Researched by Roberta Pastore
Born 27 years ago in Orvieto, lives and works in Florence. Professional photographer since 2009 thanks to the passion inherited from his father that, at the early age of 10, gave him his first film camera. A passion that soon become work in 2012 with the birth of his photographic studio, the “Studio Fotografico Firenze” together Florence born photographer Nicola Santini. The experience gained snap after snap allows him to specialize working with national level companies, international ones (ENI, SNAI, BRUNELLO CUCINELLI etc .. etc.) and industry professionals like Alessandro Del Piero, Andrea Bocelli, etc. etc. His passion led him in recent years to travel, to travel the world with a backpack and his inseparable LEICA M9 which allowed him to describe places, stories, people and emotions that only through a photo could be told. Involved in social work with various non-profit organization that, in addition to producing reportages about integration in Italy, he has travelled several times in Africa and Asia. Its leitmotiv? “Inside of me there are two types of photographer: one that does it as a work and one that does it for passion.”
Going back in time how was your passion for photography born and how did you start in the professional world of photography?
I have the great luck to have a photographer as a father and he taught me everything I know about photography and how you manage light and space. At only 16 he introduced me to the working world, giving me the opportunity to assist him during his shooting, at 18 I had my first photo shoot on my own, I still remember it, a couple of Scots that came to Umbria to get married, at the age of 20, in 2009, I opened my own photography studio in Florence.
I must say that I consider my last job in Africa, “Contrast” (“Contrasto”), a good job, definitely the best I’ve done so far, given that for the first time I was able to tell a story I cared about without any string attached. What I consider “real photography” is something else, I am inspired by the great masters of what I call Photography with a capital P, and it’s not up me to say if this latest work has remotely approached such levels, though, if this were true it would be a source of great pride for me and a sign that I’m on the right track.
What is photography to you? And what should not be instead ?
Photography for me is testimony and storytelling. What should not be? It should not be a falsified testimony by a influenced photographer, a photographer who wants to exploit a fact, an event in order to impose his views. I believe that a good photographer is the one that while telling us a fact, makes us understand what his opinion is, without “slamming it in our face”, taking us to his point of view, but without being insistent. On one hand the story that takes place, on the other hand the opinion of the photographer. Photography must not be used for personal purposes, for ulterior motives, but to remember, to be a useful tool for those who benefit from it.
How would you describe your style?
I do not think I yet have my own style, I think that for a photographer that is the hardest thing to build, if I should succeed in that at the end of my career, it would be an important milestone. With all the books I’ve looked at and read, I think that for now, also given that I am quite young, I am influenced by the great names in photography, and that, even if unconsciously, I am also inspired by them in some shots and compositions.
What is the photo that struck you the most of a great historical photographer?
Alex Webb, Bombardopolis, Haiti, 1986. That is not a photo, it is a story, it is an album of photos, there we see the great skill of a great artist, that toying with the composition and managing maniacally spaces can tell a “world” in one click.
What was your first camera?
My first camera was a Yashica FX-3 super 2000, I am very fond of it as it was given to me when I was 10 by my father for my first holy communion. A funny story about this machine is that it was the first with whom I “worked”, I remember in fact having this machine always hanging from my neck, any day of the week, I used to go with my grandmother to the cafe of the village where I lived, and there I took photos at all her friends, photos that I later sold them, once developed, to buy those “essential goods” that serve to a 10-year-old child. Still today I charge some film in it and I award myself shooting afternoons with my trusty camera.
What is your favourite technique?
I really enjoy taking pictures in slow times and small aperture, I love the 1/24 sec time because it is the midway between a photo with a little movement and a photo quite still. For now, I prefer the 28mm and I’m training to use this lens, managing space with a 28mm is not simple and even its usage is not easy, since it forces you to be very close to the subject. My dream is to get to use a 21mm lens and to realize dynamic photographs, filled, with no gaps. It will take a long time and a lot of work, but I have age on my side.
How do you manage colour and B&W?
In these days I am reading “Colour Theory” by Itten. It is important to understand what are the colours that may or may not go together, so that while shooting you can go find matching pairs. Manage color or B/W is not simple, it all depends on what you want to tell, in my last job I decided to use “Black and White”, because since in some pictures there is blood, I did not want the red colour “screaming” too much, distracting the viewer from what I want my message to be. With B/W you can also tell sad stories in a sweeter way. Mimmo Jodice, that I consider a great photographer said: “Colour is the description, black and white is imagination.”
Which kind of camera do you use?
Currently in my kit I have a Canon Eos 5D Mark III and a Leica M9. Two completely different machines and my approach to photography with them changes profoundly. The camera does not make the photographer, that’s obvious, but the way of operating the camera that I have with the M9 and the rangefinder is very different from when I shoot with Canon, the M9 gives me time to study and to see the photo in advance. Surely it is a psychological thing, but with the LEICA I have another type of relationship.
What determines if a photo is “good one” or not?
For me the good photo is one that is well done, it says something, leaves a message and it works.
When you are shooting, do you have an image in your mind? Do you build the final photo before shooting it or are your images also a result of a post-production phase?
I compose my images during shooting, I am absolutely opposed to distort reality with the help of post-production, as I said before to me photography is a testimony. The photographer is like a journalist and instead of writing with words, he does it with light. I try to imagine the shot while I’m doing it and that’s why the rangefinder helps me a lot, it makes me see what’s going to happen before it enters the camera field of view. Sometimes when I see a specific picture I wait to realize the right shot even for a few minutes.
What training did you follow? Who inspired you?
I was and I am inspired by the great Magnum photographers, I have studied many many books, I have visited photo and art exhibitions, I have seen photographic projects, I have met other photographers and I have compared myself with them. Next year I will participate in a workshop with Ernesto Bazan and I am very eager to meet him in person to try to learn as much as possible from a great photographer like him.
What is your best shot and what does it represent for you?
Very often the favorite shots of each photographer are not the best ones they have taken, because in those pictures the author can see a memory, an emotion, a feeling, and he can remember word for word the path that has brought to realize that shot. My favorite at the moment is one that I have taken in Burma in 2015. I really like the contrast between the subject and a dog, both characters seem to taking the same motion.
What is your relationship with the street and the people who are in your shots?
I try to give back to the people I take pictures of what they are giving me, as soon as I see an interesting situation I try to build a relationship with the person I’m going to shoot, even if only with a nod with my eyes. After making a shot that I like, when there is an opportunity to talk, even just to say hello I try to do that; with the mere fact of being there at that time, they gave me a memory, a testimony that without them I could not have told.
Tell us about your project Contrasto, how was it born? What were, if there were any, the difficulties to carry it out ?
My project “Contrasto” stems from my encounter with an Italian non-profit organization: “Oltre le Parole / Beyond words” that totally trusted me to tell what they have done in these last 20 years. With their aid, four hospitals were built in Uganda and also lots of schools that have given more than 400,000 children the opportunity to study. I wanted to tell the “contrast” that I found in this land of strong “contrasts”. Where joy and sorrow meet and clash, where the screams of joy of the children broke the deafening silence of the hospitals.
Personal Web Site :