I was born in a small town near Milan in 1995 and always wanted to go further and see bigger spaces than that. I basically started photographing at 16, i think because couldn’t paint and wasn’t interested in playing any instrument neither: I actually had never seen myself as an art-guy before. Although I developed a love relationship with my first Nikon d3000, taking it wherever I’d go, I’ve never thought about photography as a job. I got a degree in Philosophy in Bologna, those years still mean a lot to me, because I developed a big part of my ideas and values in that period. After that, I made the most beautiful trip of my life: from Bologna to Beijing only by train, crossing Russia, Mongolia and exploring Gobi desert. Then I moved to Madrid to continue studying, resulting in a discrete failure, but after that crisis I had got closer to my narrative vocation and renew my passion for photography. I’m currently studying journalism and reportage in Rome to turn this vocation into a job and photography is still my primary mean of communication.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

I mostly shot street photography, which seems a kind of unruled photography genre, it’s basically go out and shoot people in their environment. Anyway i’d say don’t shoot homeless people or poor people begging on the street, because i see they’re vulnerable and I don’t want to “use” their condition to make them just an object of a random photo. This is the same reason why i try to force myself not to shoot old people and kids too much, even if it’s not exactly the same thing. Of course, if I have a clear idea of what i want to tell with those pictures and am pretty sure of my relationship with those subjects, i’m fine with photographing vulnerable subjects. I’m also ok with asking permission for pictures, when i don’t feel comfortable with stealing the shot or when i want to get a clearer image of what interested my in somebody: it’s a good way to both get a deeper sight on people and overcome fear.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

Of course this is very personal but i can say what works for me. For example, i spent a lot of time shooting candid portraits using the tilted screen of my Nikon d5000: i remember that this tool gave me a lot of freedom, since i could get really close portraits (in the metro or on the bus) avoiding being noticed, for example, pretending i was shooting something right behind them. Another technique i used to employ in the same situation was this one: i would pretend to shoot something around, then starting to actually take photos of the subjects while pretending to look at the previous fake shoots on the tilted screen. Another good technique i learned from Lucas Kordas is the “series” technique, so i would start shooting at a subject of interest from a further position, then getting closer while shooting repeatedly (sometimes i would continue to shoot after passing by, pretending i’m shooting to something else) in order to get more likely good shots and be able to mask my intention.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

When i started taking pictures i was shooting at everything that was drowing my attention but always from a far point of view. Once i was in Greece during a trip. While walking around an island I saw an old men sitting whose face was very hypnotic. I definitely wanted to take a picture of him but in order to do it i had to get close and ask. I was afraid, but a friend of mine pushed me… And it actually went great! I got a shot i was so happy about and we spent a good time talking about his experience during WWII against the Italian forces. From that moment on, i had no fear of approaching people, i started asking portraits, sharing chats with subjects and my photographic world really opened up. Plus, i discovered i really like this kind of contact with people and now i’m currently studying to turn this affinity into a proper skill in order to become a reporter.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

Well, in 2015 – 2016 – 2017 i almost stop taking pictures daily because i couldn’t look at people’s faces without feeling intimidated. I could only shoot when i was traveling. It was a hard time for me. To overcome this problem i started shooting analogue, because it made me feel less intimidated and it has been a chance to think photography differently. Also, i developed a new sensibility for inanimate things, such as walls, scratched hanged papers, tossed objects, sprayed signs: this has been very helpful for me to feel confident when i started taking pictures again to overcome the “photographer block”. By that time i also started doing collage, which was a great experience to think outside the frame. Of course my problem with photography was the reflection of a bigger problem i was having with myself, my identity and self confidence. So, the solution for this came with a lot of struggle with depression and insecurity, which is still the path i’m following now, but today i feel more conscious.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

I tend to pay respect. At the beginning, i was just thinking that my photography was kind of a gift to the people and the world because i could make them look beautiful. Now i understand that i want something more. For example, i’m currently more interested in taking pictures that reveal some sort of secret of the subjects, which is also a secret of mine that i see in them as a reflection. So i’d say i’m currently in an empathetic photography wave (if this makes sense). That’s why i really like when people look directly in my direction when i shoot: to me, that instant feels like a kind of a confession that we make together. But you can’t get confessions by force, that is torture. In the same way, i feel that people won’t tell you something they’re not up to, and here is where the environment plays a role. You need to think about how you feel in that place, which emotions it provokes in you, then look for those signs around: if you are emotionally open, things start to talk to you.

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

Spend time in the place where you decided to shoot (photographers call it “working the scene”), don’t look at the subjects at the beginning: the only thing you need to care in the first moment is light, shadows, reflections, sounds, the whole movement of what is going on. The goal is to get sensitive to the light environment and start to feel part of that instead of feeling part of all the moving crowd… i know it can sound too shamanic to be real, but “getting invisible” actually requires some sort of meditation: you need to feel part of the environment in order to feel invisible, and when you start to actually believe you that are “out of the flood”, you will be much more focused on what happens around you, more sensitive to the interaction between subjects and light, more effective in reaching your shot when you see it.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

Well, of course having a good gear helps. But a good gear may also be “the one that makes you feel powerful” and this doesn’t come only with pixels and fast focus. Just to give you an example: I spent my last 5 photography years shooting with an entry-level reflex, mostly using a Nikkor 55 f1.2 analogue lens without autofocus that I inherited from my father’s old gear. When i started taking picture with that lens I fell so in love with what I saw that I didn’t feel the need to go any further. And that used to work for me, until i started to get upset about loosing moments that I wanted to catch, just because i missed the focus or focusing could require too much time. At the same time I started to feel the need of a camera that could allow me to shot at slightly higher ISO than 800, because I wanted to be free to shoot in a larger variety of situations. In a few words: i had more energy than my tools allowed me to express but I definitely wanted to express myself. That is the reason why I very recently bought my first professional camera, a Nikon d750 with a very classic 50mm 1.4 G lens. I’m currently working on buying a 24-120 f4 G to substitute my old DX 18-105, a lens that i really consumed (mostly at the beginning) along with the 55 I was talking about. But the majority of my instagram feed is currently made with my old gears.

Are there any books you would recommend?

At the beginning i remember that i learned a lot from “The photographer’s Eye” by Michael Freeman, because it changed the way i saw the images, starting to notice a lot of composition issues. Talking about photographer’s books, i don’t know what i could recommend, since i mostly consult online free stuff to be honest. I found Eric Kim’s web blog extremely helpful, you can find a lot of free practical e-books that he made, articles about techniques and essays about famous street photographers. From the cultural point of view, i’m a very DIY and open access guy. Otherwise i mostly buy philosophy essays or graphic novel books.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

Walking, walking, walking. This is what inspires me more. Besides, i actually find a lot of inspiration in my Instagram feed, since I have the opportunity to see an incredible variety of awesome photographers. I also get really stimulated when somebody gives me a task, when somebody relies on me: then i know i will try 100% to demonstrate my worth (I like feeling appreciation, it’s a bit narcissistic, I know) and put myself further than what I would usually do. Of course this happens rarely in photography, since you usually work alone and submit your work instead of getting something assigned. In general, I get very stimulated by the social environment: having good, active people around, sharing our experiences and desires is something that definitely gives me braveness and motivation. In order to sing, I need some music around. But of course i know i have to work more on my self motivation. After all, I’m just at the beginning  of my way, whatever it may be.

Lorenzo Boffa