronto after a year of studying Photography at Escuela Arte Granada, in Granada, Spain, but that wasn’t the first place his photography took him.

Yari has hiked in the jungles of Thailand, photographed street life in Morocco, thrown all-night raves in Granada, and walked the pristine beaches of Guadeloupe. He’s photographed centuries-old architecture in his hometown of Calabria, and more recently, street festivals in Toronto. He has travelled all over Europe – Portugal, Spain, Greece, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, the U.K. and the Czech Republic – and through it all his camera has served as a living document of his explorations.

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To many, and indeed to this writer, his life sounds glamorous, something to be envied by those bound to their own lives. But he is bluntly pragmatic about the instability of being an itinerant artist.

“Somebody else chose that we have to live with money, so you have to live with money, now. And sometimes here I was living with ten dollars a day. It was not easy.”

His parents have always supported his lifestyle; in fact, he and his brother began travelling with them when he was too young to remember, and he began to travel on his own at the age of fifteen. He says that they are of the mind that it’s better for him to get out and travel than sit at home and mope about the unemployment situation in his native Italy. But in moments of frustration, he has wondered whether his life would be different had they pushed him to give up art and focus on something more practical.

Despite these words that bely his misgivings about making a living as a photographer, Yari, like many artists is driven by a compulsion stronger than the need to make money. When asked why he does photography knowing how hard it is to make money off it, he laughs.

“That’s a good question. Maybe…I don’t know…” He laughs again. “Maybe because everybody is born with something; that’s my job. That’s just what I want to do, what I really like. It’s the only thing that really makes me happy and I feel satisfied.”

To give an analogy, he says that the feeling he gets when his work is on display in a gallery is akin to really great sex.

“I’m not joking…sometimes it’s better than to have sex with a girl. I’m serious. It’s not a pleasure for your body, it’s for your mind. It’s like, your work is there, what you were thinking before, some stuff you were thinking and was in your mind, and after it’s concrete, it’s there, it’s hanging on the wall, and a lot of people stay there looking at your picture and ask, “What is it? What it mean?” and that’s wonderful, that’s just wonderful.”

In the six months he stayed in Toronto, he exhibited his work three times, the first being a group exhibition at Gallery44 (401 Richmond St W), and twice at the Bezpala Brown Gallery on Front and Church St. This is in addition to having his work on display at art markets in Kensington Market and Wychwood Art Barns, in the St Clair West area.

“When I finished to do some works in Italy, there was not any new perspective or new opportunity for me,” Yari says. “So I say, I go to Toronto just to see how is it. Actually my goal was, I just want to do an exhibition. I did three.” He smiles proudly.

He was also unrelenting in his pursuit of photography opportunities. Aside from his personal artistic projects, he also worked with many event organizers to cover club nights, yacht parties, dance workshops and cultural events all around the city. Through these things he built up a sizeable network of clients who knew to contact him anytime they needed photography done. Unfortunately, for every good experience there was the occasional client who would hold off on payment indefinitely, leaving him frustrated and short on funds.

Every creative individual can sympathize with these experiences, and this of course leads one back to the question of how to make a consistent living as a photographer when there’s the constant danger of not getting paid – or paid enough.

It’s a hard time to be an artist right now.

In contrast, he talks about his brother, one year older than him, who has lived in the same place for years, has a steady job, and a long term live-in girlfriend. He knows his brother is happy. But he also knows that his own path is inevitably a different one. After his stay in Toronto (during which he detoured down to Youngstown, Ohio to take compelling portraits of a town and its residents feeling of the effect of the economy), he returned to Italy, and them went on to Geneva.

“I’m still happy because I feel totally free,” he says. “I have not any boss to talk, and I’m self-employed so I have all the control of my work, of my job; this is maybe the price that I have to pay. But I’m still happy. There’s people that make maybe $3,000 per month, but they have to work hard and maybe they have bad co-workers, a boss who is an asshole, and they have to give a lot of

about everything, they are under control…I have not anything of this. I prefer to pay this price and feel free. Poor and happy.”

But despite this – or perhaps because of it – Yari is hopeful.

If things work out in Paris, where he’s heading after his spell in Geneva, he says he might just stay there for good. With all the travelling he has done, he’s beginning to feel the toll of leaving all the time. But for someone like him, as much as the travelling takes out of him, the parts of himself that he leaves behind are ways to remember for friends who are undeniably touched by his brief presence in their lives. This was made obvious by the number of people who made a point of coming out to say farewell several days before he left Toronto.

When someone travels as much as Yari has done, it often becomes apparent that they are searching for something intangible – a sense of meaning, love, understanding of the world, or just a place to call home.

But when it comes to the latter, he will readily admit that he has no idea where he will eventually settle. For someone like Yari, though, this uncertainty also holds an element of excitement; the joy of wandering out into the unknown to discover the mysteries it holds.

If life can be called a journey, then this is one uncharted adventure where the map is just being drawn along the way.


3 thoughts on “Seeking Happiness: The Life of an Artist through the Lens of Photographer Yari Sacco

  1. A sense of warmth emanates from Yari’s smile. This visual language drew me to this post. And subsequently demanded that I repost to my blog! Thank you for sharing your views toward art and modern expression!

  2. Pingback: Seeking Happiness: The Life of an Artist through the Lens of Photographer Yari Sacco | Earth & Sea Creative

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