When Davide Greco discovered multipotentiality, it was like a lightbulb went off in his mind. This is a pretty normal reaction. We humans are always relieved to discover that we’re not as weird and alone as we feared.
However, for Davide, this realization was doubly inspirational. Not only did he now understand himself better, he also had that most exciting of things: an idea.
To fully appreciate this idea, it helps to know a little of his life story. I interviewed the Italian multipotentialite last week over Skype from his home in Turin, and this is what I learned…
In what he calls his “past life” Davide was an aerospace engineer, graduating from the Polytechnic University of Turin in 2009, before taking a Fluid Dynamics masters at the Von Karman Institute in Brussels, and finally working in further research at a laboratory in Geneva.
Nobody goes so far into such a specialized field without passion, and it’s clear from talking to Davide that he loves fluid dynamics as much as anybody reasonably could. As a fellow physics enthusiast, I recognized his desire to deeply understand how everything works, and his thrill at tackling challenging problems.
He spoke about how his rigorous research consumed his life: “You never know what time the day will finish… sometimes 6pm, sometimes midnight.”
However, this intense level of specialization led to a familiar multipotentialite tension. He began to feel constrained. Naturally he needed an outlet, which he found in another longtime passion: photography.
For years, taking pictures and studying photography had been a source of enjoyment. He began to put more time into it, and what began as a hobby became something more. Friends—and soon, strangers—invited him to capture their weddings, parties and portraits.
The more he fed this passion, the more it grew. He soon fell in love with the way a picture tells a story—it can become a vehicle for satisfying his curiosity, entering people’s lives and gaining access to situations that are usually inaccessible from the outside. Before long, Davide was part of a passionate community of photographers. He “was thinking about photography all the time.”
As we know, there’s no One True Way to be a multipotentialite. Many people happily work a specialized job with creative outlets outside the workplace; others aim to turn their creative passions into sustainable businesses; and yet more divide their time however they feel is right. And so it’s possible that Davide might have remained in engineering, if two major life events hadn’t coincided at the end of 2014.
Just as his current contract with his employer ended, his brother passed away. This unexpected sorrow led Davide to reassess his priorities, and he realized that fear was no reason not to pursue photography, which had clearly become his greatest passion.
As he puts it, the fears that were keeping him from pursuing a career in photography–fear of professional failure, mostly–couldn’t possibly be as bad as the experience of losing his brother. Rather than taking the seemingly easier path of searching for another job in engineering, he decided to take a risk. He moved back to Italy to study photography and build his business around it.
Today, this decision has paid off. He now has more clients and ideas for projects than he can possibly manage. During our conversation, he spent some time explaining his grand plans for a future project (which he insists is “very top secret”) about human interactions with technology. By the end, his passion was so evident that I was genuinely excited to see this project (which only exists in his mind, for now).
Davide laughs at the idea that, now that he’s finding success in photography, he might start to feel constrained again. He is certain that photography is a discipline wide enough to contain all of his other interests.
In a move typical for a sequential multipotentialite—someone who throws themselves fully into interest after interest—he brings elements of his past lives (in his case, engineering) into his current life. This gives him a unique gift as a photographer as his scientific background and engineer’s mentality help to plan photos and projects, and to tinker with the systems he uses to create his art.
Davide’s eye for detail, together with his passion for storytelling, leads him to favor portraiture. It’s important to him that his images are real. He refuses to mock up a situation, believing that the story of a person is best told through snapshots of reality, rather than “creating something from nothing”.
To Be Or…To Be?
And this brings us to Davide’s idea.
While watching Emilie’s TED talk, he was struck by the examples she gave of people living multiple identities. And in that moment he was inspired to pursue a new project: using photography to explore the many sides of individual multipotentialites.
The To Be Or…To Be? project was born. The idea was so simple that Davide was surprised that he couldn’t find anybody else who was already doing it—at least, not in the way that he visualized. So, he sought out multipotentialites in order to photograph them himself.
These images are surprisingly powerful. It’s striking how quickly the brain forms a story when looking at one of the To Be Or…To Be? photos. We see a chef, and immediately imagine a narrative for their entire life. But this is quickly contradicted by the other photos, and we’re reminded that our mentally-constructed narratives are terribly and necessarily incomplete.
Davide hopes to use this project to explore attitudes towards multipotentiality and remind us all of the complexity of individuals.
And, perhaps most importantly, he wants to inspire us by simply sharing the stories of other multipotentialites. He believes that seeing someone who is living multiple identities can help us to believe that we can do the same: “If people have an example to follow, then they know the option exists for them, too.”
Davide on Puttylike
Are you dying to check out Davide’s multipotentialite portraits? Good news! At Puttylike, we’re very excited to be featuring the To Be or…To Be project over the coming months. We appreciate Davide as an inspiring multipotentialite in his own right and we’re thrilled that we get to enjoy his work as this new project develops. We look forward to exploring our reactions to the work as a community, starting in May.
How does Davide’s story resonate with you? Have you ever taken a big risk, or reassessed your life after a major event?
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at www.walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.
Davide Greco is online at www.davidegreco.net.