Blognotes from a photographer life...

Dec 28, 2015


 Haiti, 1981

It is a long time since I've been blogging here (I decided it was more important taking pictures then to talk about it) but this anniversary is kind of important to me.
Forty years have passed from my first trip ever, and for thirty years I have been a full-time professional photographer.

When I came back from my first trip, over two months backpacking around the whole of Europe with my friend Sauro, I had found out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: traveling and see the world.
I told him this on the train, and he pointed out that "we will never have another trip like this again".. Of course he was right, like it was a first love, but he missed my point. I wanted to make traveling a profession, so I could keep on discovering.

Ten years later I had found out that photography would be my vehicle to see more, express what I meant, make sense of it all. And I jumped into full time profession.
Luckily it worked out, although I have been complaining all along of the necessary compromises I had to make in many accasions (remember that a professional has to do what the client asks him, not express just his own vision; and so on...).

Santo Domingo, 1981

There are so many stories of all these years I could write a book.. I have seen photography going from slide to digital; I have seen magazines (my major clients) become obsolete and (photo) book publishers giving up; but at the same time I have seen the internet, social media and blog give everybody a window to the whole world.
The concept of photography itself has dramatically changed: a photographer is not somebody with a camera anymore (almost every human being has one in his pocket) and the way it is perceived is more instant communication then reflective interpretation.. This can't be denied if we want to maintain a solid evolution of (the ever more challenged) meaningful photography.

But above all is the world that has changed. Completely. In these forty years the world has changed more then it had in the several centuries before today. When I took my decision to travel this was still a world of cultural differences; deep differences. Travel was still meaning facing a journey to some different, faraway place. 
Today there is not faraway any more. Of course there are still differences, and very strong ones, but they are more subtle, less visible.
I feel the greatest luck in my life is having had a step in the now obliterated past and one in the global future. 
This is the challenge for the (travel & documentary) photographer of today: identify these differences and making sense of them; transforming them into images that are significant.
This is my challenge today, and for the future.

New Zealand, 1984
(This picture changed a lot in my professional career past then. It was considered daring to include my hand -the dark shade on top- into a picture. Good old times?)

May 25, 2012


For those who are asking me what I have been doing in South East Asia in the past few months here is the answer: besides the shooting completion of the Business Capitals series I have been producing videos for a local tour operator. These are some previews. your feedback is much appreciated.

Jan 17, 2012


If you think of Burma like golden pagodas, saffron monks and political trouble, well, think again! There is a subtle revolution taking place in the country that no military or political power can control, also because is starting in their own households, with their own sons. Globalization is setting in the new generations with the regional pace, that means fast. As a lady from the Burmese exiled elite was noticing "skirts are going from ankle to groin forgetting the knees".
For the moment it is largely concentrated in the main cities, but is involving all social classes. The Iron Cross hard rock band has is supporters in every social group (buying Chines clothes, jeans, make up is very cheap) and the transformation can bypass the political control to change society from it's roots.
Fashion, cinema, music, shopping trends are redefining  the inner core of the national soul, and the recent political openings will be probably the entrance for an avalanche that will change this country forever.
I have been visiting Myanmar for over 13 years now, noticing little changes until my last visit, in December. Now everything feels like near an explosion: when the opening will arrive, and it will be pretty soon, this country will become a huge market for powerful multinational companies (that are operating there already, despite of international sanctions), as they will find a crowd craving for novelties, modernity, mass-market products. In a few years the bare landscape will resemble the one of Thailand, with large roads and electric lines everywhere. There is no scarcity of natural resources in here.
So, if you wish to give a last glimpse to the last country preserving an Asia traditional flavor, this is the time to go.
For an insight to the future preparing it's ground you can give a look to my story, in PadPlaces (The Other Burma).

Dec 7, 2011


I have been very silent on the blog this year, but I had my reasons: a lot of thinking, planning and, thankfully, working. I promise you, and myself, to put more of my professional brainstorming in these notes next year.
In the meanwhile here is the 2012 Calendar, a desktop version with some of my most recent images.
You can download it from this website link.

January is an iconic Buddha in the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.
February a Bangkok skyline from the Italian Ambassador office.
March in the new Transport Museum in Glasgow by Zaha Hadid.
April the lantern festival in Seoul.
May is in Seoul again: a futuristic moment.
June is my landmark image of the Buddha in Wat Suthat, Bangkok.
July is my favorite: a moment in Piazza Cordusio, Milan.
August is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, an incredible art environment.
September is from my recent Seville Flamenco story.
October is one of the fantastic skies I found in Norway.
November is an intense moment of prayer in Phnom Penh.
December finally is the classic Peak View in Hong Kong.

Nov 10, 2011


I landed in Istanbul on November 1976. It was my first flight ever. I had a camera in my bag, but I didn't know how to use it and burned all the films. The sky was overcast and the colors brownish. But the images of the city were so powerful that will stay in my mind all my life. An anthill of humans that were moving like in a circle of hell, among old grouted american cars, carrying impossible burdens on their backs.
When I went back there, not even a decade after, the city had changed: it was modern, already moving forward. The border between Europe and Asia had vanished: it was one planet now.
In 1977 I travelled, once again with my travelmate Sauro, on the road through Spain. The country had just been freed after the Franco's years. We had an old Renault 4 and two blond girls as companions. We went everywhere, we sow a lot and understood little. On the other end even the Spanish people were trying to re-focus themselves.
The seventies, I come to realize now, where the threshold from the past to the global.
Istanbul was still different, Seville still Andalusian, Italy still ideological. Then everything vanished in the melting pot.. Well, maybe not everything, but I'm not sure I should add fortunately. But we can rejoice: the global world is not only creating monstruos cultural reserves called museums, it's also spreading a fluid mix of traditions, common places, confused passions that will pave the way to the inevitable ethnic fusion.
In September I went to Istanbul to shoot a story on the local modern music scene. The city has become a cult place for the cultural cross-over.. Yes, you understand, the continental border, the Bosphorus, the Middle East, the Balkans.. So clever.. If you mix everything, something original comes out, the new is invented.. Or not?
You know what was the most surprising thing I found there? Xing! A 24 years young Chinese girl that, among many things she does, wants to be a belly dancer. She misses a major attribute: a big belly to shake, but she's not giving up.. And to achieve excellence she has become personal assistant to Selma Yildiz, a world famous Turkish belly dancer. Her world, the Eastern world, is eager to absorb all what is worth to know, metabolize and reinvent it.. Ours is steady and deadlocked instead.
In October I went to Seville, the story to shoot was on the evolution of Flamenco. Guess.. There was Kaytlin, from Korea, 27 years of attitude and foot-stamping that could shake half world. I met her in one of the several Flamenco schools of the city. Many of the other girls confessed that the passion to dance was in reality a less boring alternative to the gym. Kay has well other plans: giving shows in Seoul, obviously with an improbable Flamenco dress over a thin body. Still here she is: a confirmation that culture and tradition are changing faster then our assumptions.
On the other end Carmen Ledesma, a fascinating Flamenco maestra, told me that what is really important in a dancer is the inner passion, the will and capacity to transmit it, the sincerity of the performer. A different face is not an obstacle to this. A different cultural background may be, but time will overcome it.
All this to confirm me in my idea that our task of photo-reporters, witnesses of this melting humanity, is to show and tell the story. We are so absorbed and part of the process that we risk to miss the magnitude of it, the epochal change of wich we are actors and victims. Our effort must be to capture the subtle details that represent the set. Our life set.

Oct 9, 2011


The portfolios are now updated and available for download on the website.

As usual I have edited three very different portfolios: the Reportage/Documentary, with a chronological presentation of my works; the Travel, ordered by thematic orientation; and finally the Professional, with an overview on my activity.

Oct 6, 2011


I would like to thank the Pisa per la Fotografia (Pisa for Photography) association within the local university for granting me their yearly recognition. The motivation is the bulk of my professional photo production, something I'm very proud of, of course, and is a good occasion to look back. This is something that normally I don't like to do: far from neglecting my past, I think the personal experiences are inevitably part of who we are, they are deep in our personality and influence what we do, therefore they should be only the base for our essential evolution. It's already so difficult to move from something going well to experiment new ways that spending too much time in front of the mirror seems dangerous to me. But for once, a very good once, it's ok.
On October 22nd, in Pisa, in the evening, there will be a retrospective presentation and on the 23rd a meeting with photographers.

On October 22nd, in the afternoon, I will inaugurate in the Museo della Grafica, Palazzo Lanfranchi, the show  SES, South East Synopsis, 64 prints dedicated to my recent work in that region where I reside for an half of every year. It's a synopsis because I selected two photos for each story I shoot in the past four years: the essence being a portrait of this fantastic part of the world where everything is changing fast, with striking contrasts and contradictions. It's a bulk of work to which I recognize a lot of significance, but, at the same time, as I indicated before, I consider it just the platform to start new experiences.
The images are already visible in PadPlaces, but I wait you there, if you can, to browse the prints and talk...


I bought my first Apple in 1985, and Mac has been with my work ever since. You changed the world, certainly my world, for good. Very few people can say they did. Thank you Steve!

Oct 2, 2011


In the Abbey of Chiaravalle, just outside Milan, a photo show on the abbey itself was inaugurated today. It was a coincidence that I shoot a story for Focus magazine two weeks ago, and Carlo, a friend printing for my forthcoming Pisa show and this one as well, asked me to join. Thanks for this opportunity. I gave 4 images for showing.
Chiaravalle is a magic place: many will see it as a church, a building, a retreat. But it has some incredible magic in itself. It deserves a deeper knowledge to grasp some of this. But this is true for many special places that religions transformed in sanctuaries all over the world. They knew where to place their souls from ever...

Sep 30, 2011


This is in Italian for Italians (sorry)... About a new interview on Feel Nikon on-line magazine.
Potete trovare l'intervista, davvero molto interessante, a questo link.

Aug 1, 2011


The TPW "Making of a Story" is over and, once again, I'm here to thank all the staff in Cortona, Carlo Roberti in particular.
This time the TPW experience was combined with the CORTONA ON THE MOVE photo festival, with my show BANGKOK SOUL alongside those of David Alan Harvey, Antonin Kratochvil, Alex Majoli, Arno Minkkinen (being in such an important company is sincerely humbling for me!) and emerging photographers that showed fantastic ideas and enthusiasm. The shows will remain open until September, so plan a visit there. Thanking to the Cortona guys who started all this is a must.
More thanks goes to the other teachers at TPW that created the usual environment for sharing intense and sincere human and photographic experiences and emotions.
Last but not least my thanks to my students from whom I always absorb a lot of enthusiasm. Their final work is the video above.
I'll post later some thoughts from this intense experience.

Jun 30, 2011


BANGKOK SOUL is a show that will be part of CORTONA ON THE MOVE travel photo festival. Here is a short presentation.
You can preview the images on your iPad within PadPlaces.

These photos are not a "project". Or rather, are not part of any "photographic project" as it is understood today. Perhaps they can be considered the clipboard for a life project instead.
For mid-year Bangkok is the city where I live as the opposite to my Florence metropolitan museum. Whereas the Tuscan hills, that I continue to love more than any other landscape, make me calm, in this city I am forced to live, to move, to evolve.
I came here for the first time in 1978, and I saw her transforming from capital of new and exotic aromas into a bustling modern metropolis.
I see Thais as the Italians of Asia: lovers of pleasure, of beauty, able to work without making it a religion. The right humanity, that is.
These photos represents my perception of this. A vision irregular, since I don't go around with a camera hanging from the neck at all times, but now rich of ideas, sometimes dramatic.
We are travelers able for "the forest and coast" as we used to say, and basically the city requires it. There are wealth and poverty, spirituality, and perversity, modernity and tradition, resignation and revolution, a melting pot where everything is mixed but does not melt.

BANGKOK SOUL will be exhibited at CORTONA ON THE MOVE photo festival
from July 21 through September 4, 2011

Jun 11, 2011


 Version 2.0 of PadPlaces is now available on iTunes for download or update.
Although many will see little change at first sight we have worked under the hood to give better performance and go a step forward in creating a veritable photo publishing platform.

First of all you will notice a dynamic presentation in the four sections of the app, with images that will introduce the most recent highlights available for download. This is as close to a magazine as we could imagine.
Until now free stories were limited to the Portfolios section while now you'll start finding free essays throughout all sections.
Portfolios section is now called Photography because will be devoted more to photo essays then to the professional portfolios presentation alone.
Videos are a very important addition too: it will take time to download them (please be patient and let the app work) but they will be a nice experience. The very new Magical Tattoo video is already available for free.
Finally, when you will start the stories already downloaded to your library you will go to the intro page rather then directly to the slideshow. I feel this is a nice touch but will require you to download the stories again when you update your app (you'll not need to pay again for purchased stories, of course).

We  keep working on giving PadPlaces a solid reality and your support will be much appreciated. Feedback, interaction and also rating this app, are essential on your side to keep this experiment in self-publishing alive!

May 28, 2011


Bangkok is saying goodbye with rain and sun.. The first is telling me it's time to go west, the other is reminding me that is only for some time.. Yes, another winter has passed and I can gladly say I have no regrets of the time spent in here.
In this city I really feel like I cannot escape living my life. While back in Italy everything seems to be in a limbo, awaiting for what the rest of the world will decide to do, here the pulse is regular. Not crazy, not Japanese or Newyorker: people here are very simple, easy going, passionate and direct. I could say Thai are the Italians of Asia, if Italians were not lost in a dramatic telenovela.
What a winter has been. I was regretting that I have not started my professional revolution, the new way I'm still envisaging. Then I reflected that things have happened without me noticing, like real life is. I've been shooting videos for two months, like a game in the beginning, may be different in the near future. I was searching ideas for stories, then I realized that I was photographing what I wanted, not what I supposed "they" could want.. Maybe it's my silent change taking shape..
And before work, yes, before, there was life. I've lost a friend under a truck in Sukhumvit, I lost love and find others, I met new friends.. From Sri Lanka to Seoul I met wonderful people, I appreciated the differences and, above all, the common humanity and the positive response you always get when you smile..
Now the rain has stopped and the sun is setting.. It's time to go to the airport..

May 22, 2011


A few years back, during a presentation of my NAG (Not Yet Global) book, a gentlemen pointed out to his impression that I still had an exotic view of the world. With an opposite view others are suggesting that too much and too long traveling have made me disenchanted in front of the world wonders. Contrasting reactions to my work are not surprising: I struggle to find a personal vision of the contemporary world, and I may be as confused as everybody else living these times of global transformation.
Everything is changing fast these days. The world wide web has destroyed the previous communications system and has not created a new one, yet. So the speed of globalization is faster then how a human being can adapt and develop ideas in this unstable cultural environment. What is left to us to tell? To show in images? To interpreter with a personal vision?
The obvious answer would seems to be the evolution itself: the changing, the consequences on society, on individuals. In the travel photography field of expertise, we should probably show not what is left to see of the traditional (exotic) world, but why is still worth to fly hours to understand the underneath cultural differences in a world that may seems already flattened. To be in the streets of Seoul, Singapore, Sao Paulo or New York may seems no different, and in fact the visual impact is the same, but the life is not. Is a subtle difference, much more difficult to render through images then what it was to show costumes and villages. But this is the challenge for the contemporary photojournalist, and the public will be interested, at least a part of it.
I will not surrender to the idea that the forthcoming world for travelers will be composed only by beach resorts, cities for shopping, a few museums. Culture is inside the human being, and is expressed not just by it's dressing and tech gadgets, but also by ideas, behaviour, ancestral inheritance.
So much for my exotic vision of the world, that would be just ridiculous. And about enchantment.. well, I have developed an high threshold to achieve it, but I long for every opportunity to find it.. even if it is a sunset that let me put down the camera and enjoy it just to myself, just for the sake of it.