Interview with Photographer Umberto Verdoliva

Umberto Verdoliva not only has won me over with his street photography projects, but he is also one of the most passionate photographers I’ve had the chance to interview. Find out what makes street photography so absorbing and what fascinates most this Treviso-based photographer about his work. Enjoy!

GM: Could you please tell us about your first encounter with photography? What made you start as a photographer?

UV: In 2006 I started to document the progress of the construction work for my company. They have bought a camera and ordered documenting the company website work each month. I fell in love looking at pictures of great authors and started to study photography, read books, and compare myself to others.

For me street photography is the essence of photography. I could not do anything else. The continuous observation of the people around me makes me better understand human kind, and at the same time improve myself as a man.

GM: What fascinates you the most about street photography?

UV: To me, street photography means summarizing inside an image complex aspects that are essentially about man in his routine: places, hidden conflicts, some brief moments of poetry, irony, improbable and surreal coincidences. Basically, everything that might interest or that is invisible in everyday life, with the important objective to show future generations our times and the way we are today. Even reinterpreting reality, by making it unique and personal through our own vision, is an interesting way to handle what surrounds us.

“Street photography” is to me just a term to identify those who constantly photograph in streets and public spaces with this objective in mind. It’s a way of life, not a photographic genre: borders between travel photography, reportage and street portraits are just too thin and uncertain.

umberto verdoliva photography
‘The main quality you need is love to the people.’ © Umberto Verdoliva

Henry Cartier Bresson, who many consider the true pioneer of street photography, never felt like a “street photographer” but only as a photographer attempting to describe the world, its famous characters and whatnot. He did this with a sum of decisive moments, he narrated with his images humanity in a certain historical period. He has been defined as “the eye of the century”.

There have been works of reportage that have told stories of people through snapshots alone: they were bound together by a common idea, by a central theme and they have shown that street photography is not a genre but just a way of life and a way to narrate society around you.

GM: What photographic project is held dearest to your heart and why?

UV: Prisoner of privacy: a provocation. The project describes the difficulties that we now have to photograph the faces of people on the street. That’s the kind of images it captures, with great imagination and originality. But above all it is based on the question ‘what will be left to future generations if it is prevented from photographing the faces of people today?’.

umberto verdoliva photography
Prisoner of the Privacy © Umberto Verdoliva

GM: How important is post-processing in your work? Is there an editing software you prefer using?

UV: The post production for me is not important. I convert my digital images in Black and White and in some cases I cut and settle the contrast. I usually work on analog film.

GM: What camera gear do you currently use? Do you take with you any additional equipment on a shooting day?

UV: I never gave importance to the camera, for me it’s just a pen. The genre of photography that I carry on and that is street photography does not require much equipment as compared to other genres. So, I never worried about the cameras I had. Currently I have a Nikon FM2n analog and a Nikon D300 both given to me. I have never bought a camera.

GM: Where do you find inspiration? Could you name a few photographers that you consider influential for your style?

UV: When I started shooting I was very attracted to FAN HO. Playing with light, to be master of it, has always fascinated me. Probably my studies as well have influenced my way of composing the image.

umbeeto verdoliva photograph
‘Playing with light, to be master of it, has always fascinated me. ‘ © Umberto Verdoliva

GM: How would you define your photography in three words?

UV: Deep, Clean, Sensible.

My style is often based on a strong composition that is not sought but very spontaneous. I have a clean way to take pictures. I tend to capture scenes where the light and the moment are the main protagonists.

GM: If you could start again as a photographer is there anything you would do differently? Are there any sectors you’d like to explore more?

UV: I would do everything I have done. Again, only ever street photography.

GM: If it weren’t for photography, what else would you do?

UV: Photography is not my work, it is only passion. I would live even more …

GM: Any words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts at the beginning of their journey?

UV: The main quality you need is love to the people. Be attentive to their actions, have respect for them. Commit to capture significant aspects with patience, intelligence, sensitivity.

One suggestion is certainly that of going with your own instincts to stay yourself. Photography must never become a competition with someone or something, or a search for some achievement that usually brings people to distort themselves. Photography should only be a way to show your vision of life and transmit what you are to the observers. Photography is showing a part of you, your intelligence, your sensibility and even your culture… this should never be forgotten, only this way can it become a true amusement and a way to grow up and become a better person – already an excellent objective to reach.

GM: Can you tell us a bit about your future projects?

UV: I am now full of commitments.
In October, I will be busy in Florence with STREET FOLIO a day dedicated to portfolio review on street photography.
In December, I’ll be a judge in Miami street photography festival.

I’ll be busy with SPONTANEA as well,  the collective that I founded. The commitment is continuous but we are receiving many positive opinions in Italy, where street photography is very underestimated.

Also, I will continue my activities in the street carrying on photographic projects with my usual enthusiasm.

Discover more of Umberto’s street photographs on his official website. All images featured in this post belong to the photographer and are protected by copyright.

Disclaimer: This interview has been lightly edited for style and proofreading purposes.

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