INTERVIEW

October 28, 2022

IN FRAMES WE TRUST

IN CONVERSATION WITH GIANLUCA MORTAROTTI

Photography by Gianluca Mortarotti
Interview by Melanie Meggs

Gianluca Mortarotti is an autodidact photographer based in London, United Kingdom. The roots of his interest in photography lay in his father's work, first introducing Gianluca to the world of photography, from developing films in the darkroom at a very young age to wedding photography works. After his architecture and building engineering studies, the photographer focused on life in cities exploring urban contrasts and the oddity of human connections.

With distinctive imagery suffused with painterly qualities, Gianluca's images evoke a sense of calm and of positivity. His persona behind the camera brings out Gianluca's life philosophy of looking for the exceptional in the ordinary and trying to make it visible through a fresh and unexpected approach, with a narrative and metaphorical meaning in his photographs.

It is with great pleasure we interview Gianluca where we get to know him more and talk about his photography and inspirations.

"Camera's just a tool. The eye makes the photo"

TPL: Gianluca please tell us about yourself. How does where you are from influence your work?

GM: I am from Italy, I was born and raised in Rome and currently, I am based in London where I work as an engineer in the construction industry. I’m not a photographer for a living and I have never really done any study that relates to photography, filmography, etc. I don’t think where I’m from has influenced my work much. It’s rather how I grew up that probably has shaped how I work and take photos today. My biggest influence since a young age was my father and his work as a photographer. Surely spending time with him developing films in the darkroom, shooting at weddings, or just hanging around his shop made photography an integral part of my life.

TPL: What drew you to photography? What was that moment that you decided to pick up a camera? Talk to us about your photographic experience on the streets of London.

GM: It was a slow process that evolved during the years I would say. There wasn't a real moment in my life when I decided "ok, now I'm going to learn photography or do photography". Photography has always been part of my life obviously, but if I must think of a specific moment, it probably happened with traveling. That is for sure the moment I started to feel the need of having a camera with me wherever new I would go, wherever there was something to discover or document. My love for street photography arose from my moving to London (in 2020) and so the two things go hand in hand. That’s absolutely the moment where I felt the switch, where I realised street photography was going to be my biggest passion.

TPL: What is it that you love most about street photography?

GM: That it allows you to seize your perception of the world around you like no other medium can. You could tell, write, sing, or play what you perceive, but I think the visual power of images goes beyond all of that because, in the end, you are instantly expressing all kinds of information about your personal view. An image is enriched by your background, your mood, and your feelings so all the emotions connected to that moment are held within each photo you make. Another reason why I love it, and that’s why I used “make” photos, is that it’s a creative moment. I can create the image I like, with total freedom of expression, with absolutely no rules to follow, just using elements of the reality I live in.

TPL: What have been some of your most favorite places you find inspiration to explore through your photography, and what draws you there?

GM: I rarely go to specific places to make photos. I just carry my camera with me whenever I go somewhere new and whenever I know I have time to shoot. What I do reckon though is the places I feel most inspired by are the ones that differ the most from my usual surroundings. Out of my comfort zone is the perfect field to exercise what I know and discover what I don’t know. These are the places I find inspiration in.

TPL: What role has the digital community played in your photography journey thus far?

GM: The digital community and social media can be a great source of inspiration away from the “Masters of Photography”. I mean it’s perfect to connect with people of your niche with which you can easily share your work and create a sense of community. To be honest, it got me started. One day I got curious about different types of photography and suddenly I had tons of channels on street photography and photographers to interact with. Instantly. And you can interact and learn from these people of course. So, good to hold the interest. Other than that, I’m very careful in separating the community aspect of it from the way I do photography. And what I mean is I try to stay out of the loop where you end up adapting your style to the media just to get the most out of it but I’m always on the lookout for groups of photographers to share my vision with.

TPL: When you take pictures, do you usually have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both? Please describe your process.

GM: I tend to never set a purpose when I go out taking pictures, that would defeat the whole concept of street photography. I do have in mind, based on previous photos or images I saw in books or on media, some basic concepts that will help me recognize when it’s the right moment to take the shot. But I never go out with the intent to take a specific photo. Generally, I would say I let the images come to me. And that’s the beauty of it, right? I mean, the possibility to improvise, capture a scene, or create in the moment just using general concepts gives you the feeling you’re constantly committing to it. For example, I think being able to adapt yourself to the situation it’s very important. As well as letting your mood influence how you’re going to take pictures. As I see it is a very simple process: I go, I observe, I wait, and I focus on what find interesting, and pleasing for my eyes…lights, colours, people, juxtapositions, and layers.

TPL: Do you have any favourite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?

GM: I love colours so of course, Leiter, Webb, and Hass are my favourite photographers. In a different way though. Probably I like more Hass for the pure use of colours and their balance, I prefer Leiter for the feeling that the images transmit through the colours and Webb for the complexity and richness of colours and composition. I also love the work of Edward Hopper and impressionists like Degas, Pissarro, and Manet, as there’s a very long-distance influence between these movements and street photography.

TPL: If you could just choose one photographer to shoot alongside for a day...who would you choose? And why?

GM: I’d love to spend a day with any of the above but If I really must spend a day out in the street shooting with a photographer, I’d say Bruce Gilden when he was working on his “Facing New York” for two simple reasons: 1. It’s New York. 2. His technique is so unique and bold that I have the impression I’d experience the street like never before and have so much fun. Pure adrenaline rush.

TPL: Do you have a favorite photography/art quote that has been an inspiration to you?

GM: Saul Leiter said, “It is not where it is or what it is that matters but how you see it”. In its simplicity, I found it to be extremely true and liberating. It doesn’t only describe how street photography should be approached but it embodies the essence of visual arts in general. It’s been and still is an inspiration, a reminder that street photography is the most personal, subjective, and liberating type of photography in which the only goal is to express your vision of life.

TPL: What was the first camera you ever held in your hand, brought to eye, and released a shutter on? What is the camera you use now? Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What is on your wishlist?

GM: I think it was a Kodak compact camera, one of these toys with a lot of integrated filters, panoramic mode, and so on…a Kodak EasyShare maybe was the model. At the moment I use a Fujifilm X-S10 and I’ve got two lenses – an XF 23mm f1.4 and an XF 55-200mm zoom. I’m pretty happy with what I can get out of them. They give me the possibility to cover most situations and yes, to achieve my vision so far. also, I don’t think equipment plays a huge role in achieving your vision, I believe that a camera is just a tool and it’s the eye that makes the photo. On my wishlist? I had a Canon, now Fuji so I’d love to get my hands on a Leica someday. I love their minimal design. And Magnum Degrees, the book. That’s also a piece of fundamental equipment.

TPL: Are there any other photographic projects you are working on, or have planned in the near future? What are some of your goals as a photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

GM: My main goal as a photographer is to be consistent enough to create a body of work I can look back at and be proud of. At the moment I’m not working on any photographic project I’m actually thinking about the next one after Lockdown Street Diary (LSD). I self‑publish in 2021 and the creative process behind was just incredibly rewarding so I will totally do it again with a different project. In 5 years? So much has changed in just one year, it’s hard to predict 5. First, I would like to have continued to refine my skills further and then, I‘d like to work on a commissioned photography project. Big dream? Solo exhibition.

TPL: “When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…

GM: Chill, hang out, listen to music, cook (better if at the same time), movies…Keep myself occupied and amused.”