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 was probably the biggest surprise of my life. It has revolutionized my time and many of my habits. I discovered it by chance no more than 6 years ago and since then my way of looking at things has completely changed. It all started by reading some of my father’s photo books: they talked about photography, they cited Bresson, Steve Mc Curry and told life through photography. I had never picked up the camera until the age of twenty-five, then one day the chance encounter and that train not to be missed, which started at full speed.
Who are the photographers that inspire you or have inspired you in your photographic work?
I understood the greatness of street photography after attending a photographic exhibition by Alex Webb. I had photographed very little and my focus was mainly on the study of the photographic medium. I did not know what street photography was and I had no idea who Alex and Rebecca Webb were, but I will never forget the warmth of the shades, the photographic story, the faces of the people, the compositions so studied and complex. I owe so much to that vision, perhaps everything.
Are you Interested in deepening your passion with readings and studies on culture and photographic language?
Definitely I am. It is an integral part of the study and the development of a refined and personal style. I have dozens of texts on street photography and on the visual and on mental approach to photography. They are my bible and source of inexhaustible ideas. In this case too, the hand of Alex Webb was fundamental. The book “Street photography and poetic image” has deeply marked my path in street photography.
Taking a shot in the street can sometimes be difficult, dealing with people’s reaction is not always easy. What is your approach with the camera when you find yourself photographing strangers on the street?
Often, mistakenly, we think of the street photography as something simple, within everyone’s reach: but this is not the case. Blame the speed of social networks and our own superficiality. Looking for a work of impact and effectiveness, in the street, is among the most difficult things that a photographer may have to do and you have to do your best to transform a trivial vision into a unique and unrepeatable shot. I like being at the centre of the scene (no, I’m not self-centred!) because I think that only in this way you are really invisible and mixed with the reality you want to shoot. People’s reaction has never scared me, in fact, sometimes it’s what I’m looking for: street photography has the power to move persons’ consciences and connect peoples and different cultures.
In recent years, Street Photography has boomed, what do you think it’s due to? And what evolution has there been?
In my opinion there are two factors that have contributed to the boom of this photographic genre: the social network and the incredibly affordable costs. Precisely in this sense I would speak of evolution and involution at the same time. While the lowering of costs and the freedom to approach have facilitated learning, on the other hand the web has led to an excess of information that is causing a flattening of the general photographic level and to the increase of a state of confusion and superficiality around this complex photographic genre. The real evolution is inside the street photographer who searches for a profound approach both in technical and cultural terms each and every day.
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?
Living in Rome, today, is not simple at all and in this specific historical moment, street photography has certainly proved to be a great support and a valid companion of adventures, helping me to find new stimuli every day, to survive the speed and difficulties involved in living in a big city. I have always studied my compositions without caring too much about the physical space available but looking everywhere for a creative and personal vision of what surrounds me. If we want to name some specific places, having always lived in the suburbs, the local markets are certainly among my favourite locations where to find interesting situations of daily life. In conclusion I would say that I do not have subjects and places that inspire me more than others but I believe that street photography is really possible in every corner and (almost) in every moment.
What, then, makes a street photo effective? Can you quickly recognize the details that can make a good photo out of a simple shot?
I ask myself that whenever I come in contact with a particular vision. What strikes me strongly, in most cases, are the complex compositions, rich in information and cues where the subjects are amalgamated with harmony and warmth to the urban context. I am fascinated by the dense images, which are able to tell a story and bring back the mind to events that have occurred or have being dreamed of. I love the colour, the eyes of the people and the subjects that create movement and questions. I am enchanted by a simple gesture blended perfectly with the elements of the city. I take pleasure in carefully observing the “right light” that I find fundamental in two moments of the day: sunrise and sunset. To conclude, I do not believe there are elements that are more effective than others. The important thing is how one mixes the various elements that go to compose our shot.
Is there something unique about street photography that differentiates it from other genres?
Street Photography is a unique photographic genre that I would call almost magical. Nothing is prepared in the street and everything programmed in advance can be reversed in a fraction of a second. The success of a shot depends on the union of an innumerable number of factors that converge in the same fraction of a second, which makes it a really difficult and complex photographic genre in every situation. If we add to that the fact that the street tells about ourselves, about our time and that the people portrayed are photographed in their total naturalness, well … we are certainly talking about the most beautiful and difficult photographic genre that exists!
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?
As already anticipated, in the street, I take photos almost exclusively in two lighting conditions: sunrise and sunset. I exclude a priori the conditions with light perpendicular to the scene, a situation in which the shadows exaggeratedly cut the possible subjects and the urban context is cold and uncovered. I prefer when the light is completely directed on the subject and the colours take shape and heat. Shadows and contrasts take on a softer appearance and everything becomes more magical. The direct light unveils many details of the scene and since I always use the hyperfocal method, I can give the photo character and strength. As for the “catchy vision” instead, the answer is positive. The development of an always ready and creative eye is at the base of all my work. For me photography is an expression of creativity and fantasy in its pure state.
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 important, fundamental, if the final composition is constructive and able to tell one. Elements dictated by a technical choice (i.e. very closed diaphragm) or by a post-production that helps to enhance subjects and elements within the shot. If used poorly they become obvious and trivial, especially if inserted in a context that is poor in terms of interesting elements: as in the case of photos of a profile in the shadow and nothing next to it, which have become a standard that all (or almost all) photographers, in a way or in the other, sooner or later, end up to work with.
Which are the limits of ethics in a street picture, or is it possible to shoot everything?
In my opinion, none. The limit is within the measure of respect that a street photographer has and will always have for each subject that he will be shooting. A subject that will always be the main source of every work of the true street photographer.
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 used the smartphone in the street only once and it was also the last one. I do not want to make a speech about practicality of use, nor about approach or quality of the final result, but more simply I cannot get what I want with this type of instruments. Maybe it’s a technical limit of mine, maybe it’s just a matter of practicality and of the feeling achieved using one medium rather than another. I hate too much electronic, I always shoot in manual mode preferring the zonal and hyperfocal focusing methods. I prefer to look for the correct setting through the mechanical gears on my machine, which I find to be perfect
According to your experience, it is useful to make a print of your photos, and why?
Not only useful, I find it fundamental. The photographer must touch his own work, observe the result in a practical and direct way. I also remember this as a mistake that I have corrected by gaining experience. It took me some time to fully understand this topic but every doubt was dispelled after printing some photos for the first time. We cannot observe our work exclusively from the monitors of our PC or on the screens of our smartphones that leave out lots of details in our photos and show us tones and colours always distant from the reality photographed. We must always print our works!
Black white or colour?
My eyes, my mind and my heart see with colours. I have understood this in time, gaining experience in the field. It is a path that is taken with logic, studying oneself and one’s own way of observing and understanding things. I started to get interested in photography by shooting in analogue on an Ilford XT400 and I switched to digital while continuing to work promiscuously in colour and in black and white. I won the first recognition of my life with a black and white shot and I never imagined that colour would become so important. I find stimulating the search for a complex and particular vision within a vast but balanced chromatic scale able to surprise the observer. What really interests me is to be able to transform something ordinary into something extraordinary, leaving in it as many elements as possible close to the observed reality.
What equipment do you use and how much does the equipment count in street photography? How much does the equipment with which you shoot influence the final result? Based on what factors do you choose it?
I use a small mirrorless Fuji camera, the X70 which mounts a fixed lens equivalent to a 28mm with f2.8. A machine that often goes unnoticed and that makes me particularly invisible in the street, helping me to stay in the middle of the scene for as long as necessary to capture the desired moment. It has had a decisive influence on my growth, especially with regard to the research of the desired composition and the colour management, that I find wonderful with the new Fuji sensor. The fixed 28mm, as well as any fixed focal length dedicated to street (I would say up to 50mm), “forces” the photographer to search and “reason” the shot transforming him into a “real life” hunter. On which base I choose my equipment? Simple, I do not choose it: in the street I have the little Fuji always with me, while for events I use equipment dedicated to this genre. In my case, a Canon 6D and a wide range of lenses complete the tools at my disposal.
Can you tell us how you made this specific photo ? What was the post production work on this image?
It is difficult to choose a single photo. Beyond the technical aspect and the final result that may absolutely not be striking, I believe that a street photo is an image that can tell more than a single story in a frame. In addition to the visual story that emerges from the observation of a shot there are photos that have a lot to tell in their “behind the scenes”. As with the case of this shot made in April 2016 in Rome. It’s a shot that I remember with particular pleasure and will always carry in my heart not only for the shoot itself but for the situations that led to the completion of the image. It was a beautiful sunny day in Rome after days of incessant rain. I went out into the street with the desire to “stop” some history. A project I had in my mind for a while and that lead me to browse around an old local market. I lurked near one of the entrances where the light filtered in the desired direction and the composition was getting interesting. I waited a few minutes in the hope that a subject would leave in the desired position. I took a few empty shots, then I missed one, a subject too much in shadow and so on, the shot did not arrive. I remained there for a while, without anything happening before my eyes. I had not looked into the market and I had no idea of what could happen in a short while. I was immobile in front of the scene, warmed by the spring sun, I was waiting for something to take life. Just when I thought everything was fading, at sudden the road becomes a theatre of emotions and surprises: a lady approached the entrance with a slow pace, also dictated by some physical problem and held out a hand in an empty space. In an instant a second hand popped right in the middle of my composition. He was a homeless man lying at the entrance of the market. In an instant, everything stopped. Those are the moments when I think that “street photography” is the most beautiful thing a photographer can get to work with. The scene took shape in a single moment right in front of my eyes and I was able to capture it. This represents for me a very clear concept of what street photography is all about. An unpredictable genre where you must never be caught unprepared and behind every corner something unique can happen, something that can transform a simple moment of everyday life into an image that will stay with you forever. I worked on this photo as I usually do, using the raw format development. Having shot with a very closed diaphragm (f11 if I remember correctly) and a very fast shutter speed (1/500) the shadows were very closed, just as I like it. I corrected the colours selectively until I got the desired result and I gave clarity to the highlights through the correction of tonal values, again raw format development.
Which is the technique you use in post-production? Is it always the same for all images?
In my street photographs, I do use the same technique. I always adopt the same, fast and personal workflow after finding and studying the right setting between the camera and “camera raw” software. I hate pre-made filters, I work with extreme care on the colour tone to get a balanced result and as and close to reality as possible, obviously taking advantage of the right exposure of the photo to the light for me more suitable. I like photos that have character, clearly contrasted but never exaggerated.
How often do you print your photographs? Do you have any site or place of reference for printing digital photos?
I’m not a serial printer and I prefer to bring only the works I consider most appropriate on paper. I print all the photos that deserve to be observed, both those where the result is convincing and those where some errors did not allow me to appreciate the final photo. Initially I printed online, on classic sites. Then, with experience, I began to refine the result using the collaboration of some specialized laboratories in Rome. The result was immediately amazing. So, I started to fall in love with my own colours and to refine more and more the shooting technique and how to work with photography.
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