I shoot in color. Life around me is colorful.
Q1: State your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Luigi Casentini, I’m a photojournalist based on Prato, in Italy. But I was born in a close city called Lucca. I’m currently working in a local television as a cameramen.
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: Yes, sure. One shot one kill!
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Luigi?
A: Oh well. This is a building near my house and it always fascinated me because of the game of lines and shadows. I walked past it very often but never noticed any interesting subject till the day I took this picture.
Q4: Is this your style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, what is it?
A: Oh yes, I think this picture must be representative of my style. I’m fascinated by lines, geometry, composition and colors. In my photography, the whole frame move around people to tell a story.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A: Every frame that “smells” of street. Street photography is not a style. It’s a state of mind, a different way to look at the world surrounding us.
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 to consider street photography seriously a year ago. And I fell in love totally. Parr, Gilden, Meyeroviz, Matt Stuart opened my mind to the street photography. Now I’m part of an Italian collective, Inquadra and we try to teach each other to the best way to tell the world around us.
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: My favorite gear? A good pair of shoes, plenty books to learn from the greatest and many miles to walk on by. I think, the first thing a photographer should do, is to find a way to tell a story. And no camera can do it for you. If you have something to tell, you can even use a cell phone. In my opinion, the best camera is the one you always carry with you. Mine is a Fuji x100s. It’s small and silent. This is all I need.
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’m a reporter first. This is what I do to pay my bills and my son’s school. I turn into a street photographer when I find a way to follow my instinct and tell the stories I see when I’m on the street.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: The culture behind the photo. The main difference, between the one who makes photographs and the one who takes a camera to take pictures, is the mental process unfolding when taking a photograph. You can clearly feel it when you are in front of a photo beside a snapshot.
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. I shoot in color. Life around me is colorful. Someone told that B&W captures people’ souls while colors only clothes …. Clothes are part of soul of the people for me. I know I’m stating a strong point, but I think that B&W is simpler than color photography. When shooting in color you must pay attention to everything around your subject, the background , the other colors…. A bad colors photo can make a good B&W photo…..
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’m not afraid of it. I shoot for myself only, to let people see what I see. With the collective Inquadra we are trying to bring street culture to the italian people, but I think there is still a long way to go.
Q12: Is there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: Street photography is a document. Thanks to the “streephers”‘ shots, the next generations can learn the way we live in our time. More than with television or movies. We tell the reality, as we see it.
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: This is a difficult question. To make a good job, you have to do it full time. But making a living with street photography only is impossible in Italy. So you must compromise. I hope that galleries and magazines will take an interest in our work and thus, give a chance to the most talented to concentrate on it.
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: The mood, and the story. A boring story makes a boring photograph.
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A: Yes, absolutely…but Americans do it better.
Thank you very much, Luigi. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
© Knut Skjærven 2014. All rights reserved.
First published October 21, 2014.