Mohamed, guardian of the sleeping machine.

One of the things that make me love my job the most is the chance I get to be in peculiar places and situations. While I was shooting my reportage Ionian Spirit, I got into the ship engine room. It’s been a fascinating experience: every surface was full of tubes and inactive machinery. It felt like entering the belly of a sleeping mechanical beast. And while I was wide-eyedly going through that metal maze, Mohamed guided me in and out, a reassuring smile on his face for every time I lost my balance on the greasy floor.

I deeply believe that my duty is getting into these situations in order to bring them home to my audience.

 

Advertisements
Mohamed, guardian of the sleeping machine.

Hellraiser comic book cover

When I started working on Suspension of Disbelief, I couldn’t have imagined what was lying ahead. Since the very first shot in 2009, many things happened: I got to unbelievable places, met great people, faced my own fears and learnt a lot about people surrounding me and about myself too. The publishing process has been intense, to say the least: I didn’t find a suitable publisher, so I did everything on my own; I’ve been interviewed by great websites and radios and found my work used in many places.

There’s one thing I couldn’t foresee: Suspension of Disbelief being used as a reference for a comic book cover. Honestly, that’s quite surprising, but in a very positive way. Paolo Villanelli is a great illustrator and knowing that my book inspired him for the cover of Hellraiser Bestiary #5 made me very proud.

So, check his blog post about the illustration out and be sure to get yourself a copy of both Suspension of Disbelief and Hellraiser Bestiary #5!

20140917_132005

Hellraiser comic book cover

Professional reportage with Olympus OM-D, my transition from reflex to MFT cameras

I’ve always been a Canon fanboy, but in the last year I only touched my 7D and 5D a couple times.
I will hereby try to explain why I’d never leave my Olympus OM-D EM-5 again.

Since 2009 I’ve been dedicating myself exclusively to reportage photography. I spent the first three years on Suspension of Disbelief, my reportage about rituals of body suspension, and then I worked on Ionian Spirit, my latest work about a ship held hostage by its very crew.

I started Suspension of Disbelief using my Canon 5D Mk1 and subsequently I added a Canon 7D to the lot, in order to enjoy the higher FPS that were so badly needed during very dynamic suspensions I had the chance to witness around Europe. Everything was ok, I only had a couple things to complain about. First of all, two reflex cameras and a whole lot of lenses (namely my Canon 24mm L F1.4, 50mm F1.4, 100mm L IS F2.8, Sigma 12-24 F4.5 – 5.6 and, from time to time, the 70-200 L IS F2.8) were heavy. I suppose nobody ever died from bringing all that stuff on his back, and of course neither did I, but around 2010 I had already started leaving a lot of those things at home. By June 2011, all I was bringing along was the 7D and the 24mm in a Maxpedition Proteus Versipack waistpack strapped across my chest. Needless to say, my freedom of movement improved a lot.

The second thing that was annoying me was the fact that, around 2011, in the suspension community people started to acknowledge me and to be aware of my long term photographic project and so on. This was all good, of course: I didn’t want to hide myself in any way, but I didn’t like the fact that their reaction to my physical presence was changing. They were very aware that a big, professional reflex camera meant the possibility of being portrayed in a book, so they started to act a little different than before in front of me, being a little less natural. That was a big problem.

So I started thinking about a possible solution. I spent a whole year studying all the small, less-than-professional looking cameras on the market and then, around February 2012, the news about the forthcoming Olympus OM-D E-M5 hit me like a brick.

The silver version looked like everything I ever wanted: it was small, vintage looking (and therefore easily mistaken for an old, non professional camera), light, fast and its image quality was nothing short than awesome.

In May 2012 I succeeded in the not-exactly-easy task of finding a silver OM-D and in less then a month I left for the last stop of my reportage on body suspension, in the woods of Croatia. All I had in my waistpack was the Olympus OM-D E-M5, the Panasonic 20mm F1.7, the battery charger and a couple Sandisk Secure Digital memories.

Image

From that day on I only used my Canon reflex cameras a couple times and basically I spent all my time shooting with the OM-D. In the final version of the book, pictures come from Canon 5D, 7D and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and there’s absolutely no way to tell one from the other. Image quality has never been a concern and many times the OM-D outperformed the 7D in terms of noise. Using the AF straight from the display felt a little unprofessional at first, but allowed me to take very interesting pics from very interesting points of view. And to do that very, very quickly.

Of course, people changed their attitude towards me. Many people actually stopped noticing me (and changing their facial expression due to that), but the funniest part is that other photographers, often hired by the hosts of the events, kept asking me if that was my only camera and if I was really making a professional reportage with such non-professional equipment.

When I felt that the project was ready, I stopped running around Europe and started working on the book. I took care of the final stage (the actual publishing of the ebook) far from home, in southern Italy. While I was there I stumbled on this incredible story about the crew of a Greek ferry that decided to hold the ship hostage in order to force the company to pay their wages.

The story was too big not to cover it, so I took all the equipment I had with me at the moment and jumped aboard the captured ship. Needless to say, I only had my Olympus OM-D E-M5, my Panasonic 20mm F1.7 and a Canon Speedlite 580. Of course, I already knew that all those things were more than good enough to take excellent pictures, so I decided to take the stress test on my equipment a little further: I took all the pictures in JPEG format, insted of the more forgiving RAW.

Image

After the first few days shooting inside the non-powered ship, with the weirdest light conditions ever, I realized that I would have never stepped away from the OM-D again. Every single picture was good straight out of the camera. And, I suppose, it couldn’t be in any different way, because JPEGs have a very small margin when it comes to postproduction, especially if, like me, you don’t make use of Photoshop.

If in 2009 you would have asked me if a MFT camera was good enough to be employed as the sole mean to make a professional reportage, I would have laughed at you, no doubt about it. But now I’m pretty sure that it’s the other way around, I feel that now it’s the time to question ourselves if reflex cameras are the only possible tool for a photographer. And my answer is, of course, a huge no.

(Both reportages are currently available for purchase on Lulu.com both in English and Italian)

Professional reportage with Olympus OM-D, my transition from reflex to MFT cameras

The first post

So it looks like I opened a new blog. It’s been like five years since I wrote my last, not so enthusiastic post on a blog, so I suppose getting back on the track will be a very tough and (hopefully) fun experience.

Since this is my first post, I’m gonna introduce myself. My name’s Stefano, I’m a reportage photographer and I do a lot of other things when I’m not running around the globe to take pics of peculiar people doing peculiar stuff. This is what I do for a living, but it’s also so much more.

When I started this adventure I was very bored with my studio work: photography seemed to be the least interesting thing in the universe at the time. But as soon as I set off on my journey through rituals of body suspension all the great feelings I used to have while taking pictures got immediately back to me. I felt like I was doing serious stuff for the first time in my life and I had the distinct impression that my photography could impact people lives in a positive way. It took three or four years to these things to turn out true, but still they did.

There are many things that make this kind of photography not so fun, like the emotional setbacks of the negative situations I often witnessed, or the fact that reportage photography fees are nowhere near those of fashion or wedding photography, or again the fact that I spent the last three years of my life on the move. But in all honesty, I feel like there’s no other kind of photography I can do as well as this. I feel confident in my skills and I like my own way of getting along with my subjects and making my presence anything but a burden to them. Portrait photography is the another field that makes me feel this way.  But it lacks the adventure part.

Well, now you know how it all started. I promise I’ll be writing about all I did in the past and what I’m doing right now, photographically speaking. There are a lot of stories that just need to be told and a lot of projects I’m gonna publish and show you on these pages.

Stay tuned,

Yours truly,

Stefano

Image

 

If you’re wondering: yep, it’s a shower.   ; )

The first post