Where are you based?
I am based in between New York City, the place I have been calling home for the past twenty years, and the Dominican Republic where I have been working extensively for over a decade, in still photography and documentary video productions.
What is your preferred camera format?
During my career I have worked with virtually all cameras available, from a large format to an iPhone, not to mention a plethora of movie and video cameras. I always try to choose the right tool for the job, depending on the type of image I am trying to create and the location I need to shoot at. Given just one choice I would probably go for a 'time resilient' and good resolution portable format such as 6x6 or 7x5 for stills and 35 or 16mm for motion. Basically, something that gives me a good quality negative that will still be viewable by my great-grand children, regardless of future digital media compatibility issues.
Digital or film?
Well, I think I have already confessed my never fading love affair with film; after all I grew up and learned the trade with it. However, ninety percent of my commercial work nowadays is digital, mainly due to the need for speed and ease of distribution. I have learned to use and love shooting digital in the last decade and I think, as technology improves every day, there are already more advantages than disadvantages shooting ones and zeroes.
What to you makes a good image?
A good image is one that makes me stop and want to look at it. A good image is not just telling a story but is able to tell many different stories and can evoke a variety of feelings, always remaining open to several subjective interpretations.
How did you get in to photography?
I discovered photography not through a brownie camera received as a present in my infancy but rummaging inside an old shoebox full of yellowing pictures on my grandparents’ kitchen table. My grandparents were born out of extreme poverty at the beginning of the 20th century in the malaria-ridden swamps of southern Tuscany. Their pictures quickly became for me a portal to travel to a different era, to a different dimension. They became a visual corroboration to the oral history I heard over and over around a bowl of roasted chestnuts we used to eat together, while reminiscing, in the long winter evenings. I started learning visual story telling, as a child, at the Uffizi, in Florence, where I was fortunate enough to gain access out of public hours, by knowing someone who worked there, and I could admire many master painters in the silence of those empty galleries. Later on, I absorbed photo and lighting techniques in the several years I assisted, while traveling the world together, one of the most experienced and talented CBS Network senior cameramen. He would use very basic and unsophisticated illumination tools to achieve extremely sophisticated effects, while always repeating his mantra:” if you light it properly, it shouldn’t look lit”.
What are your thoughts on the large mobile photography revolution happening at the moment?
The mobile photography revolution is here to stay. I am one of its practitioners and a passionate endorser, albeit with some caveats. By now most people have a camera on them at all times. Through an intuitive and technically simple process an iPhone (I specifically refer to the iPhone as to this day it is the most sophisticated camera phone available) allows us to photograph any event of our daily life and to instantly broadcast that image and share it with the world. This was unthinkable until a few years ago and without a doubt it is a new reality, where we start bypassing the conventional broadcasting channels and potentially turning any citizen into a reporter, a photo editor, a newscaster. While I think it would be oversimplifying rushing to define this as the “democratization” of news reporting, it is indeed the portal to a brand new type of social interactivity. We begin to observe the many positive and negative repercussions of the mobile photography revolution and specifically of the criteria behind such a massive and at times indiscriminate production and distribution of images generated by camera-phones. I quote an interesting article by James Estrin on the New York Times LENS Blog: “A photograph is no longer predominantly a way of keeping a treasured family memory or even of learning about places or people that we would otherwise not encounter. It is now mainly a chintzy currency in a social interaction and a way of gazing even further into one’s navel.” Undoubtedly, there is already a broadcast/photo industry reshaping revolution. However, due to its complexity and its extremely fast evolution, I think it is still very difficult to make accurate predictions about the outcome.
Where is the most memorable place you have used your camera and why?
In my career I had the privilege to witness many historical and often tragic moments, from the fall of the Berlin wall to the war in the Balkans, to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. What sticks to my mind, more than a memorable place or occasion, are mostly the faces of the many different people I have met and often photographed in the midst of happy and tragic events or simply while going about their daily existences.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
Currently I am trying to organize a multimedia exhibition and fundraiser in the Dominican Republic. It will be based on a Virtual Reality Tour and a photographic body of work I did inside a unique wooden house with 33 external doors, built at the beginning of the 20th century. The House of the Sun as people call it, is in terrible disrepair and risks being demolished. This would be a sad loss for the Dominican cultural heritage. I am trying, with my images, to help Georgette Michelen, the old lady still living in the house, to find a future for this remarkable building her own father built. The House of the Sun Virtual Tour can be viewed here: http://photoweblab.com/
What is next for you?
Right now I am working on several commercial and personal projects in New York, with an upcoming trip to photograph several assignments in the Dominican Republic and Haiti for the next couple of months. WONDERFUL MACHINE represents me in the USA and recently I have also joined the books of CURRENT STUDIO.