prof profile: Paolo Favero

prof profile: Paolo Favero (© Ali Zaidi | dwars)
Bron/externe fotograaf

Ali Zaidi

The Prof Profile shows professors like you’ve never seen them before, as people. dwars asks the questions that have been bugging students for years; “What does your lecturer eat for breakfast”, for example. Paolo S.H. Favero will be at the receiving end of this month’s cross-examining. He is a visual anthropologist, specialised in documentaries and teaches core courses in the master Film Studies and Visual Culture. He was born in Italy, lived in Scandinavia and travels all over the world.

If you could work together with another director on a film or documentary, who would that be?

Robert Garner, the author of the best documentary on India that was ever made, according to me: Forest of Bliss. It is a must-see for everybody. However, Gardner is dead, so I can imagine that the best thing I could do some day is to make a film imagining what he would do.


What technological invention changed film, according to you?

I would think that the arrival of lightweight cameras and LCD screens, followed by wearable cameras (such as action cams, GoPros, etc.) really have added something to established ways of making documentaries. With lightweight cameras, filming could enter spaces previously unavailable, making especially ethnographic films available to more people. With the LCD screen, a third eye got introduced into a filming setting (the eye of the filmmaker no longer coincided with the viewfinder of the camera and a new triangle of gazes was born). Finally, with action cams the body of the user becomes the viewfinder, making us rethink ideas of framing, composition, movement, etc.


When do you feel most creative?

In the earliest hours of the day, when the light has not yet taken control of the spaces in which we live. In the silence of a city that yet has to wake up, accompanied tea and some background music I generally find my way to write and work on images at the best of my capacity. However, ideas also often come to me in an entirely different situation: in the shower after a run. In those moments, new insights pop up into your mind that seem so obvious that you wonder why you never thought of them before. 


What do you eat for breakfast?

I always start with some lukewarm water and then tea, the rest is never the same, sometimes sweet, sometimes salty … Sometimes I do not eat at all. Coffee generally comes once I reach the office.


What was your first job?

As my first student job, I taught guitar to elementary school kids, in a school run by nuns! I loved it.


Do you feel that this experience in any way adds to your teaching at University?

I guess that kids taught me that the best way to teach is by showing things, not really by teaching. Be playful, contradictory and especially allow students to question you regardless of their age. (I hope I live up to this ideal.)


What kind of music do you listen to?

Everything from Indian and Western classical music to jazz, psy-trance and electronic. I love Radiohead and Bon Iver.


You have been to many countries, how would you describe the countries you lived in with a few words?

Italy – beautiful deceiver.

India – beautiful deceiver number two with much more people and a scent of heaven on top of it.

Sweden – my safe haven.

Belgium – a common-sense, but indeed surreal country, much warmer and welcoming however than most Europeans think.


You have lived in four countries, was this for work or just because you yourself wanted the experience?

I am a child of migration, so displacement is a feeling I have learned to befriend since I was a child. My roaming is a result of that, but also of my curiosity and indeed of my professional choices.


Which of the world kitchens is your favourite, and what is your favourite meal?

Indian! Indian kababs (chopped pieces of meat marinated in spices and yoghurt)! Funny enough, I was a vegetarian for many years and I rarely eat meat otherwise.


Who was the most interesting person you ever met?

Tough one. I guess I have always been attracted more by those I have never met. My grandfathers fascinate me deeply because I never met them (the Swedish one died 6 years before my birth and the Italian one 11 months after my birth). I carry the ring of the former and I recently found a ring belonging to the latter too. I only have a picture of me with the latter, the Italian one. Yet he has his back turned to the camera. An uncanny posture that always fascinated me.


Do you have any tattoos?

I do. Many nature made and a future one that I promised to make for a special ritualistic occasion.


What do you do to relieve stress (from work)? You have already mentioned you go for a run, something else?

I meditate every second morning and I run every other day. I also love my beer and wine after a day of work. In a way, I guess I am a bit paradoxical. I build the temple in the morning and destroy it by night.


How do you handle tight deadlines? Students might learn from your tips.

By taking them one by one. Mountaineers teach you that when you climb or hike you should never look at the top of the mountain (your end goal) but only at the top of your toes (a step at the time).