Claudio is Deeya and Elisa’s stepdad. I ask him what kind of relationship he maintains with his stepdaughters. “I try to do my best! I’m learning every day. I don’t have children myself but I love being a stepdad. I’m very attached to my stepdaughters. They’re both very different.
Deeya is very rational and steady. Elisa is more versatile. They both have their own talents. They make each other complete and it’s fascinating to watch.”
Claudio is a photographer and translator. He was born to an Italian father and a German mother. “My parents were literature teachers. My paternal grandparents were painters, and there’s a long tradition of artists and writers in my family. On my maternal side they were artisans, and my great- great-grandfather was a saddle maker. My mum still has objects that he produced 150 years ago.”
Claudio has been all over the world. He was born in the United States but lives in France. “I first showed up here to teach photography to American students in 2008. I came every summer for two and a half months, and in 2012 I made the decision to stay in France. I grew up in Italy and Germany so I knew that I would come back to live in Europe. I was tempted by Berlin. But every time I came to Paris, I was completely charmed by the city.”
When I ask him to describe himself, Claudio says that he wavers between two extremes. “I can go from optimism straight to melancholy. I think that this sensitivity is a good thing if it works in a balanced way.
I’m a living contradiction between decisive action and hesitation. My life is about navigating these opposing winds.”
His motto is a phrase borrowed from Mick Jagger: “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
A book that he’ll never forget? “Yeah, we were talking about this with friends last night. It’s One River, a story about botany in the Amazon. The book takes you through the different generations of scientists who have worked there. It was given to me as a present and I hadn’t thought that I’d like it but within two pages I was gripped. I read the whole thing in four days. Everyone I’ve given it to has loved it.”
I ask Claudio about the artists he likes. “There are so many! In the world of photography, for example… For me, the biggest is Atget. But there’s also Robert Frank or Cartier Bresson.
With Atget, there is this sense of indecipherable mystery. Looking at his photos is like hearing the photographer whisper without making sense of what he’s actually saying. Like a light noise which unsettles you. The perspective is never perfect, but it’s beautiful. He was so good, he knew how to avoid perfection.”
The people who inspire him? “When I look around, I can see loads of admirable people who work hard and outdo themselves. From the lady who does some cleaning for us, to scientists and artists. All those people who push the boundaries of what we know, who dream and thereby see what could be possible. In this sense, I find my stepdaughters really inspiring, because they’ve got so much imagination. But if I had to choose one person, it would be Usha, my partner. She’s my sunshine, the star by which I navigate.”
Claudio loves to cook, especially Italian ragout. Among all his countries of origin, it’s Italian cuisine that he prefers, followed by French and then Indian.
His favourite drink? “Water from the wells of my childhood, which was so incredibly sweet. Or a really good French or Italian wine.”
His hopes for the future? “A world of peace and stability in every sense: politically, environmentally, economically. So that my stepdaughters can flourish and by happy.”