Black Queen

Chess Portraits

I have always been fascinated by the game of chess. When I was a child, my father taught me the rules and we used to play together. So probably, this is the origin of the whole idea. In terms of the photographic side of the project, the idea to humanize the different pieces on the chess board came to me around a couple of years ago, and it took a while to germinate and take shape in my mind. To me, the most interesting part of the whole undertaking was the possibility of portraying the same character both in Black and White. To highlight the different and sometimes contradictory parts of human nature that often coexist inside each of us. As a portrait photographer, I’ve always been interested in these distinct emotions that could emerge from the subjects in front of my lens. The fact that the chess game has a set of six different archetypes (the King, the Queen, the Bishop, the rook, the Knight and the Pawn) to work with gives me the opportunity to explore the diverse sides of the human nature. and actually, it was a great source of inspiration to play with period dress and costumes. I did lengthy research to find the right costume style for each character, then an extensive search for the perfect fabrics, travelling across the entire region . The fact that each costume has been made both in Black and White complicated the whole process a little, but in the end the results more than repaid me for all the efforts I had put in! Probably the longest part of the entire project has been casting the talent. It took up about three months of my time in total, but I feel i’ve really got what I was looking for. From the beginning to the end, the entire project has taken nine months of work.

Francesco Ridolfi

Francesco Ridolfi is an italian portrait photographer who normally shoots for advertising and editorial projects (his clients include: rolling stone Magazine, Auchan, caterpillar, louis Vuitton and Tetra Pak). Born and raised in Bologna, Italy, he now divides his time between Brussels, Milan and Bologna working for different clients and carrying out assignments in the editorial and commercial fields.

Artist’s statement about the project

“Often, inside each one of us, opposing forces make themselves felt and alternate within as light illuminates and shadow darkens our minds. Black and White. Good versus evil. Chess figures offer an opportunity to explore this dualism. They provide a set of archetypes that convey different aspects of human nature. They throw us into relief; they highlight us in shadow and light. Blacks and Whites.”

The Prints

Archival Digital Pigment prints
ILFORD Galerie Prestige Smooth Pearl paper

Edition & Sizes

24″ x 24″ (60 x 60 cm) edition of 7
47″ x 47″ (120 x 120 cm) edition of 5


Chess Portraits – Behind the scenes


Artworks in this series