“I think that the immediate availability of photographic material is no longer a source of inspiration but rather is creating an addiction to the image that makes the photograph less and less attractive and more serial.”
Luca Napoli (born in 1972) is a street photographer from Italy currently based in Legnano, Italy.
For Luca Napoli street photography is more than just to “take the camera and go down the streets”. He’s looking for unfiltered moments, shooting the real world.
“Never take a picture if you’ve nothing to say.”
“My photos are diaries, just frames of my daily life. I’m always fascinated by stories that touch the everyday lives of all of us always overwhelmed by daily routine. Well, photography helps me to keep in touch with them and to raise some question. Never take a picture if you’ve nothing to say.”
Interview with Luca Napoli
Luca Napoli, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures out on the streets?
For sure the most memorable moment has been during the shooting of the project “Il più bel giorno della mia vita” (“The most beautiful day of my life”). It was a period of great human growth.
Another project I feel really close to is “Commuters” in which I tell a story of my daily trip to work in public transport.
Why did you become a photographer? And why street photography?
I became a photographer because of the need to tell what I think about the world surrounding me. I cannot write. I only have the possibility to explain by shooting photography. Street is the place where everything is unfiltered, it’s true. It’s the best place to shoot the real world.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
As I told before photography is the only way I have to express my feeling towards the reality that surrounds me. I use photography to express my love, my rage, my disappointment.
I hope that everyone looking at my work always gets this feeling. Otherwise my images are useless. Even if only one photo has raised a question, I’ve reached my goal.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
I do love italian photographers of 50’s and 60’s and the historical value of their works. They showed me a piece of Italian story I could not have known otherwise.
I’m talking about Ferdinando Scianna, Berengo Gardin, and Franco Pinna.
Your favorite photography quote?
“What uses having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?”
W. Eugene Smith
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
“Sometimes the project doesn’t trigger the emotion I expected and I give up.”
I have to find a story that touches me emotionally. That’s it.
Once I have something to tell I pass every day thinking how I can tell that story in a way someone gets interested in it. How can I put on sensor the feelings I have, my opinion on that, my rage, my empathy towards the subject. This is not something I build before starting the job.
This is something that comes during the shooting session. Sometimes the project doesn’t trigger the emotion I expected and I give up.
Usually when the story works I simply like to get close to the subject to talk with him.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
Just having something to say. I will use another quote:
“Photography is very simple provided you have something to say.”
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
“There is nothing else in my photography: being as spontaneous as possible.”
I’m not interested in the photographic technique. I only use 35mm, I’ve sold all zoom lenses I had. As I told before I like to be close to the subjects to be inside the scene, to be part of it. There is nothing else in my photography: being as spontaneous as possible.
What qualities and characteristics does a good street photographer need?
Being patient, having the ability to identify and anticipate an interesting situation and wait for the right moment to immortalize it.
What does a photo need to be a great street shot?
I think there is not a general rule to identify a great street shot. It’s true, everything and the opposite of everything.
Basically a good shot raises a thought, an emotion, a question. Otherwise, it has failed.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Magazines, books, exhibitions, online blogs.
Paradoxically, I think that the immediate availability of photographic material is no longer a source of inspiration but rather is creating an addiction to the image that makes the photograph less and less attractive and more serial.
What’s the biggest challenge shooting on the streets?
“The biggest challenge of a street shot is the immortality.”
Looking at photo blogs such as flickr it seems to me that street photography is losing its original charm.
I do not see planning. I do not see ideas. It’s just “Take the camera and go down the streets”, but to me that’s not enough.
Photographing some nice and funny scene is not enough. You can definitely make a successful photo, but if it is not a piece of a mosaic is useless. Street photography is history. When 200 years from now someone will see shots of Robert Doisneau or Henri Cartier-Bresson, he or she will have an exact idea of the historical and social context in which those shots were taken.
So the biggest challenge of a street shot is the immortality.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I’ve got a compact SONY RX100 and a Canon 5dMKII reflex with a 35mm. I also have a 50mm.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
I like “Burn Magazine”, “Witness Journal” and “Eric Kim’s Blog”.
What photography book would you recommend?
I think “The Americans” by Robert Frank is a must have.
It’s a book in which he has condensed the essence of photography. It’s social and anthropological research. It’s a history book. It’s full of universal messages directed to everybody and not only to photography lovers. Each shot gets you really inside the story.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a street photographer?
I have no advice for them. I’m not a professional street photographer. I think turning your passion into a job might have some risks. You are not free anymore. You must follow the line depicted by your agency or your buyer.
Don’t know if I really like it.