Photography requires care at so many stages before, during and after the shot that it seems a (very) different thing from plain picture taking.
Q1: Please state your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Giovanni Mattia Porcelli, I live in Italy, my job is in the IT sector, Imaging Science and Signal Processing.
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, Giovanni?
A: It was among my initial attempts to candid shooting, with a good dose of luck helping in case… It speaks about something that is perceived as desirable, meaning significant involvement too, in the context of a relation.
Q4: Is this your style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, can you describe it?
A: Yes and no. In some cases I feel that a given moment is ok to freeze something significant (and possibly revealing) about people: a camera at hand is the right assist. The rest is framing exercise and spot on reflexes. On the other side I’m literally fascinated by the aftermath of human presence in places. In this latter case it’s the perception about the place’s character that prevails. Places that couldn’t have been as I found them, without past human presence. It’s a mix of new topographic style modules, (applied to how places are represented), and of a somewhat fuzzified views of human action in those same places. It’s important to underline that presences/actions can be largely uncorrelated among themselves at the moment of the shot and with respect to the place hosting them. A sort of complementary set to what is perfectly defined in the HCB vision. Geometry prevailing, with possible links to minimalism: what happens by Humans is-isn’t important, as long as their presence relates well with the place in terms of perceived spatial distribution.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A: Uh, I have not the AUTHORITY to make statements about how it’s defined! LoL!
Perhaps the concept of ‘decisive moment’ is a so powerful synthesis of what it could (mainly) be… not limited to, of course, but the rest is vastly undefined/unconstrained language… Prone to being vague a bit more often than spot on expressiveness…
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: My interest arose when I was about sixteen. It was largely undefined and not very specific at the time, possibly tied to a number of travels in European countries, more with documentaristic intent, following the activities of some cultural associations. At seventeen I watched a film about HCB life and inspiration. That was a strong suggestion to look more in depth at his work. But it was a long study phase, carried on with great interest, but essentially tied to specific HCB exhibitions, distributed in about twenty years. (Some laziness-by-me involved?).
Since a few years I’m a strict follower of a great author & field expert, Knut Skjærven, do You know him? I like to joke about what is, instead, a great encounter, with great positives deriving from it. We all love your work, Knut, so spot on AND complete. Other great people that I like to cite are Lara Kantardijan and Rui Palha. When I cite Rui, I express my esteem to many great Portuguese friends, whose work is really inspiring, with special attention to the architectural context. So much comes from US, too…
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: Apart from M’s in the various declinations, there are modern digital compacts from Sony, Ricoh, Canon, not limited to those brands, that are perfectly small and discrete and with really high IQ and usability. I like much the abilities of the RX100 series. But interesting alternatives arise from Canon (G cameras) or even the beautiful Fujis. Of course no limit in choosing an M with some of those spectacular Lux glasses. Leica Q seems in the excellence region too, of course.
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: I consider myself more tied to urbanscape and urban related situation: these can trigger street moments in a more specific sense.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: Photography requires care at so many stages before, during and after the shot that it seems a (very) different thing from plain picture taking.
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photographs are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A: Black and White is all about framing (timing) and content. The only step allowing a similitude with color photography is about sophisticated toning, which is not the main attention spot in SP.
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: Extremely serious and extremely difficult. Much is coming from the past. Much of the present owes to that past in an evolutive frame perspective, as You teach in deep and coherent way, with your initiatives.
Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: So many moments unconventionally recorded. Moments telling much about how human nature manifests itself in everyday life, in an ideally synthetic way.
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: (Let the photos speak for themselves…) There are great changes in so many aspects of our lives that I like to think more about further questions than suggesting settled views for such a future. My own photo world is more limited. I do not know if I have a vision. I’m influenced for sure as everybody by a fast changing path/perspectives. Future interaction between facts, trends, habits and people perceptions and behaviours seem to become even more complex than those seen in the past. Just look at the ever changing job realities and opportunities… How change impacts on people and the situation of interest they could create? EU social context will be a great container for future potential even for Street Photography. In this sense You generalised the idea of ‘street’ to ‘public space with human interaction’. This is key to street photography being performed in workplaces… with the new job context…
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: Clear structure, allowing for a substitution of a single well defined ‘punctum’ with more complex semantically coherent structures captured in a frame. A possible step to self speaking picture.
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A: HCB’s presence is strong… and so many connections to European cultural background are distinguishable… Everywhere in his photos…
Thank you very much, Giovanni. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
Want to see more of Giovanni’s photography? Visit his Facebook site.
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.
November 14, 2017.