Reportage Photography

Andrea Torrei | Rome, Italy

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Hello, Andrea tell us something about yourself and how you got into photography?
My passion for photography started in my childhood. I remember all the magazines laying around in our house. They were full of photographs - long reportages about wars, political and social fights and travel photographs, countries which I dreamt about to visit once I would be a grown-up. 

I grew up in the 70s and 80s in Rome, Italy. It wasn’t an easy time. „La dolce vita“ was gone. Kidnapping and murders occurred often along with political turmoils while the Catholic church entered our private lives. During that time I travelled a lot around Italy and was able to observe workers on strike and women who fought for their rights. All these memories shaped me very much as a person. Anyway, I can say photography shaped my path, my choices of studies and work. I have graduated in Political Science and worked in the social field for many years.

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Have you ever dreamed about to become a photographer? 
Well, I have never dreamed about being a photographer. It was more a coincidence. There was a time I didn’t have a job, there was the economic crises and the world turned upside down. This was the start for me to grab a second hand camera and start shooting. I took the camera with me all day long, even in the supermarket. One came to another -  books, visiting exhibitions and workshops made my passion for photography grow.

When you started with photography, you tried different genres. Finally, street and reportage photography are your favorite type of expression. Can you explain us why?
Yes, I started trying different genres and I am very happy I did.  For example landscape and macro photography helped me a lot to understand light, colors and details. But the results of my work never convinced me to get more into details. Street and documentary photography were the unavoidable conclusion. 

But I have to say, that I don’t express myself through this genres. I feel very comfortable walking the streets and connect with people and strangers. I enjoy to capture their stories with my camera. This is a journey and a search of who I am. With time I started to understand that it doesn’t matter to come back with a good picture. It’s more about the good experiences that go along with them.

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You submitted a series you recently shot in Armenia, a country you always wanted to travel. Can you explain us why?
Since I’ve graduated I wanted to travel to Armenia. Finally last summer I could fulfil my wish.

Tell us something about the life of the people from Armenia?
They say, that the Armenian hospitality is legendary. I can absolutely confirm this statement. I seldom experienced in my life such a warm welcome. This country has managed to save its own tradition and culture after several years under the Soviet rule.

It is not an easy life, but I have met so many women, strong workers, who are very optimistic by looking confident into the future. There is one example. One day, I got lost in the suburbs of Yerevan. It was a very hot day - the streets were deserted. All of a sudden a women took my arm brought me to her house. She called her neighbours, other ladies and we ended up eating fruits and drinking iced juice. As a present they gave me a fan, which I keep with love. This is Armenia and his people.

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How important is travelling for you? Is there a place in the world you would like to photograph? Traveling is a part of me and a kind of nourishment… I am very curious and strongly believe that we don’t need to go far away to exotic places to make good photographs. Usually, I like to go back to places I already know and experience in a new way. I am sure I will go back to Ethiopia and Asia, where I have worked.

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Has photography changed your life?
Yes, a lot. It changed my perspective of life and awareness of it. And it is an incredible adventure and discovery of myself as well.

Final question. Is there any female photographer you admire?
From Italy, I would name Letizia Battaglia and her many reportages about “Mafia”. Tina Modotti, for her adventurous private life. Nan Goldin is in my heart. 

There are so many works of female photographers I love and follow.The list would be too long to name them all. I very much enjoy seing a lot of young female photographers committed and producing great works. And it is very funny to hear, and not too rarely, that there are no femalephotographers, isn’t is?

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Clara Vannucci | Florence, Italy

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Hi Clara tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m Clara Vannucci, an Italian freelance photographer. I work on assignments in portraiture, sport, corporate, travel, editorial, for magazine and newspaper like The New York Times, L’Uomo Vogue, Stern, Touring Club National Geo. 

The work that represents me the most are my long term projects - all related to the Criminal Justice System:

  • Crime and Redemption, documenting Volterra’s theater in prison company since 2007
  • Rikers Island, documenting the NYC’s Jail Battered women section and one of a prisoner’s family
  • Bail Bond. Bondsmen, defendants & bounty hunters. About the Bail Bond System in the US

You once said that as a child you wanted to become a Rock Star! What changed your mind to stand behind a camera rather than in front of a crowd? 
I think I sadly realized that I'm not such an interesting subject. I'm more fascinated by others people stories, that I find a lot more interesting. 

What does photography mean to you?
Photography and my camera allow me to enter into "others" lives. Even if it's just for a short time - I can mix their life with mine. Through images, I find a way to communicate with everyone, in every country. I think reportage is the best way for me to represent the subjects I photograph. 

Let’s talk about your longtime project „Crime and Redemption“, a reportage about the theater group La Compagnia Della Fortezza in Volterra. How did the idea to that project come up?
It all started when I was very young. I started to document the Theatre in Prison in Tuscany for the association OSA Teatro.  It was my first assignment - it impressed me very much. I visited so many prisons, from Juvenile to Maximum Security, but the one that really impressed me the most was the Volterra One. It was so different from the others, completely on another level. Prisoners were actors, and the impact was incredibly strong. The Volterra prison theater is considered to be a highly motivational therapeutic method of working with violent incarcerated offenders. Prison theater is about redemption. They learn a profession, they become actors, not only prisoners. They go on tour all around Italy and perform to sold out crowds. At the end of the show, they are escorted to the local prison for overnight.

Once I moved to NYC, I showed the pictures to Donna, she was really shocked and she pushed me to keep going there to shoot this incredible story. Of course, I did it. It became my first important project. 

It is rather unusual for a woman to work on different prison projects. Is there a specific intention?
No there isn't. It's just something that really dragged me into and I want to discover more about it.

Was there something you have learned about life in prison and the prisoners?
Of course, there are many different things you can learn from them. One, in particular, is how to sort out different solutions in daily life - like how to build an oven and cook an amazing cake with just three gas tank in a cell. 

You did an internship at Magnum Photo in NYC and assisted the documentary photographer Donna Ferrato.  What experience was it for you to work for Magnum and what was the most important thing you have learned during your internship?
The internship at Magnum has been such an honor. I was so excited. I didn't know that much about photography, and Magnum was the only agency I knew. When I arrived in NYC I had lunch with Paul Fusco, the Magnum Photographer, and Associated. He wrote me a letter of recommendation. I was the happiest person on the planet. The internship was mostly about to archive photographs and dealing with the negatives of the masters of photography. During that time I have learned a lot about photography history. 

During that time Donna Ferrato became your mentor. How important was this for you? Would you suggest to young photographers finding a mentor? 
I never went to a photography school. Being Donna Ferrato’s Assistant, for over 2 years, meant a lot to me. She taught me everything, like how to approach to people I want to photograph, to tell their stories. She’s definitely my mentor and my inspiration. She forced me not being lazy and carry my camera every day. The camera is the tool that now allows me to enter into other people's lives, even if it's just a short time.

Donna has been the best experience I could ever have and of course, I would suggest to any young photographer finding a mentor. It’s the best way to learn.

What is your creative process when you work on a project?
Often people contact me and want to tell their story, but I also look for ideas while I am traveling. I start to read something about the place I'm going to visit, and then I start to find little stories to tell.  For example, my prison projects felt like a chain - they are connected in a kind of a way to each other.  I started my project in Opera Prison in Milan and after the exhibition about it, I started with the Bail Bond projects. The Bail Bond project was born, because I was talking with a person about the Rikers Island One. And so on..

You’re from Italy-  Is there an Italian female photographer you really admire?
Definitely Letizia Battaglia! Her work on the Mafia in Sicily, it is a real photojournalistic document. Over the years she documented the brutal internal war of the Mafia and the assault to society. She actually co-won the Eugene Smith Award with Donna Ferrato in the same year. They are both revolutionaries.

Thanks a lot Clara for the interview!