When at night we close our eyes, the ensuing darkness wraps us in a blanket of fear. Photographer Lele Saveri’s latest book, Incubi et Succubi, is about turning this notion on its head, bringing his most intimate nightmares to light through visual tales of fear—and love.
Olivia Fincato: Why “incubi”?
Lele Saveri: I wanted to do something around horror. I grew up in Rome with Dario Argento and the [Roman Catholic] Church. I remember going to Dario’s shop; I loved that little museum with props, dummies and images of his movies. Then I remember going to church; my parents weren’t so religious but it was the only place to hang out. I was always fascinated with horror and mystic forces. In this book, I wanted to recreate visually one of my nightmares. I tried to visualize some recurrent images… It was also a way to exorcize them.
Olivia: What is your most hidden fear?
Lele: I am scared of many, many things. Physically, I am very scared of snakes. Mentally, I am very scared of wasting time… If I sleep more then five hours, I freak out.
Olivia: And how do you exorcize those fears….
Lele: For snakes, I directly face them! I did a photography project on snake compositions. I had to touch and move them around. I tried not to think about it and keep doing things…but when I stopped, I started shaking.
Olivia: And why “succubi”?
Lele: Incubi et succubi, incubus and succubus, are two demons, male and female. In the past, they were used to explain nightmares. If you had a bad dream, the Church would explain it as this little evil being coming in the night. If you were a woman, there was an incubus visiting your dreams; if were a man, a succubus.
Olivia: Really sexually related…
Lele: Yes, but I was more interested in the way they were used to reassure people…
Olivia: How long did you work in this project?
Lele: I started a year ago. During this year, I traveled a lot. I went to Sicily and Rome for some religious subjects, then I went to Staten Island to visit some haunted houses… Finally I went to New Jersey to shoot snakes—there are so many snake lovers in New Jersey!
Olivia: Who was the most melancholic character featured in the book?
Lele: I am interested in how the Church would represent the devil in human forms and this subject, the giudei of San Fratello, is very interesting. They are a group of 200 people in a small Sicilian village of 2,000. They dress up during the week of Easter to celebrate the death of Jesus, and they disappear after his resurrection. In the past they were supposed to scare people.
Olivia: They are more odd then scary… What is was the scariest thing you photographed?
Lele: This book was a full immersion into fear. In Sicily, two kids on a scooter tried to rob us in the middle of the day on the main street of Catania. That was scary. Then I was afraid of this big snake biting the owner, or when we got locked in the cemetery of Rome….there was a black cat following us everywhere.
Olivia: Some of the photos are very romantic indeed…
Lele: Fear is one of the most fascinating things for me. It is a strong emotional that makes you feel alive. I look at fear with love.
Olivia: Your girlfriend Giulia was one of the main inspirations for this book…
Lele: During this project, Giulia was always next to me and everything was in some way related to her. When the idea of the title came into my mind, I realized that I’ve been always chasing somebody in my nightmare. She is my succubus. I also like the idea of being scared with somebody else, feeling protected.
Olivia: Together with Giulia, you also directed a short movie, To Lie Under, which corresponds to the book.
Lele: Yes, everything you see on the pages of the book was also filmed. The movie To Lie Under explains the figure of the succube. The soundtrack is amazing. After we shot and edited the piece, the band No Age created the music inspired by the images.
All images courtesy of Lele Saveri