The IFDM interviews: Delfino Sisto Legnani

Despite not yet having turned 40, Delfino Sisto Legnani is a prominent name in the field of architectural photography. Described as a “tireless inventor of projects”, Legnani has not limited his creativity to photography and in our conversation, he shares the engine that drives him to constantly search for new ideas and take on new projects

Delfino Sisto Legnani

What has photography been for you?
While I was studying at university, it was a tool for representing projects that I was studying. Then, through Ramak Fazel, I discovered that it could be a profession. I was working in an architecture studio then I met Ramak and from next day onwards I never went back. I realised that photography could be a medium for exploring reality that interested me. I owe him a lot. Most of all he taught me an attitude to gentleness that was perhaps innate in me. I discovered that there also exists a way of working that is soft and sensitive, in which one guides the client towards certain choices.

© Delfino Sisto Legnani

As well as your photography studio, you have founded an art space, MEGA, a publishing house, a herbal infusion company and NM3, a furniture company and design studio with Nicolò Ornaghi and Francesco Zorzi. What drives you to seek out new ideas?
Curiosity, coupled with a certain restlessness, has always accompanied me. The former underpins my approach to life, the latter is an inescapable condition. I am a great absorber of non-fiction literature. I am curious to see how my point of view of the world encounters that of the others. During the time when I was getting into photography, my father died and I threw myself into my work. It was a way of surviving the loneliness. Throwing myself into work was a way of making up for the lack of a proper family. Over the years, then, I have found more than just work, and I tried to dismantle this system based on filling oneself with things to do.

This idea of an extended family is a constant: in your work groups we can glimpse this ability to connect and create community.
It’s true, my creative process passes a lot through others. I think that one of my qualities is being able to bring out the best in others. DSL is a horizontal studio were we practice our work collaboratively, a tried-and-tested machine that can take on huge projects. We are able to manage “impossible’ jobs in terms of timing and quantity of work thanks to collaboration with seven professionals, all pulling in the same direction. By doing things like this we manage to do a lot of research on individual projects, raising the quality of what we do. The exchange of opinions internally allows us to always ask the questions necessary for producing quality work. On the one hand there is a a lot of intuition but there is also a large amount of participated shared design.

© Delfino Sisto Legnani

You touched on an important point, describing the process that is found in you being a photographer, publisher, gallery owner, designer. Do you think that being an architect is the hallmark of your approach to design?
Experiences in university, then in an architecture practice, then in the editorial team at Domus trained me to have great respect for delivery deadlines and the needs of the client. My process starts with a great curiosity that begins with synthesis, passes through rigour and arrives in the end to functionality. My approach is based on synthesis: it is an attempt to abstract from the complexity of the real in order to produce simple but articulated images based on my unique point of view. This is found in the design shared with my partners at NM3, where, both in communication and in design, indeed, a great rigor and an even more radical way of working emerge. 

© Delfino Sisto Legnani