Physics + Photos: Meet Davide Greco
Visitors to the Argentina Plaza, Expo Milan, 2015. All images by Davide Greco unless otherwise noted.

Physics + Photos: Meet Davide Greco

Written by Neil Hughes

Topics: Art

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…

A portrait of Davide by Vanessa Vettorello, 2016

Multiple lives

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.

While he worked as a researcher, Davide’s photographic excursions produced images like this one, of a couple celebrating the Swiss National Day.

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.”

Backstage on a film, Geneva, 2014

Wedding arrangement, Turin, 2011

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.

Big changes

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.

Fashion photography is part of Davide’s professional repertoire. He covered this event, in Milan, in 2016.

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).

Gas station at dawn along the A14 highway near Piceno, Italy, 2016 (From the “Transit lounge” series)

Gas station at dawn along the A14 highway near Le Saline, Italy, 2016 (From the “Transit lounge” series)

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”.

Laussane Choir concert at St. Joseph’s church. Lausanne, 2013.

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.”

A street scene taken a few days ago in Davide’s home town of Turin, where he currently lives.

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.

Your Turn

How does Davide’s story resonate with you? Have you ever taken a big risk, or reassessed your life after a major event?

neil_authorbioNeil 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.

9 Comments

  1. Inggrid says:

    Omg! Amazing! So proud of You Dave! I am also a dancer that dances everything from Traditional Balinese dance, Brazilian Samba, Kpop, Contemporary, Jazz and hip hop all my friends told me to specialise and I can’t. It’s like Moana trying to go to the sea but the village chief told u not to.

    Keep being true to yourself, dreams do come true :)

    • Davide says:

      Hi Ingridd! I admire your dancing skills since I’m really the worst italian ever in dancing. I didn’t know about the story about Moana, but I googled it because I was curious :) Where are you from?

  2. Rebecca says:

    What a fantastic idea – a visual representation of multipotentialites. I love it! It’s a great way to encourage people to judge less and think beyond the first/only aspect they see of somebody.

    • Davide says:

      Thank you Rebecca! I really hope I can change something in a positive way :) It’s not easy, but I trust in the power of photography!

  3. Well done David! I am a fine art artist who has exhibited internationally but now working full time as an employee in a large home improvement store. I have a desire to be a publish writer and songwriter. I have written songs and sung some in public… but can’t play music . I have fashion ideas of combining my art with fashion but can’t find an ethical manufacturer that will do small runs… I love speaking in public and making people laugh and being inspired,

    Living in New Zealand with a big mortgage is detaining me from pursuing my creative desires but I’ll get there eventually if I keep getting inspired by people like you all.
    I am glad I am not alone in being a multipotentialite who is pursuing more than two or three goals.
    My big boss does not understand why I keep wanting to change departments every now and then while being so good in my roles.
    Some think I am fickle so they are scared to put me forward into leadership …but it’s because I need challenges and I know I can excel at them if given the chance to do it.
    In fact, I was named as one of the most important persons to have in the company to keep the business going well when the leaders were given an exercise to pick their own valued team members.
    Thanks to you all, I know I am not an unstable adult.

    • Davide says:

      Hi Amanda,
      Thank you for sharing your story! I don’t know If I can be an inspiration, but I appreciate it.

      It’s good that your leaders recognized the importance of your role inside the company, despite the need to keep changing roles. You definitely have the multipotential super-powers mentioned by Emilie :)
      Of course pursuing different goals can be frustrating, but it’s never easy even for those who have one goal. I think everything needs time. Just keep going following your dreams and your beautiful art! Things happen!

  4. Marijke says:

    Too bad I don’t live near you, my first thought was: when can you take pictures of me? ?

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Hehe, hopefully Davide will find some collaborations as a result of this post. Excited to see more of his work :)

  5. Dawn Dunsmore says:

    Hi,
    I’m nearly finished with my own book with the working title
    Finding Your Hidden Story: How to find, image and edit your paradigm using a simple system of meme filters
    It’s central metaphor is that a paradigm is like a photo collage made up of memes (Richard Dawson’s original definition, not necessarily the internet version)
    However photography has not been one of my projects and so I am asking photographers if they would be willing to let me pick their brains on developing their eye, and what filters really are.