I throw myself passionately at life. And life often smiles back. When that happens, I like to have my camera ready.
I am Roman. Innately loud, generally mirthful and almost always jovial. Being bilingual, I can also be loud in the American version of the English language. I am at my very loudest, though, when speaking the most universal of languages: photography.
Fluent in several different photographic tongues, I speak color and I speak monochrome (iLingo for black-and-white). Of course I speak rectangular; almost all photographers do. On the other hand, I am one of the few who can also speak square. Square is a more stately, more stationary and a somehow more photographic language. Verbally, I have also been known to stammer in French and stutter in Spanish.
My camera compares what I place within the frame to something like half a million photos it has stored in its chippy brain. Big deal. In my own as-yet unchipped brain, there must be at least three times that amount. Counting only the ones I shot myself. And, that figure keeps soaring. All those times I have pressed the shutter button matter. Each click has something to suggest regarding the choice of subject, the framing, the focus, the exposure. Above all, they suggest the timing. And getting the timing right is by far the most essential factor in almost any kind of photography.
The subjects? Anything, really. The crowded streets in the largest, most untamable cities and the most desolate landscapes in the dustiest of deserts are easily among my favorite hangouts. And of course, I can and do photograph everything else in between. Street photography, however, is what really turns me on. Life’s little things unfolding in a day-to-day, apparently insignificant manner. And here I would like to pay a tribute to Robert Doisneau and to Henri Cartier-Bresson, to mention but two absolute masters of the trade. They have left some of the most significant pages in our contemporary history, for which we can never be grateful enough.
When you can make (“take” is inaccurate, as it is a creative act) a photograph of a perfect stranger going about her or his daily life, possibly half way around the world; if you can do it in a way that is accurate, honest to truth; if you can do it in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing and always, always in the utmost respect of the subject portrayed, then making photographs of anything else is easy. Fashion, portraiture, industrial photography, weddings. It’s all very easy, although sometimes boring, and it helps pays the bills.
Subject matter apart, what I really, really like, is a story well told. Quietly, wordlessly, eloquently – by imagery. This I have learned in my (oh, too many) long years sitting behind the desk as the director of fotografare, Italy’s (then) best photography magazine. Long years of being the man who shakes his head and breaks people’s hearts and ambitions by telling them that their photography is, frankly, crap. When those people are over twice your age, it’s not a fun job.
Thankfully, while still young enough and not yet completely cured of the traveller’s bug, I shook my head one good, last time. I looked around. I took a leap. No longer am I the man at the desk, choosing other people’s photographs and telling them how they should be shooting to begin with – I am now the man behind the camera.
In what is a perennially ongoing process, I have developed a sense of what works, photographically. I can sometimes perceive when a situation has the quid I like to call the “wow factor”. I have honed my ear to the sound of a ball bouncing or a child laughing. Because these are telltale signs that something wonderful is taking place. It is a miracle, happening, unscripted. And sometimes – if you develop and trust your serendipity – it’s happening right around the corner. It’s something universal, and fleeting. Therefore all the more wonderful. All the more worth capturing. This is what I most like to photograph. Some call it life.