I was born in Palermo, Sicily in 1978 from a quite ordinary, middle-class family, and I have spent most of my life there (including the academic years that led me to a master in Computer Engineering) until I decided to move abroad and build my career in Consulting. I have since then lived in Milan, Turin, Paris, Brussels and now London.
How I started photography
As most of the people my age I started with digital photography, probably because I was drawn to the mathematical peculiarities of digital algorithms. It was when I moved to Paris that I started being more and more interested in the great photography masters from the past and started buying medium format cameras and playing with different films options.
What kind of photography do I do?
At the beginning, I used to spend hours to make nice flower macro shots and rich sunset images. Luckily I managed to escape that quite quickly and started being more and more interested in street candid photography, still with a very amateur approach (long telephoto lenses, trying to be as stealthy as possible etc).
At some point, I realised a picture was rarely worth much without a human presence and from here I started my love with street portrait photography, which is what I find myself doing on a more and more regular basis.
What is my workflow?
I used to be quite a shy boy when I was younger and built a sense of confidence only when I started living on my own. As a result, I started taking more and more street portraits (fundamentally asking total strangers to have their portrait taken) instead of relying on candid street pictures. In the beginning, I was quite rigid in the way I was doing it: I saw an interesting face (most of the times elderly people, or a genuinely beautiful person), I went to him/her asking for a single portrait and took one (and only one) shot. Incredibly enough people usually say yes, and I have never ever had any issues.
I recently decided to have a less radical approach, and now I take two or three pictures of each person, just because it may happen that I missed that peculiar look on someone’s eyes or, more simply, because I totally failed my focus. I still keep it simple as I like the slightly puzzled, inquisitive look I get from the person in front of my lens, and taking dozens of pictures may turn that away.
What gear do I use?
I have always loved the look and feel of film medium format cameras. In the beginning, I bought a Pentacon Six TL, a truly magnificent piece given the low price. Eventually, I moved into more serious stuff (the Pentacon was so unreliable) and fell in love with Hasselblad, starting with a 500CM and only recently moving to an almost brand new 501CM. For a long time the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 150mm has been a preferred choice (especially with extension rings) but I recently understood how important is to show some environment and started using more and more the classic Planar 80mm.
Along the way, I had the occasion of acquiring a fantastic Pentax 67 kit with 4 lenses (45mm, 105mm, 135mm and 200mm) and I have been playing with it quite a lot. It was the personal camera of Valérie Belin, a contemporary French photographer who recently obtained quite some success, and for quite a good price I also obtained a Nikon FM2n with a 55mm macro and tons of filters.
As for the choice of film, I have been experimenting a lot and I still think I’m learning all of it. In B&W the film that gave me the more consistent results in Ilford HP5+, which I usually push at 800. I obtained some really nice pictures with Fomapan 400 as well but still don’t trust it as much as Ilford’s counterpart. Generally speaking I am more attracted to classic cubic grain stocks (HP5+, FP4+, Fomapan400, Tri-X) and only use T grain options (TMax) on 35mm.
As for colour, I don’t feel particularly good at it right now. I like Portra 400 and Provia 100F but I don’t get the same consistency I have with B&W, not to mention that colour balance is quite challenging. For an unknown reason I usually load my Pentax 67 with colour film while the Hasselblad is B&W.
What are my current projects?
I am a full time father now and I still have to keep my job in consulting, so free time is quite rare. I somehow keep building a body of work around “Sicilians”, simply because I go back there every summer and I like discussing with people. I like to share short stories on my blog (almost entirely dedicated to film photography) but I am not as active as I used to be on social media.
All images ©Davide Rizzo
You can see more of Davide’s work on his sites below