Photography was the one and only thing that I took really seriously in all my life. I studied, I worked, I made all kind of experiments. I managed to master the whole process of black and white film development and print, that was rather complicated and expensive. Not only that, I was a true enthusiast! I bought books and magazines and I read them through.
I was fourteen when I started and, for the first time in my life, something made by me was appreciated by people. This was new and exciting. Probably this was the reason that made me dig deeper and deeper in the realms of photography. I made portraits, macrophotography, landscapes, still life, urban reportages, funny tricks, architectural pictures and tried any kind of experimental technique that could come into my mind. My father had been a skilled amateur photographer and, for some time he had developed and printed his own pictures, so most of the gear was immediately available at home.
I started with my father’s camera (a Kodak Retina IIc) and my father’s development apparatus (including a decrepit Wolfgang Sheaffer (cheap clone of a Leitz) enlarger built in the early ’50s).
At sixteen I decided that I badly needed a new camera, possibly a 35mm reflex. In that very year the Olympus OM1 was released, and that was my choice. I still remember the ad of the camera with a naked Senta Berger tenderly fondling a completely white painted OM1 camera. The cost of the object was 185.000 lire (in 1973 and it was quite a lot of money), but my parents were so kind to fund me. Recently I started reconsidering the pictures that I made in those years and I couldn’t help noticing that a lot of them were quite good. I have an archive of more than 20.000 negatives of pictures taken from 1971 to 1990 and I’m planning to scan devoutly one by one and put some of them on line. These pictures speak mostly of me, but also of a world now past and lost. Forty years are a lot of time and people, places and way of living have changed. Photography itself has changed.
The negative-positive process had an enormous appeal and lots of limitations. It was expensive and complicated. You didn’t know whether the pictures were coming out right or wrong until the film wad developed.
You needed a lot of gear (film development tanks, enlargers, paper development tray and many other bulky stuff) and possibly a room devoted to developing and printing activities.
When the first digital cameras showed up, I was not practising photography anymore, but I was quite interested and I bought an used Apple Quicktake 200. The disappointment was great. The resolution was awful and the control over the process was zero. Only after ten years I reconciled a little with digital cameras and in these days I’m experimenting something with a bit of enjoyment.
Something about my approach
My approach has always been of the “I am just a witness” kind. That is: “something is happening and I won’t interfere, but I’ll document it”. I made lots of experimentations, though. Among my most futile ones was what I called Automatic Photography, that is putting a timer (I built one with a do-it-yourself electronic kit), point the camera on the subject(s) and then have pictures taken every nth second or minute. I personally wasn’t interfering and the subjects tended to forget about the camera after some time (If the camera was hidden, even better. But the whole thing might become somehow a bit weird). The experiment was an interesting one, there was a lot of study and preparation and a lot of ideology behind. The pictures were terrible.