Researched by Roberta Pastore
How important is photography for you? Would you have imagined a few years ago that this passion would have played such an important role in your life today?
Photography is very important to me. I started shooting around the age of 20 and since then everything that has come into my life is linked to photography: passions, my life path, friendships. The first contact with a camera was casual, it started from scratch. The work experience in a tourist village gave me the opportunity to see reality in a different way, developing an interest for photography I never had before. I was not yet aware of how much in the future photography would have shaped me as a human being.
Who are the photographers that inspire you or have inspired you in your photographic work?
I approached street photography only recently, and my past references come from other photographic styles and venues. I love the work of Dragan, Eolo Perfido (with reference to portraiture), Erwin Olaf. With street photography my references have expanded. I love using Meyerowitz’s colour and its mystery; the “ordered” chaos of Alex Webb, his composition and obviously once again in this case the exceptional use of colour; I am fascinated by the geometries of Henri Cartier-Bresson; the organic, instinctive and almost “physiological” photography of Moriyama. I do not always find it necessary to try to include in my photographs the style of photographers that I appreciate, but I think that their teachings and training cues can be seen in my work.
Are you Interested in deepening your passion with readings and studies on culture and photographic language?
By all means, Sure! I am strongly convinced that art should be the right balance between individual passions and the culture of those who preceded us by writing its specific story. Every artistic current traces a path and we cannot ignore any of them if we want to pursue coherent stylistic discourses. The difficulty lies in knowing how to balance external influences, discipline and one’s emotional point of view. I like watching the works of great artists. I often research for video material where you can observe great photographers at work, trying to snatch their teachings. Watching for 10 minutes Meyerowitz as he moves through the crowd can teach us a lot more than expensive, sometimes useless, courses.
What is your approach with the camera when you find yourself photographing strangers on the street?
Taking a shot in the street can sometimes be difficult, dealing with people’s reaction is not always easy. In this phase of my stylistic research, I am fascinated by a certain type of light and shadows. Shooting with such amount of light allows me to use the zonal fire without worries. Shooting with this technique is so fast that people often do not realize they are being photographed. I am a discreet and reserved person and I do not like contact with those I do not know, so I try to move in a sort of invisibility. However, I do believe that this sort of paranoia, linked to the unknown, is more a result of our collective imagination than of reality, people often know how to amaze us; sometimes a smile is enough to avoid rejections.
In recent years, Street Photography has boomed, what do you think it’s due to? And what evolution has there been?
I think this is due to several factors. The first one is the birth and development of the social networks, which have revolutionized the way we relate to each other; we are constantly in contact with each other and anxious to show ourselves to others. The second factor is that, since George Eastman with his Kodak has made photography affordable for everyone, to date we have had a huge development in technology and photographic culture. “Everybody” has a camera available (now even smartphones are sold as powerful cameras as well as telephone devices). This phenomenon has cleared, for better or for worse, the concept of photography “for everyone”. Furthermore, a positive side of the Social platforms is the presence of a whole series of initiatives, thematic groups and links to web showcase opportunities that facilitate the dissemination of the culture of photography and, in particular, of Street Photography all over the world. Street Photography is experiencing a new era, one where we can all confront each other. One just has to be extremely careful not to be swallowed, trying to get some clear points of reference.
Rome is a city of a thousand faces: from the degradation of certain suburbs to the beauty of its monuments. How do you see your city? Which are the subjects, both as people and places, that inspire you more and urge you to look for the shot, or which do you think represent this city better?
I believe that the interest in the subjects is intimately tied to the stylistic and artistic research that a photographer makes in a given period of his life. For a while I’ve been interested in a certain type of pictorial photography, using certain lights and certain colours. I am fascinated by the silence that a photo can give off under certain circumstances. The ability of the shadows to “swallow” humanity. The elegance of the eternal city combined with the evanescence of human figures often not too well defined. Sometimes I use shadows to hide faces and depersonalize the subjects of my photos. Right now, I’m working on a photographic project entitled “identity”, which plays with shadows and lights. I do not think that, in “Street photography”, the human being should necessarily be the exclusive subject but I believe instead that it is often important to create a symbiotic relationship between the human being and the road. Everything framed in the shot for me is the subject. On the other hand, when I move to the outskirts of my city, my attention is focused more on the human being as such, in a more realistic dimension than the poetic and surreal atmosphere of the centre of Rome. The road leads my feelings, I realize now in answering this question. Rome is a city that can make a huge palette of colours and feelings available to a photographer. Heterogeneous, chaotic, elegant and loutish at the same time.
What, then, makes a street photo effective? Can you quickly recognize the details that can make a good photo out of a simple shot?
The composition: the photographer must be able to perfectly manage the elements within the frame, even destroying the rules if you have shoulders broad enough to do it. Stylistic research and the culture of the image. The “key element “, that element that is the keystone that supports the whole image. Often It can be almost imperceptible, the task of composition is to make its effect be fully felt; the feeling, the art and the emotion that, paradoxically, can sometimes also be simulated and constructed at a table, in some other occasions, they can be absolutely genuine. In my opinion, the biggest challenge for an artist is to balance rationality and irrationality. But perhaps this last factor is more what makes the difference between good photography and great photography.
Is there something unique about street photography that differentiates it from other genres?
I believe that all types of photography, if studied in dept, can lead to unique discoveries. However, I consider “Street photography” the photographic genre par excellence. Not the first born historically, but probably the one that has best been able to tell the human being and his relationship with the context in which he lives.
Has street photography, as a genre, developed in you the ability to photograph in any light condition and to interpret everyday life situations with an appealing vision?
Surely not. I am a professional photographer and I have learned to shoot with every kind of light and in all circumstances, and if the light is not there, I bring it from “home”. The customer must always have a finished product of quality. This is an imperative. In the “Street”, when I do not have a “commercial” obligation to shoot, I search for certain types of light and subjects and I do not feel inspired in conditions that do not belong to my current vision of photography. Surely in other phases I will be able to be attracted to something else, but I must say that in street photography I have never felt forced to shoot in any kind of condition. As for a captivating vision, the answer is yes. Of course I always try to show something different, showing the ordinary as extraordinary fascinates me deeply .
In a street picture, do you think the contrasts of light are important to tell a story or are just an aesthetic fact?
They are not important to me, as it is not using a flash, or preferring black and white to colour. They are “only” stylistic elements, and each photographer has his own. The important thing is the stylistic coherence and how the various elements concur to create a “signature”. I strongly believe that the “aesthetic” factor, seen as synergy and coherence between stylistic elements, is fundamental in art in general. Otherwise the history of art would have no reason to exist.
Which are the limits of ethics in a street picture, or is it possible to shoot everything?
I believe that the limit is directly proportional to the artistic value of the work and the artist. I find it senseless that when a clueless photographer takes the classic photo to a homeless just because he is a subject that can accumulate some more “likes” on the social medias. When we talk about documentary photography, on the other hand, the story is different; a genre in which we can narrate any kind of event, is, not only, acceptable but it certainly becomes very important. In Street Photography it is not mandatory to tell an event, it is a choice of the photographer whether to do it or not. Act freely while keeping in mind some limitations.
In general, it is increasingly common to use smartphones to take photos. And there are also those who consider their smartphones very seriously as photographic gear. What do you think about it? Do you use (or have you tried to use) a smartphone for your photos?
I tried for fun . That said there are cell phones that make great photos and also, I believe that with the mastery of composition and style you can take good pictures with any means. M.C. Brown with a cell phone, took exceptional war reportage photos. For sure it is an instrument that allows you to be invisible and this is a huge advantage for street photography. The problem is that having one of these infernal gadgets in your hands gives the conviction to be “photographers”. Another big problem is that this kind of photography is often accompanied by a culture of post-production and commercial filters that completely distort the philosophy of street photography. The problem is not the medium itself, but the culture that derives from it.
According to your experience, it is useful to make a print of your photos, and why?
I find it fundamental for several reasons. The first one is that the print gives a much more concrete sense of the space contained within the frame: some photos I frame with a white “passepartout/border” to have a space that surrounds and contains the photo, also training the eye to be able to complete the framing operation. A common mistake is to focus only on the subject portrayed and not to consider that the subject is only a part of the photo. Printing helps to acquire this awareness. Photos become beautiful when defined clearly in space. Another approach is to print only a few photos, which I perceive have “something” more than the rest of my production. This helps me to understand which stylistic path I am taking, how I grew up and in which direction. I have a series of frames on the wall where I often change photos, watching them helps me to grow.
Black white or colour?
Personally, at the present, I am fascinated by colour, but at the same time I love black and white. These are two totally different way to shoot: if I do not have good light I prefer black and white, with which geometry stands out and also colour can often distract. But if I have a scene with good light and colours that give dynamism and depth to the image I have no doubts, I shoot using colour. The choice between black and white and colour is about composition: with the colour you add an extra dimension that should not be left to chance. When I use colour, I use it with the utmost respect, using it without giving it the proper consideration can be catastrophic. Black and white, on the other hand, can be used in a more instinctive way, showing off the geometric composition. B/W or colour is a choice that must be made during shooting and not in post-production.
What equipment do you use and how much does the equipment count in street photography?
A Fuji X100T, a good camera with its strengths and its faults. Equipment matters a lot. Surely a camera that allows you to use high ISO values helps in a genre where the use of a closed diaphragms and of fast shutter speeds are valuable. It is a genre where even the shape of the medium that is used is important, this to be less conspicuous. I believe that the fundamental thing is not the camera used but how well you known such camera. We must dominate it, know what its strengths are, what are the critical elements and use also these to build a good image. We should remember that the great authors that often inspire us used technologies much less performing than the ones we have today. How many not exactly technically perfect photos affect us and steal our soul? The equipment has a fundamental impact on our work but the quality of photography is not directly proportional to the price of our camera. Beyond an economic discourse, the equipment also influences the point of view; shooting with a reflex or a Rolleiflex, as Vivian Maier, changes the compositional point of view and also changes the “psychology” of a photo and the message that sends to the observer. Just as shooting with a 50 mm or a 28 mm would.