Chess Portraits by Francesco Ridolfi

Often, inside each one of us, opposing drives make themselves felt and alternate within as light illuminates and shadow darkens our minds. Black and White. Good plays Evil. Chess figures offer an opportunity to explore this dualism.

“Often, inside each one of us, opposing drives make themselves felt and alternate within as light illuminates and shadow darkens our minds. Black and White. Good plays Evil. Chess figures offer an opportunity to explore this dualism. They provide a set of archetypes that convey different aspects of human nature.

They throw us into relief; they highlight us in shadow and light. Blacks and Whites.”

Francesco Ridolfi

Francesco Ridolfi - Queen White

Queen White

Francesco Ridolfi - Queen Black

Queen Black

Roots, behind the scene and production of the project

I have always been fascinating about Chess. When I was a child, my father taught me the rules of the game and we were used to play together. That said, I’m not certainly an expert on it, but still today I love to play chess with friends. So, probably this is the original roots of the whole idea.

Talking on the photographic side of the project, the idea to humanize the different pieces of the chess board came to me probably a couple of years ago, and it took a while to grow up and shape in my mind.

To me, the most interesting part of the whole project, was the possibility to portray the same character both in Black and White. To highlight different and sometimes opposite parts of the human nature, that often coexist in each of us. As a portrait photographer, I’ve always been interested in these different feelings that could emerge in the subjects in front of my lens.

The fact that the chess game has a set of 6 different archetypes (the King, the Queen, the Bishop, the Rook, the Knight, the Pawn) to work with, gives me the possibility to explore different part of the human nature. And, actually, it was a great source of inspiration to play with period dresses and costumes. I did a long research to find the right costume style for each character, than an extensive search for the perfect fabrics, travelling along the entire region. The fact that each costume has been made both in Black and White, complicated a bit the whole process but in the end the result repaid me for all the efforts done!

I had the luck to work with a really great crew of people, from my assistant Gemma Benassi, who helped me along the entire project, to the clothes designer Elena Rapa, who has done a wonderful job with sketches, putting on paper my ideas, to the Scissor Lab guys and Anna Rizzoli who has been in charge for the production of the 12 different dresses. A special thanks also goes to Andrea Aiudi, a great artist who creates the personalized objects for each character (crowns, sceptres, bishop’s crooks, medallions..).

Probably the longest part of the entire project has been the talents’ casting. It has been done mostly online, but I also met some people to better understand if they really fit for the role. It required me about 3 months in total, but I feel I’ve really got what I was looking for.

From the beginning to the end, the entire project requires nine months of work.

Francesco Ridolfi - King White

King White

About Francesco Ridolfi

Francesco Ridolfi is a portrait photographer active in both the commercial and artistic fields. His work has been acknowledged and published in Italy and internationally.

For commercial work, Francesco is represented in Italy by Take Production, while his artistic research is promoted in the UK by the Doinel Gallery of London.  Francesco loves photography that succeeds in seizing the passing moment, but is drawn more deeply by frames that, in finalising a project of research, find the right form for a well-conceived idea.

He has recently begun using video – a natural extension of his photographic work. Francesco’s working life is divided between Bologna, Milan and Brussels, for commercial and editorial assignments. [Official Website]
Francesco Ridolfi - King Black

King Black

05- Chess Portraits - Bishop White

Bishop White

06- Chess Portraits - Bishop Black

Bishop Black

07- Chess Portraits - Rook White

Rook White

08- Chess Portraits - Rook Black

Rook Black

09- Chess Portraits - Knight White

Knight White

Francesco Ridolfi - Knight Black

Knight Black

Francesco Ridolfi - Pawn White

Pawn White

Francesco Ridolfi - Pawn Black

Pawn Black

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