I stumbled upon Nico’s work quite recently and, as a street photographer myself, I was quite taken by the poetry in his imagery. He is not an ‘in your face’ street photographer, each one of his images is subtle and tells a story. Some of his photographs will make you think, others will bring a smile to your face. One thing is for sure, all of them will inspire a reaction. Nico was born in Italy and is currently living in the Netherlands. I had the pleasure to ask him a few questions for the readers of dPS. With no further ado, let me introduce you to the work of Nico Chiapperini. If you enjoy this interview, I invite you to visit his website.
1. When and how did you discover your love for photography?
When I was ten years old I brought my father’s camera with me on a school trip. I took some pictures of fake dinosaurs in a Jurassic Park for children. It was my first time and I shot two rolls of film, I was so proud and happy. The next day, my dad told me I could have bought nice postcards instead of wasting film and money. He did not have bad intentions, he tried later to encourage me, but I was a sensitive child and I never touched a camera again until I received my degree in Aerospace Engineering. For that occasion I received a digital compact camera as a present from friends. I started taking pictures again and bringing my camera with me everywhere, this time without the worry of limited budget due to the cost of film. I don’t want to start a discussion between analog and digital photography, for me they are just different technologies with the same purpose. I must admit that, in my case, the latter gave me the freedom to experiment a lot and learn quickly.
2. What is it in street photography that inspires you?
For me Street Photography is a stage where people are unaware that they are actors playing comedies or drama. l am fascinated to discover their accidental connections and their relationships with the places where they are standing or moving. There are endless configurations and possibilities. Intriguing, strong and ambiguous situations are more common in the streets and public places, so that is why Street Photography inspires me. In the daily flow so many special moments are waiting to be preserved from oblivion and when I notice and grab them, I feel great joy and satisfaction.
3. How often do you do street photography and how do you proceed?
Unfortunately (or luckily, nowadays it is really hard to say) photography is not my main job, so telling you how often I do street photography is quite hard. I would say whenever and wherever I can: During holidays, on the weekends, when I go shopping, even when I go to the office.
Sometimes I just see a picture while I am walking and I do not even have a second to check the settings on my camera. I shoot as quickly as possible, taking care of framing the image in the way I feel it. I suppose it is something I do by instinct, even though after a long time I can see some reasons or intentions when I look again at the picture I took.
Sometimes I see a stage under a beautiful light and one or more interesting subjects, so I wait for a while, until all pieces of the puzzle are in the right position and then I shoot. But very often it does not work and I do not like shooting the same corner over and over again, just hoping to get a nice picture by chance. Of course I would be a fool not to admit that luck plays a part in taking good pictures, but I believe that being lucky is more than hoping things happen by chance: it is exposing yourself to the right place and the right moment because you foresee something good and you are ready for it.
4. Do you ever interact with your street subjects?
I never do that in Street Photography. As the great Italian photographer Ferdinando Scianna used to say “I like doing bullfighting with Chance”. I strongly believe that reality often goes beyond imagination, so I am just an observer, I do not feel the need to set anything or interact with anyone to obtain magic moments.
5. What gear to you use and what is your workflow?
I use a compact camera because I can have it with me at all times, it makes me feel very light and invisible, especially for Street Photography. If I go out to take pictures after I planned it far in advance, I bring with me a full-frame reflex with a 40 mm manual focus fixed lens mounted and a 24-105mm zoom in the bag (which I seldom use seldom it makes me lazy and uncomfortable). I prefer to shoot during the golden hours, but if the weather is not nice, the light can be amazing and I can shoot all day.
I try to save and backup the raw files as soon as possible but I do not work on them, unless I am sure I got some great pictures and I really cannot wait. I prefer to leave the pictures alone for long periods of time, weeks or months. I do that because my expectations are too high right after shooting and I am too tired to judge with the correct mindset: it is so important and difficult to decide which pictures should be kept, which ones should be deleted or simply forgotten for a while.
My editing is limited to basic corrections on white point, exposure and contrast for color pictures, while I spent more time on black and white conversion, trying to obtain in both cases a gentle and natural look. When I am happy with the results, I start printing because I think this is the only way for me and photography to touch each other: I love photography so much and I think that certain kinds of love are complete only with a physical contact.
6. What other genres of photography do you particularly enjoy shooting?
I like stories about people, so I enjoy reportage and portraits, but I also like many other genres such as landscape photography. Anyway, it depends also on my mood and how much I am bored by a genre at a particular time, not because I do not like it anymore, but just because I overdid it.
7. What is your favorite location for street photography and why?
Big cities because I can take pictures without worrying about being invisible, since people are used to crazy photographers dancing in front of them. Some of my favorite locations are parties, public events or carnivals. They make great opportunities to take surreal shots.
8. If you could hop on the plane tomorrow and go anywhere in the world, just you and your camera, where would you go and why?
I think somewhere in Asia. I have never been to China or Japan for example, neither to India. But most probably I would fly to Tibet, because I imagine that time goes slower there and things happen with a gentle rhythm and fullness. Today we run too much, I see photography as my slow motion button.