“the light enlightens both the subject and the photographer“
Q1: Please state your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Federico Gentili. I live in Italy in a small town in Umbria. I’m cad designer and I have always loved photography.
Q2: Welcome to On the Edge. You will have to pick one of your best street photographs and you are asked to refer to that photo only during the interview. Would that be ok with you?
A: Sure no problem.
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Federico?
A: The reason for the choice lies in the fact that this photograph resembles my way of composing an image with respect to a vanishing point (in the sense of perspective) and human presence.
Q4: Is this your style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, can you describe it?
A: I think this represents my style. My approach to composition is predominantly linked to human architectures and attitudes, which I like to embedded in a dynamic movement and perspective.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A:. I don’t have the capabilities of a street photographer, who catches the scene in front of him. My pictures are more meditated in the search of a dialogue between the subject and the architecture around him. My definition of the street photography is the same as of photography in general and you know it already: “the light enlightens both the subject and the photographer“. Move one element and it changes everything!
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 prefer photographs of landscapes, so street photography is not prevalent in my works. One of the reasons is that I grew up in small cities where “the photographer walking on the street” doesn’t play unnoticed and being a very provincial reality common people are distrustful of you and look at you with some suspicion. However, when I have the occasion especially when I go to the big urban centers – I become invisible – so I like to dive into the middle of the crowd.
I read so much and looked at the photographs of the great Masters such as, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank or Gianni Berengo Gardin, and of course I was inspired by their masterpieces. But today I think it’s harder to take photos on the street. When people realize that you are a photographed they adopt a rather hostile attitude and take it as a violation of their privacy, especially in Italy.
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 can say that I am equipped in this sense and in any case, and I am not here to make a list for you. I have also realized, for the above reasons, that it is more convenient to use a compact digital camera, as it is small handy, and less in the eye!
Q8: Are there any particular reason why you call yourself a street photographer? Many people capture landscapes, seascapes, birds caved in. Do you take such pictures as well?
A: No reason. I am just a photographer! I capture everything that can be photographed.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: It is not the same thing. Photography requires more commitment, more intuition and it is for this reason that really good street photographers are very few. I mean those who know how to tell a story. I hope I have understood your question correctly.
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photographs are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A: It’s the unconscious development of our mind that draws on the works of the great masters. Just this!
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: It’s a way to tell stories and the camera is the most efficient and immediate instrument for telling stories.
Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: No special value except to aid my memory of places and situations.
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 to see into the future, but tell me anyway.
A: I think the European movement is very good, digital has given it a great boost. But with the number of images that are being produced today (by any means), I’m afraid that quality will vanish, and everything could get lost in a gigabyte galaxy!
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: To tell a story, neither more nor less!
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A:. Oskar Barnack seems to me to be the most important man in that respect. Without him, we would not even be talking here. Thanks a lot Knut, was an honor!
Thank you very much, Federico. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
(For those who want to see more of Frederico Gentili’s amazing photography, please see his site federico gentili photography.)
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.
November 9, 2017.