As current students at the school of photography and multimedia TheDarkroom Firenze we are often given the opportunity to practise what is being taught in class and experience firsthand, what it actually means to work as professional photographers.
Specifically, the past month we took part in a project, entitled “Craftsmanship ‘in focus’: the look on Tuscan handicrafts by nine young photographers” (“L’artigianato ‘a fuoco’: Lo sguardo di nove giovani fotoreporter sull’artigianato toscano”), in collaboration with Artex, where we were asked to present an exhaustive coverage of a number of Tuscan workshops. The resulting photos were later displayed at the International Handicrafts Trade Fair, which took place in Florence from April 24 to May 1.
Three of us were assigned the Florentine studio of internationally acclaimed artist Bruno Gambone, best known for his ceramics artworks. In particular, we had the chance to apply both the technical knowledge acquired and what learned about photojournalism so far, in a real situation. I personally have found the task extremely useful, yet challenging; it has certainly offered insights into different topics, such as artistic expression and photographic storytelling.
As for the latter, I believe that an effective visual story, one that has the potential to appeal to a global audience, has to be first and foremost an honest account of recognisable cultural particularity. However, a narrative structured through images needs to go beyond the surface of a specific time and place and render our shared humanity, for it to speak to viewers across the world.
This definition fits my work in that I tried to present an organic collection of photos that capture the atmosphere, the essence of Mr. Gambone’s studio. When I think of his workshop, two words come to my mind: multiculturalism, for his works are a seamless blend of local tradition and international creative influences, and timelessness. Indeed, as you step into his workshop, you get the impression that time has stopped: because we live in a fast-moving world where almost anything is mass-produced on a large scale, watching him at work, throwing the clay on the potter’s wheel and creating one-of-a-kind art pieces by hand, reinforces this feeling. I suppose this is the main reason why we pursuit art: to achieve timelessness, to leave behind a tangible trace of ourselves.
As for the technical side of our assignment, I confess I had to deal with a number of issues while shooting indoors. Taking pictures in low light conditions with little room for movement, with no external flash nor tripod can be rather challenging, to say the least. In order to get a good exposure, I had to bump up the ISO value to 1600, which is not a big deal if your camera performs well at high ISOs (unfortunately, mine didn’t). Even so, I shot most of my photos at f/2.8 and had to drop the shutter speed to 1/60, meaning I had little control over depth of field and had to hold very still to avoid camera shake. All in all, I’m fairly pleased with my results; I tried to do my best with my current gear and now I’m more aware of my strengths and weaknesses in terms of technical skills and equipment.
The last feature I want to mention briefly here is how much social interaction is important to a photographer. This might be obvious to some of you; my point is most people don’t like to have their pictures taken (me included). I think that, as a photographer, you have to fight against this “natural tendency”, by building a strong relationship with your clients and putting them at ease. The problem is, this goes against my natural tendency, which is to avoid human contact at any cost. Jokes aside, what I’m trying to say is that I generally struggle a lot to connect to people and to carry out this assignment I had to step out of my comfort zone and I’m really proud of myself for that. Overall it has been an enriching, inspiring opportunity that gave me a much needed boost of confidence.