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© Flavia Leuenberger Ceppi, Butte, Ticinese in Montana, 2023

Flavia Leuenberger Ceppi. Flavia (1985) attended the CSIA art school in Lugano and graduated in 2004 with a diploma in graphic design. After several years of professional experience in the field of photography, she founded her own agency in 2010. She offers both graphic design and photography services and complements her commercial work with personal work.

In 2013, Flavia  started a project dedicated to Swiss-Italian emigrants. She portrayed Ticino families in the USA and Australia and documented how these families had settled in the USA from the mid-19th century. The result is a photo reportage that combines past and present.

The pictures were exhibited at the Swiss Consulate in San Francisco in October 2022. She won first prize in the Swiss Press Photo Award in the portrait category in 2015 and second prize in 2023. Flavia tells SIYU how she realised the project.

What was your motivation for the emigrant project? I was planning a trip to the USA in 2013. As a self-employed person, I want to find projects that have a connection to Ticino when travelling abroad. The topic of emigration from Ticino has always fascinated me.
How did you go about it? I read books by Giorgio Cheda, historian and emigration expert, and compiled a list of the surnames of people who emigrated from Ticino towards the end of the 19th century. I then sent hundreds of letters to these people in the hope that someone would join the project. At the same time, I did research on the Internet.
How did you reconstruct the past for the photos? In some houses, people put up family artefacts or historical photographs. In others, I specifically asked if they had any objects that linked them to their origins. With this type of portrait, it's interesting to connect the setting with the family history as well as with objects that make the connection immediately visible.
You've been self-employed for 13 years. Have there also been difficult times? I became a mum in 2019 and wanted to cut back a little on the commissions. However, I feared that this would weaken my relationship with customers. Five years later, I realise that this was not the case and I have managed to achieve a good work-family balance. New collaborations have also emerged in the meantime.
Why did you become a photographer? Despite my degree in commercial art, photography remained a passion that I was fortunate to be able to pursue in my first job - in a communications studio that offered both graphic design and photography.
What is your commercial focus? These jobs are mainly portraits or reportages for Swiss newspapers, collaborations with graphic design studios and food photography for a large Swiss supermarket.
What do you expect from membership of the association? A new opportunity for professional development.
What does the picture published below show? It shows the Vanina family on the land where their ranch stood in Woodville on the outskirts of Butte, Montana, USA. Although my photo project deals with the theme of emigration, it departs from the classic portrait: it is a series of vintage photographs printed on transparent glossy paper and placed in the area where the families lived.