INTERVIEW WITH … Massimo Russo

Researched by Roberta Pastore

How important is photography to you? Would you have imagined, a few years ago, that this passion would play an important role in your life?

Photography has always attracted my attention. When I was young I liked to take photos of the school trip and I would wait impatiently for the end of the roll to take it to print and see the results. Being able to tell an emotion is something that gives me a lot of satisfaction on a personal level.

Which masters of photography have inspired you in your photographic work?

There are many masters who have inspired me and continue to do so today, accompanying me on my journey of growth. Starting with my favourites Joel Meyerowitz, Fred Herzog, Stephen Shore, Saul Leiter or contemporary photographers such as Vineet Vohra, Reuven Halevi, from each of them I receive feelings that then become my main source of inspiration.

Are you interested in deepening your passion with readings and studies on photographic culture and language?

Yes of course, I am always interested in deepening my photographic culture by expanding it through readings and exhibitions. Among the different photographic languages, street photography is definitely my favourite. But I also like reportage and conceptual photography very much.

Taking a street shot can sometimes be difficult; dealing with people’s reaction or making sure not to be invasive, in the various situations that arise, is not always easy. What is your approach in these circumstances?

Entering the sphere of others can be seen as an intrusion, but I don’t feel limited about it.

Shooting on the street is simple as natural for me, I enter and leave the ‘proximity’ of others naturally and often nobody notice my presence. Certainly body language makes a big difference. Showing arrogance and imposing one’s presence never leads to good results unless they are deliberately sought after but this attitude does not concern me.

In recent years, Street Photography has taken off and many photographers have dedicated themselves to this genre. What do you think is the reason why many prefer to shoot in the street?

I don’t know exactly, maybe the social media or that everyone has a smartphone in their pocket has prompted many to go out on the street and feel like streephers right away but I am of the opinion that only through the study and analysis of masters which have carved a furrow in this style can really help us understand the importance of this genre and how it should be interpreted.

What is the element that differentiates you from other genres?

As far as I am concerned, the spontaneity of the shot, the exceptionality of the moment and the personal vision of each photographer makes street photography different from other languages.

What subjects inspire you and prompt you to look for the shot in the city where you live or in the places you frequent?

Everything that moves is a source of inspiration for me. The human being is definitely the most analysed in my photography. I am very curious and attracted to gestures and urban scenes with their uniqueness, but I am also attracted by animals and how they interact in urban spaces.

What is the limit that should not be crossed in a street photo. Are there ethical rules or is it permissible to shoot everything?

Photography is an art form and therefore cannot have any limits or rules to abide by.

If one takes paths where one’s vision goes beyond these rules, it is only right that they should be made manifest, with the subject as the first instance of course.

What makes an effective street photo? Can you recognise, when you are on the street, the details that can make a simple shot a good photograph?

When I am out on the street I do not have a precise process in mind unless I am following a project. Photos must be ‘felt’, it is a mental process. The eyes and mind are constantly processing and when I feel something then that is the moment.

Has Street Photography as a genre developed in you the attitude to interpret everyday life situations with an original vision and your own style?

Since I am the one that is shooting, that is already my style for me. Certainly the study together with personal life experience make me ‘see’ things that I don’t think are the same as someone else.

That’s why I think that it is not only street photography that determines a vision but our whole experience as human beings that ultimately makes it original.

In a street photo, do you think that light contrasts are important to tell a story or are they just an aesthetic fact?

The graphic element is as important in a street photograph as in other genres. The play of light can help to better tell a story, what I consider important beyond aesthetics is the content.

After the shoot, what actions do you take in terms of processing and editing?

I try to re adapt what my camera detected with what was my vision of that instant, consequently I correct light and shadows if necessary, nothing more.

Do you prefer black and white shots or color?

I shoot almost always in color. When I think of a black and white photo I think I deprive it of all the beauty that colors give us.

You often hear about ‘photo projects’ in Street Photography. Have you ever documented a situation from which a story or the idea for a project was subsequently born? With street photography, can you tell stories that are part of a project?

Raymond Depardon, a French artist photographed Scotland’s famously gritty metropolis capturing much of what he saw as the true spirit of the city of Glasgow. Also Harry Gruyaert Belgian photographer did so in his project “Irish Summer’. So with street photography you can tell stories, I am currently trying to tell a story through this style.

Many times we look back at photos we have taken over the years. Is there one you are particularly attached to and why?

Yes, there is one photograph that introduced me to this genre, perhaps the first one I took and to which I am really fond of. When I discovered the power that those colours, those shadows could generate in my mind, I was fascinated. One day I too will have drawers full of photographs and maybe someone will find a hidden secret in those photos.

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