The most important thing is that a photograph must be unique; no one else should ever be able to make an equal. Easy, right?
Q1: State your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name Emilio Barillaro and I live in Rome, Italy. I’m a Media planner/buyer and a photographer just for passion.
Q2: Welcome to The One Photo Interview, by the way. It is the TOP Interview. Do you know what that means? It means that you will only have the opportunity to show one single photograph and you will refer to that for the rest of this interview, right? Would that be ok with you?
A: Thank you! Sure!
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Emilio?
A: I was in NYC, along Central Park, and a gust of wind pushed the steam (which usually comes out vertically from one of those pipes that emerge from the streets) on the sidewalks. I only had a few seconds to run there (I was across the street) and to capture this strange atmosphere and the gestures of those people.
Q4: Is this your style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, what is it?
A: I think I do and I believe you can see it by looking at my whole work. This picture (and the entire series of which it forms part) is different from it. Until that moment (last August) I saw the world in grayscale. When I arrived in New York City, for my 10-day journey, I realized that I had begun to see things in color and also my approch was different. Even other photographers I know had the same reaction with “The Big Apple”. I think it’s that particular city that makes you see the the world in a different way.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A: Make candid, unposed and unstaged pictures. That’s it.
Q6: Give me some basics. How long have you had an interest in street photography? Do you have any mentors that you have learned from?
A: I started photographing in 2011 and it was almost from the beginning the only genre that interested me, because it has that “unpredictable” element… everything else is boring for me and not even an option. I did a workshop with Joel Meyerowitz that changed my life and i’m lucky to be part of SPontanea, an Italian street photography collective, formed by great photographers from whom I learned a lot.
Q7: Let’s talk about equipment. Some have an almost religious addiction to it. Long lenses, short lenses, rangefinders, non rangefinders, compacts. Leicas, Canons, Nikons, analog or digital. What is your opinion of this? What is your preferred gear? Don’t be boring when you answer this, please.
A: I don’t really care about equipment. All that I need is a small 35mm camera, digital or film. For the record I use a Fujifilm X100S and an Olympus mju II.
Q8: Are there any particular reason why you call yourself a street photographer? Many people picture landscapes, seascapes, birds caved in. Do you take such pictures as well? What I mean to ask is, do you in fact do much parrot shooting in the zoo? Or similar non-street themes?
A: I photograph in public places everything, with the approch i told you before (candid, unposed and unstaged). A few months ago, talking about the zoos, I started photographing almost exclusively in my city’s zoo. I love people, I also love animals and I’m actually trying to photograph their similarities. It’s a long-term project.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: The only important difference is between good photos and bad photos.
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photos are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A: I don’t think so. There are lots of good photos in colour too. Martin Parr, Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston, Saul Leiter, Bruce Davidson, Alex Webb… Just to name some great photographers who use color and make great photos.
Q11: Do you think that street photography is a serious type of photography? Can anything good come of it? How do you see this?
A: I think it’s the hardest one.
Q12: Is there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: Perhaps something … but not too much.
Q13: Your vision? What is your vision for European street photography? What is the vision for your own photography? I am not going to ask how you see the future, but tell me anyway.
A: More than an European vision vs. the rest of the world vision, I see a difference between the Anglo-Saxon vision vs. the rest of the world vision. Anglo-Saxon street photographers use a different approach and I think the reason is their different culture and the physical characteristics of their places.
About the future all I can say is that I love what I do and I try to improve my photography all the time. Then, if the future holds for me something good so much the better…Otherwise I’ll be enjoying myself anyway!
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: The most important thing is that a photograph must be unique; no one else should ever be able to make an equal. Easy, right?
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A: Everything was invented in Europe. Am I wrong?
Thank you very much, Emilio. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
© Knut Skjærven 2014. All rights reserved..
First published October 16, 2014.