C: Going back to photography, how did you promote your work in the beginning?
F: In the beginning, I kind of just “went for it”. I had no clients really, just my stock income. So I just kind of found my way through.
C: Did you have at least an overall idea of how the process worked? I mean, did you know that art directors existed? That you needed to have a portfolio?
F: No. (both laugh) I remember talking to a photographer friend, who had seen some success as an amateur and was considering doing the jump to pro. He said: “Between the best of the amateur and the worst for the pros, there’s always a huge step.” And this is something that I learned myself. As we said before, the photographer doesn’t just push the button; that’s probably the smallest part of it.
C: Yeah, the tag should say: professional emailer.
F: Yep, that’s exactly it. So it took me a little bit to really get the whole picture. But I was already making a living because of stock, so I didn’t have the pressure of “make it or break it”. Things kind of rolled quite naturally — word of mouth, new clients through friends, the occasional event or wedding. A couple of years later I started to deal with agencies in Bologna first, then Milan. The only thing I’d do differently is that I wouldn’t have waited so long before showing my book. I kind of waited and waited until I felt my book was ready. But, to finish your question, when I started to do things in the right way, the financial crisis arrived and everything got a bit harder. Plus, the majority of the commercial work is in Milan and my studio is in Bologna. Even if it’s just a couple of hours, clients tend to prefer local photographers.
C: Do you feel having a studio still has an added value nowadays?
C: Sorry, I interrupted you. You were talking about Italy and the photography industry, which is something that I’m really interested to know more about.
F: In general, the appreciation and respect for professional photography is quite low. The work is not highly regarded and there’s not much money even if we’re absolutely bombed with advertising, the majority of the work is rubbish. The perceived value of good photography is very low. There is very little understanding of what goes behind it and the amount of work and skill required to achieve it. Recently I’ve been promoting myself more abroad — mostly Europe: London, Berlin, etc.
C: So what do you think is the most effective way to market yourself? Email campaigns?
F: So far, I’ve been doing promo cards; it’s an established practice in US, but not so common in Italy. I’ve done this promo campaign with postcards and a small magnifying glass and it’s been very successful. I received fantastic feedback from art directors.
C: I’m looking at it right now, it’s brilliant, really well done. Plus you’ve got John Landis there, that helps. I’ve never really done postcards though.
F: What do you do then?
C: My main thing is trying to meet people face to face, getting them to know me personally, even for just 20 minutes. I haven’t really focused on mass email campaigns. I think I might do one soon though because I’m working on a new body of work. I think that’s the right time to do it. In general, especially now with so many photographers, I feel it’s important to build something personal. I was in LA for a shoot last year and I took two weeks off after to meet art buyers. It was a great experience and a month after, I got a couple of calls to bid on two huge jobs, amazing.
F: How do you feel about portfolio review events?
C: Mixed feelings. On one side, I think it’s a terrific opportunity to put your work in front of photo editors that they might otherwise be very hard to meet. But on the other side, you’re again just one of the many doing it. I think it’s more for editorial than potential advertising clients.
F: Do you shoot much editorial work?
C: Yeah, that’s probably the most steady work for me. I love doing it. It’s hard to make a living only doing that, but it’s my favorite kind of work, both creatively and in terms of freedom.
F: Do you get clear directions from a photo editor on editorial shoots?
C: It depends, sometimes I have a lot of freedom (aka I trust you, come back with a wicked shot) and sometimes they’re way more specific. In general, they’re quite specific when they have to run copy on the image so they need some negative space, etc. Sometimes the art director is on set, sometimes it’s just me and my assistant. Do you shoot editorials as well?
F: I shot for Rolling Stone Magazine, but unfortunately, in general not much. It’s hard here in Italy. The majority of the editorial work is fashion and I find the fashion industry very secluded and hard to break in to. They also seem to be in love with photographers from outside Italy. There’s almost a general passion for foreign things just for the sake of it. Do you ever feel that being from a foreign country helps you?
C: I think in the beginning it kind of helped here in Canada. At least to get my name out there and meet people. I almost feel it’s easier to be the “new guy” from out of town. Creatives are more likely to meet you just for that reason. However, it turns against you when it comes to knowing local contacts and being trusted, since nobody has worked with you before. I have a question that I wanted to ask you since the beginning: I saw that you like to build your own sets, is that something that you were inspired to do by someone (Winters maybe?) and what’s the reason behind it?
F: Winters is a master, that’s for sure. But it’s something that I just personally wanted to play with. For me, it’s a way to visually translate something exactly the way I picture it in my head. That’s another thing I’m sort of jealous about the way Americans do things, usually because there are higher budgets as well. I love the concept of having an idea and the freedom to achieve that exact vision. It fascinates me.
C: What would you shoot if money was completely out of the picture, if you didn’t have to please anybody except your own vision?
F: Black and white portraits on white background. (pauses) Yep, that’s very specific.
F: I’m joking, but only in part.
C: Film or digital?
F: Digital is fine, I’m not a film purist. Realistically, I know that I’ll need to keep shooting commercial work as well and not just portraits.
C: Is that how you see yourself in 20 years from now?
F: That would be my goal. How about you?
C: Hard to say since I keep swinging between photo and video. I’ve been in 100% photography mode since November when I shot my last music video (it must have scarred me) and in general I enjoy photography more. But if I have to pinpoint one thing, I’d say my ambition is to write and direct a feature.
F: Well, good luck.
C: Thanks! I’ll let you go now, I know you’re busy and I must return to my bloody emails…
F: Yeah, we should talk more often!
C: We should catch up in Bologna when we’re both visiting as tourists!