Camilla Ferrari first started doing landscape and travel photography, but then she discovered a whole new world of street photography. She is always looking for inspiring places and people and her ability to capture their essence is why we love her work so much. In this interview, Camilla reveals what first drew her to street photography as well as what motivates her to make beautiful art everyday.
Hey Camilla! Welcome to Lomography Magazine! What creative projects are you working on at the moment?
Hey guys! Thank you for inviting me to this interview. It’s great to have the chance to talk a bit about my work. It may sound surprising but the project I’ve been working on the last couple of months doesn’t involve street photography at all. I decided to challenge myself and open my mind to create something that relates to people but in a completely different way, mixing medias in a very contemporary and digital manner – and also combining images and words. I can’t tell you more but you’ll see the result really soon …
What influenced your decision to embark on a photographic journey? What made fall in love with photography?
I started photography when I was 13-14 years old. My parents wanted me to have nice memories of a school trip so they gave me a compact camera as a gift. But I didn’t really use it during my trip – instead I started to take self-portraits and then created surreal worlds around them. I could spend hours shooting non-stop in my room only using my little desk lamp and my books as a tripod. I loved the fact that I could create something that wasn’t there but was somewhere in my mind, I had control of things. I could decide who I wanted to be, where and when.
So that’s how it started, and as I was growing up I got out of my room to travel with my family and my passion gradually shifted towards landscape photography – at that time I couldn’t stand people in the pictures. I searched for the emptiest landscapes because I wanted to convey the greatness of nature, and humans were a distraction for me. This thing makes me smile all the time, considering that now I photograph in the middle of the streets, searching for the crowd and observing people super attentively.
I think though that the control part still remains: street photography allows me to give an order to something that apparently doesn’t have sense at all. I can feel the rhythm of chaos and decide when to stop it or how to follow it.
I understand that after you graduated from university, you were traveling all around the world to focus more on your photography work. What are your dearest memories from this trip?
Traveling is like oxygen for me. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I stay months away from home, but I constantly feel the need to be surprised by my surroundings. To fill my eyes with new images, my nose with new smells and my ears with new sounds. So I try to travel as much as I can in the most different places. Every one of them has had an influence on my work, but I think one of the trips that changed me the most was the one in Morocco in 2014, even if it was one of the hardest, because I realized I needed people in my photographs but at first I didn’t know how to approach them.
Morocco for me was a huge training camp and prepared me for the experiences that followed. A year after I went to Cambodia, which was also a turning point because I was questioning whether I was going in the right direction photography wise – but also as a person – and to be there at that time helped me reflect on that a lot. One episode that I clearly remember the feeling of was when, at sunset, I was on a hill in the Battambang region, just below a bat cave. Suddenly I saw the noise of the wings of the bats flying out of the cave, above the forest, finally reaching the sun slowly vanish in the horizon… it was my moment of peace and recharge.
The last important journey I did was in Senegal last summer, which resulted in my latest project called “Mangi fi”, which means “I’m here, I’m fine” and it’s the answer Senegalese people give to the question “How are you?” There are countless things to tell you about that trip – and I don’t want to be more prolix that I’m already being – but one of the things I remember the most are the hours on the buses and public transports. I loved to look at people moving from one place to another, to see how different each person was, to observe their behavior even in the least comfortable situations – we were in overcrowded buses with no air conditioning with a temperature of 50 Celsius degrees for six hours. Non-stop. And it was one of the best experiences of my life.
What first drew you to street photography? Where does your inspiration come from, is it the people or all those special places you have had the pleasure of visiting?
As I told you, for some years I dedicated myself to landscape photography and after that travel photography. Assuming that the limits between photographic genres are really, really ephemeral in some cases, I would say that my shift towards street photography was really slow, and it was triggered by the words of some photographers I admired that kept on telling me to ”get closer”, to be more into it. To get in the middle of things, to give in to the tornado of events that happens in our everyday life. So I started to go out and shoot – even if Milano, my hometown and the place I currently live in, for me has always been really challenging to shoot because I have too much history here. Which is a great asset but also a filter and a limit to what I see.
To answer your question, I think it’s a mix of both people and the place I’m in. I really trust my first impression when I climb down the stairs of a train or a plane and I walk in a place for the first time. But I can also sit on a bench and look at my surroundings for hours and then start shooting. Just to get in the rhythm of things. So I search for the combination of both people and places that strike me, but it doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary to draw my attention. The light and the fate do it all, I have to be lucky enough to see that combination when it happens.
In your opinion, what makes a memorable street photograph?
That’s the toughest and easiest question at the same time. It’s easy to have the picture in your mind and to imagine what it has to be like, but you don’t really know it until It happens. That’s the fun and challenging part of street photography, you never know what’s going to happen and you just have to go with the flow and be able to stop when you feel like you are seeing something special that’s about to happen.
I would say that a memorable street photograph is the one that combines suspension, surprise, atmosphere and emotion. All packed up in an image that blows your mind for its beauty and makes you see things in a way in which you never seen them before. And if you are a really good photographer, people will recognize a part of you in that image – your quirky side, your romantic dreams, your ironic jokes…
You’ve traveled to some of the the most beautiful places on earth. When you take photos of people you’ve met for the first time, how do you make a connection with them in order to capture a great photograph?
Actually, I try to be as invisible as I can! I don’t want to change people’s behavior with my presence, so I always try to be as discrete as possible. And when I realize that I’ve been noticed, I leave the scene and look for something else.
What motivates you to take photos and create beautiful work each day?
I love the feeling I get when I take a good photo, it’s like an adrenaline rush. I want to feel that excitement and surprise each and every day and I want to have something tangible that depicts those feelings. I want to surprise people as much as myself, to convey the emotions I felt during the shoot and make people feel like they were there to see what I saw and experience what I experienced. That’s my goal.
One of your projects is called "In the same place at the same time". Can you tell us a little bit more about the story behind this stunning series of photos?
That project came from a moment of frustration during my trip to Scotland last January. I felt the need to take photographs but for some reason I just could see. Anything.
Until one day I was looking at the sunrise and I took my phone and shot a double exposure, composed by two pictures took in the same place, at the same time but from a different point of view – because I felt like a single picture couldn’t express it all. So that moment triggered something, and I kept on searching for involving and fascinating landscapes to collapse them into a single image that could describe them as a whole, but adding a drop of dream and fantasy as well.
Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
I’m planning a trip to Beijing this summer. The only thing I know at the moment is the destination, so in the next few months I’ll do a bit of digging and searching and then… well, I’ll just see what happens!