Blognotes from a photographer life...

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.

May 1, 2011


It's time for the TPW 2011 workshops... As usual you can get more info on the TPW website. And here below are the presentations.

June 28 - July 3, 2011

This workshop will take place during the famous Palio of Siena in July. It’s not easy to describe what the Palio of Siena is, and a workshop on this subject is equally complicated! But let's try.The Palio of Siena is the most ancient horse race (and here is the first error because it is much more than just a race) in the world it began in 1644.Of all the popular manifestations that have remained in the world, the Palio of Siena is one of the truest, most passionately-lived, and most influential on social life: it is not folkloristic, and it is not for tourists. It is quite the opposite.
It is the fruit of life for the contrada (a clan, community, or neighborhood within Siena) that takes place all year long and has been going on for more than 400 years.There are 10 horses with riders (and the rule is that it is the horse that wins the race, with or without its rider) that represent different contrade. They must complete three laps around the perimeter of the spectacular Piazza del Campo and the first to finish wins the race. Three minutes. This is the short version of the story.
The long version is infinite. On Google there are 2,570,000 results.We need to begin by speaking about the 17 different contrade that divide the territory of the city of Siena. Then, there is the passion of the people of Siena for the Palio, which is their life. Finally, there are the fantini (riders), berberi, capitani, cavalli scossi, mossa, berci, canape; Casato, cencio.The only thing that everyone agrees on is that, in order to enjoy the energy of the Palio to its maximum degree, you must experience it for the entire four days that it goes on, following a contrada, if possible, and having a contradaioli (a member of the contrada) as your guide. You should stay with the contrada until the day of the Palio and celebrate the victory with them, or suffer the defeat, or even worse, suffer the victory of the contrada’s adversary!If you don’t come from Siena, or you don’t have friends that are loyal to a particular contrada, choose one to your liking, because you like the name: there are many to choose from and any of them will be fine.Nicchio (Seashell), Valdimontone (Ram), Leocorno (Unicorn), Civetta (Owl), Torre (Tower), Onda (Wave), Chiocciola (Snail), Tartuca (Turtle), Aquila (Eagle), Pantera (Pantheress), Selva (Forrest), Drago (Dragon), Bruco (Caterpillar), Giraffa (Giraffe), Oca (Goose), Lupa (She-wolf), Istrice (Porcupine).In the days preceding the Palio, there are two trials a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. You will have the whole day available to live the life of the contrada, to get to know the people around you, and in the evening, to eat dinner in the streets together with the true members of the contrada in the most beautiful city in the world. Maybe one day you can also take advantage of visiting the surroundings of Siena: but I doubt that you will be able to distract yourselves from the fever of the Palio.Our point of view will be a privileged one from the inside. We want to make you understand the mechanisms of the Palio, have you participate in the life of the contrada, and immerse ourselves in this atmosphere, the only one like it in the world. We will not be tourist spectators, but instead we will engross ourselves in the spirit of this experience that must not be missed. Every day, we will meet to critique the photographic work but also to discuss the correct strategies for making the most of these days.

July 24-30, 2011

The photographic profession is a balanced combination between creativity, craft and commercial strategy. Making a reportage cannot be pure artistic exercise, but must take into consideration the needs of the person who will have to publish the final work. The visual language, the making and diffusion of the images change; the media have to adjust to all this, so even the creativity and productivity of the artist must evolve.
Our workshop is dedicated to the philosophy of trying to find a visible compromise between the market needs and the work quality. In the first place there is the making of a photo story: the style, the contents, the ideation and definition of the assignments, the making of complex projects; then, also important, is the trip organization, the photographic shoots, organizational methodology once on the field. In one word, the actual photographic work.
Then the boring but necessary phase comes in: the digitalization of the work intended both as dark rooms work (on the computer) and as the preparation of images to be easily filed and ready for high quality diffusion. This is the workflow, which has become an important moment in the life of the photographer as means between the shooting and the publication. We will also dedicate much attention to the methods of presentation and diffusion of the images.
Finally the image marketing, the phase from which of a professional photographers survival depends upon: how to make and present a first portfolio, how to mount and distribute a photo story, how to enter the locked doors in Italy and abroad. There are no secrets, but obvious and hard methodologies which only need to be focalized and encouraged: that is our goal in this workshop. It will be the occasion to look inside yourself, understand how much of our life you are willing to dedicate to this passion, which direction to take trying to avoid useless deviations, and finally make photography your own profession.

Mar 25, 2011


 Long time away from the blog.. but I was busy shooting videos for a tourist operator mainly between Laos and Cambodia.
This is confirming some ideas I had about this dual productions (photos and videos): or you do the one or the other. The way you think is completely different. The searching of situations, the concept, the approach, the planning of the final work, require a very different thinking and, at least for me, switching from one to the other on the spot, is not easy. In front of a landscape, or a monument, you have all the time you need, but when it comes to people you need to make a choice.
Video has great advantages on photography when movement is involved; it's weaker when the situations are static. Still you have to combine the various components in one, rational and comprehensive message.
On the other hand there are some great opportunities for creativity here. Even during this very commercial assignment I came to realize that there is space for what many people call "videography": applying our photographic skills and visions to the movie. Using a digital camera and it's fantastic lenses is compensating for the tech limits of a videorecorder (even if the sensor is not as good).
Many people that live photography as a purist art will object that this is just another thing. And I agree. All the same I think it's time for the creative photographer to move forward and explore new opportunities. When I experimented with videos around ten years ago the tech options were very basic, and the presentations were limited to short, small movies visible on CDs. Nowadays the web revolution is making video a universal language.. Time to explore it, with the brain, not just the eyes..

Feb 8, 2011


After shooting religious subjects for over 10 years I've become very familiar with the matter. I never liked, and still despise, concepts like blind faith, dogma, absolute truth. They are much more human then divine and their final results are never positive, at least in they way I see life and social order.
Maybe is because of this that I become intolerant when I see the same principles applied to my life, embedded in photography of course.
I wonder who elected the priests and philosophers who dictate dogmas, the do and don't of photography, and on what book is based their wisdom. I'm not surprised that they find a wide audience of followers and believers: who doesn't in these times of emptiness?
The story of absolute truths in photography is long.
I still remember when "they" asserted then only black & white was the real photography, color being only a commercial emanation.
When "they" declared  that digital was nothing, destined to a lower level of the art.
When digital printing was pilloried for being nothing less then a sin, a blasphemy.

Of course the digital era was a flood, but "they" found many arks, it seems.
So, after rapidly adapting to the new religion, the new dogmas were quickly posted on the web.
Basically the most recent commandments dictate that the only licit retouching of a photo are those that were possible on film and in the chemical darkroom. I wonder if this is because these are the only one they know.
You cannot crop an image more then a certain percentage. Again, what if the photographer has a camera with a viewfinder that does not show the whole frame?
You cannot remove even a cigarette butt from a photo, but is not important if you shoot only the dying man and leave the killer out of the frame.
And, what I find really funny, now you can shoot a digital color photo and convert it to black & white (this is licit and even admirable) but cannot change the colors (unless resembling the chemical cross-process or similar). When you decided to shoot with a film instead of another, was this admissible, even with completely different colors resulting?

I'm tempted to describe all this as crazy and stupid, but now that I know the sensitivity of a religion I'm careful. Not because I respect the priests or the believers, just because I can ignore them.
Basically this is the philosophy of the non-photographer, of the non-creative, the conservative that makes it's living talking about photography and not selling (which means showing to an interested public) the contents of those marvelous little squares called photos. It's a crowd that has populated our world since the beginning.
"They" talk like if this art is a set of rules, like if it's a game. In these times when photography has become a matter of contests more then publication, "they" thrive on the crisis, ignore or even deny it. Certainly are not contributing to the evolution of ideas.

If you happen to be a believer, try to make a step back and give a look to the all theater, not just to the stage. You may have a different impression. And start doubting the priests words. You may save photography doing this.

Jan 22, 2011


I have been repeating for years that the greatest luck of my generation was to live the Millennium passage, not for the numerical factor of course (having this value only for Christians), but rather for the possibility of having had a foot in the world of cultural differences and the other in the beginning of the globalized culture. The decision I took when I was eighteen, to dedicate my life to explore human and geographical differences on earth, would have much less sense today, if any at all. From the photography point of view this was even more true: if it had a sense and worthiness to show the beauty and differences on the globe twenty years ago, we can now only search for contemporary matters that are common to the largest part of humanity. Photography became my way to analyze things, to offer my interpretation, and, ultimately, to make a living out of my continuous traveling.
Coming to Sri Lanka now is confirming this view of mine. I wanted to come here long time ago, attracted by tales and images. I wanted to come when I was working on the book on Buddhism. And again I wanted to come when I was in Tamil Nadu, just across the sea. But for several reasons it never happened. What I found nowadays, finally here, is what I expected: a nice country, a great natural environment, a historical heritage well protected by UNESCO. All within a modern nation of proud people, with poverty and problems of course, but who doesn't at this latitude? But original culture is gone, dresses are modern, cars are increasing in number and cellphones are for everybody. My iPhone is well connected to the net, Internet cafe are closing because obsolete. That's good for the people living standard, much worse for their culture and identity. But how can we criticize, us who were the first to be globalized?
Only in religion I still see a peculiar identity, and this probably why I have concentrated on this anthropological subject in the past ten years. Here Buddhism is a national matter, non just a belief. A Buddhism that has very close, obvious but still strange interconnections with Hinduism. A faith that is deeply embedded in the social structure.
This is the new world we live in, the glimpse to the future. We are definitely on the second foot on our life walk. Still an interesting journey, don't you agree?
(See a gallery of iPhone images from Sri Lanka on this facebook gallery)

Jan 6, 2011


I love India (what photographer doesn't? I keep saying that shooting people there is not easy: if they see you they start combing their hairs and smile...) and so I was pleased and honored to be invited as president of the large Global Photography Talent group ob Facebook that has been started there. Although like all presidents in the world, I'm afraid I'll be a very absent (due to duty, no intention) representative figure, I feel like to give some indications to the fellow members of GPT.
Let me offer a general consideration that may be difficult to resume shortly. The positive thing is that photography in Asia is, as a mass accessible expression media, a relatively new opportunity. What I see here is the popular enthusiasm that we had in the West in the 80s, and this is great. I see also the generalist approach to the visual language we experienced though: going beyond the obvious is a task possible for those with a real vocation, not for everybody. It's in the nature of human beings: don't ask me to sing..
So, while in the West photography is undergoing a deep rethinking due to a wide crisis that wiped away many of the media where images were the core, (see many recent posts in this blog) and also by the fact that everybody today has a "camera" in his pocket, here the road is wide and long. What a great opportunity.
But to take real advantage of this global historical situation the new coming photographers must be wise. The advantage of the fast-growing cultures is to learn from the history and the mistakes done in the past by others: Africans will not wait for a telephone wire to call, they'll have cellphones instead!
So, to finalize my idea, a suggestion: look at the images done in the past 40 years in the West, at the magazines that made photography great, at the work of great photographers. Understand, absorb and digest this mass of cultural history. Then just forget it. This is the past. Will be part of you visual DNA, but nothing more. You task is to start now, from here, to develop your visual language, your expression, the future of photography. Your photography.

Jan 2, 2011


                                    an Holga like picture of Moskow, shoot with a Nikon D3

Now that we all live the Digital culture and Photoshop is our definitive guru I feel it's time to move on. Most of you will know by now what a Plug In (PI) is and what is offered in the market. Practically, to make it simple, a PI is just a shortcut for functions already existing into Photoshop. If you wish to recreate a cross-process color cast to your image you could do it regulating the curves (actually there is also a preset in CS5). But commercial PIs are coming in many forms that will make the job for you. Of course they have gone a long way further: now you can have a Holga looking image, which is a combination of several regulations, in one single step. And the list is long.
But it's here that I have a lot to discuss. The vast majority of popular PI are offering a range of regulations that will recreate the results of traditional photography. From B&W as shoot on several type of films, to slide or negative film tonalities (and even grain), to vignetting and chemical alterations. In short, they are looking back, not forward. In doing so they answer the desire of photographers to perpetuate their style with the new digital media but jeopardize the potential wish for a stylistic evolution. Digital is offering a great freedom of expression (shooting at low light, shooting a lot, seeing what you are getting on the spot): why aren't we using it do develop new potential forms of expression? Why we keep looking back?
The reasons are obvious, having to do with our visual culture and history. But I keep saying that if photography does not evolve will be condemned to oblivion. At least that photography that wishes to express itself at a higher level, representing a message and not just a visual chronicle of something.
We hope we will not need "third party" tech help to develop these new ways. In music, video, art in general, the evolution is clear. Sometimes controversial, but unmistakably underway. Photography needs new visionaries with great ideas..