“I read a lot and try to be prepared, but I approach my subjects with a fresh mind, with no pre-concept. When I’m on the field, I’m never looking for things I already saw or I read. Instead I try to show the things the way I’m feeling them at that particular moment.”
Albertina d’Urso (born in Milan in 1976) is an Italian photographer. She started out as an autodidact, and then assisted in various courses at the “International Centre of Photography” (ICP). Albertina d’Urso also participated in several workshops held by photographers like Alex Webb and David Alan Harvey.
Her main focus is on social and humanitarian reportages. Albertina d’Urso decided to dedicate herself to that field of photography when she went to Mumbai with a charity organization in 2004. Her experience in India later resulted in a book called “Bombayslum”.
Later Albertina d’Urso went to Haiti – an experience which she describes as “a turning point of my career and my life”.
Albertina d’Urso says:
“I had the chance to go back many times, to spend a lot of time on the ground and to interact with the local people as well as with the ones helping them. My first trip there was in 2008, when I spent almost three months there working on an assignment for the Italian NGO “Fondazione Francesca Rava” (NPH) to produce a book about the conditions for children. My work was exhibited in various venues around Italy and my book “Ti mon yo, Children of Haiti” won the documentary book category at the “International Photography Awards”.
When I went back after the earthquake, it was on the one side easier to work because I already knew the country, but at the same time it was difficult because I had a strong attachment to the country and its people. The situation in the capital was an apocalypse, outside the capital it also looked like an apocalypse, but as the picture in my book show, it was not so different from what it was like before. People were still living in tents and shelters like right after the earthquake.”
Albertina d’Urso, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
I started to play with every kind of camera, mainly small compact ones. My first serious camera was a Canon EOS 5. I was more or less 20 years old, I haven’t moved away from Canon since than. I switched to digital when the 5d was released.
Why did you become a photographer?
Well, I have always been a curios person. I took any chance to explore the world and taking pictures was my way to share my experiences with my friends and family. So I guess it was by chance that I became a professional photographer. Some friends who were running a charity project in Mumbai asked me to accompany them and to take pictures of the children that they supported. This project later was shown in an exhibition, someone bumped into it – and things started happening.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography for me is more than my job. It’s kind of my life. But I take care of keeping also other interests and to hang out with any kind of friends, also if they are in different businesses. It is important for me to be open to everyone and don’t be locked up in a box, seeing just people of my own business.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
I like David Alan Harvey a lot, because he’s taking pictures for over half a century now, but from his work you can see that he still has the passion and the spirit of a teenager. And Alex Webb, because he has such a personal style that he does not need to sign his pictures. As soon as you see them you know that they are his and because every one of his shots tells a whole story, every single frame is like a small movie. But I’m inspired by every one and no one. I look at a lot at pictures, and at a lot of different kinds of art, but I try to be inspired mostly by my subjects, my heart and my eyes.
Interview with David Alan Harvey:
“I especially like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, because I realized that they were taking every day life and making art out of it. This was very important to me starting out as a photographer. I still love that. You take your little camera, see and ordinary scene and make some art of it.”
What’s your favorite photography quote?
It changes. Now I’ll say this:
“The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.”
How would you describe your photographic style and way of working? How do you realize a shooting?
I read a lot and try to be prepared, but I approach my subjects with a fresh mind, with no pre-concept. When I’m on the field, I’m never looking for things I already saw or I read. Instead I try to show the things the way I’m feeling them at that particular moment.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
I don’t know, I think it has to come in a natural way. When I did my first book, I had no photography background. I didn’t grow up in an “artistic environment”. I think that the first book that entered my family house was just that book. I was attracted by faces and expressions, and I was taking almost exclusively portraits. After my interests had moved on, the interaction with the people, with each other, and with the environment and also I started to be hungry for learning and my style evolved – and maybe still is evolving. Who knows, I’m a professional for less than ten years, and I found “my focus” less than five years ago, so I don’t conside myself as a “mature” photographer yet.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Talent, passion and experience. That’s why for me it’s difficult to be “on the peak for a long time”. It happens too often, that a photographer with lots of experience has lost his passion.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
It has to evoke strong emotions in me. If it does that through the light, through the composition or just because the subject, it does not matter…
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
It’s the subjects of my stories that are driving me. I interact a lot with them, and they always help me to understand how to go on with the project.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
One camera, one lens. I want things to be easy and light.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Take pictures that you like and not pictures that you think people may like. If you try to “copy” a style, that is “in fashion” at the moment, by the time you’ve mastered it, it’s not going to be “in fashion” anymore.