We’ve just a started a new weekly photo theme over on the RAW Facebook Group. This weeks theme is “Blue” so if you haven’t already joined in the fun drop by the facebook group and say “hi”. Todays interview with Domenico takes you into the world of street photography and he mainly uses 35mm film rangefinders to capture his images.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I am a photographer born and raised in Italy. I moved to the US in 1989. Here I made my living by working as a waiter in restaurants, while still cultivating my passion for photography. I tried to make restaurant work the least painful as possible by tackling also kitchen work, which revealed to be a great frustration release.
However, 6 years ago I decided to abandon that safe place and dived into Fine Art Photography full time.
My level of commitment to my passion increased and gradually I participated to more and more shows.
My work has been shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), at the LAX international terminal, in galleries in Spain, Italy and the US as well in Fine Art Photography magazines.
In the year 201o my work was a Grant recipient from the HARC Foundation, and recently my photographs were displayed at the Braendergarden Museum in Viborg, Denmark.
As I write, next week my work will be displayed at the Gina MW Gallery in Long Beach.
What inspired you to get started in photography?
It was by chance. I borrowed my brother’s camera for a trip to Lake Garda in Italy for a windsurfing trip. I actually spent very little time windsurfing. I got hooked by the camera right away.
It wasn’t until I saw the work of photographers in books, especially Janloup Sieff, that I recognized the expressive power that a camera can have if in the right hands.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
I have used large format cameras for about 25 years. The use of these tools require a lot of gear to go with them. Relatively recently, about 4 years ago, I went back to 35mm cameras. That allowed me to keep gear to a minimal. Now I go out with a Leica rangefinder and a 50mm Summitar, which I find it to be a great lens for its unique soft but sharp characteristics. I need to keep it simple, I don’t want to waste time changing lenses or carrying extra bodies. I need to pass as unobserved as possible, and one camera and one lens fits the ticket. I prefer to focus on what unfolds in front of me.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
Well, yes, of course social media is a big part of todays marketing trends, it helps to keep my work out there, although it’s hard to know exactly who is looking at my images. Through Facebook I have had many opportunities for prints sales and peripheral activities like interviews, publications and brick and mortar exhibits. Living in Los Angeles, I am lucky to be able to submit my work to venues that have relevance in today’s Art world. However, with today’s economy situation sales of art in general have been considerably lower in respect to the previous years so this has given me the opportunity to cultivate another passion of mine which is peripheral to photography, which is teaching photography. Roughly 4 years ago I started to give lessons mainly focusing on the creative side of photography with the aim to encourage the students to find their own voice. Just recently I launched “Los Angeles, Mon Amour”a street photography workshop which has revealed itself to be a great vehicle for freeing the creative energy of the participants because of the communal nature of the event. It was very exciting to see how the students absorbed what I had to say and how they so well reacted to the street photography approach.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
Tough question. Usually my favorites are the good ones I took more recently, but I know it is not a fair assessment if I look at my work as a whole. My work spans in 3 decades, and my projects through these years have delved with different subject matter and have been carried out through different techniques, so you can understand how difficult a choice that can be.
“Pine on gravel road” is probably the image that I have been more recognized for and one that I am very attached to, but then there are others that are equally important to me.
The simplicity of this image and ethereal tonalities makes it one of my favorites. Regarding the significance, to me photography is an emotional act, Starting at the moment of seeing, I am emotionally involved with the scene. Excluding some elements, including others, composing, and then developing and printing the image, are all actions aiming to preserve and express that original emotional response. Of course these emotions are generated by my psychological make-up and I find it excessive baggage on the viewer to have the image explained.
I don’t want to influence the viewer with my words, but with my photographs.
Another one is definitively Portrait I from my “Tarnished Promises” project. This one speaks to me differently, but again is a conversation without words that still carries a message that cannot be explained but only experienced.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
This time I will choose an image from my latest work on street photography. I saw this woman from the other side of Broadway Street in Los Angeles. It just jumped at my eyes with her dark clothing, the odd oversized turban and those boards attached to herself. I ran where she was, adjusted for composition and right at the moment of clicking the shutter the man in the background pick-a-booed with that hard to define expression. It was one of those moments that made me gasp. One of those exquisite, rare gifts for which you cannot claim any credit for, except for recognizing them. There was very little manipulation in the darkroom except for burning the edges of the image and reducing the flare from my old Summitar by increasing the exposure in the center.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post ?
All my projects are esthetically different, and since all my work is silver based, through the years I have had to re-invent my approaches to image making.
I don’t believe in rigid rules, all is fair in love, war and photography. I do believe that in order to get to the results I want, I need to earn my way to them by learning and making my life less difficult by manipulating the material to my advantage, which is the essence of technique.
Knowing how to use well the camera, how to develop film, and how to print are essential, but I also believe that there is no one way only to use the camera well, and the same goes for developing film and printing. Sometime, especially in approaches like street photography, we don’t have time to adjust the camera because of a rapidly unfolding scene. So, what do we do? We shoot anyway. Is the negative unexposed? Is it overexposed? Is it out of focus? Who cares. What it matters to me is the emotional quality of the image.
Whats your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
All I need is film, guts to challenge myself and endless discontent. Other than that I am looking forward to refurbish my recently purchased 5×7 inch Durst enlarger.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
Facebook. It helps to show to my clients what I am working on daily, so that they might have a more personal view of my development as a photographer. Of course there is also my website.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
I used to get really bad and lengthy photographer blocks, but with the street approach I am in now, it is easier to get back to work with so much around me.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
Definitively. I should have robbed a bank first.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Ironically enough the term amateur comes from the latin “To love”. My advice would be that if you want to take the Pro road, still make sure you do what you love. Also, be a good critic of your work: meaning don’t be so harsh to be destructive, but also don’t be too forgiving with your results. One more thing: photography is expensive, make sure you find some ways to survive dry spells. Don’t rob a bank, though.