A man of many talents in the creative field, Claudio Gomboli is most stellar when he's a photographer. Claudio travels to cities and shoots the streets in such a way the photographs are like stories without the words.
Each shot has the semblance of equilibrium in calculation and spontaneity. The photographs are carefully shot, but the compositions themselves are also momentous, and that's what makes his street photography so alluring to look at. There's consideration of the public space, the people in it, and the way they interact with the urban environment. All mostly shot in analogue film, with some in instants, he paints very modern cities in an antique aesthetic that almost echoes Fan Ho's 1950's Hong Kong.
Read our interview with Claudio Gomboli here in Lomography Magazinee.
Hi Claudio! Firstly, welcome to Lomography Magazine. How's 2018 holding up for you so far?
Hello, and thank you for this interview! 2018 started pretty well, we have seen a lot of snow here in London, which is both rare and beautiful.
When did you start photography? May you share us your earliest memory of holding camera?
I started taking photos when I was about 7, during a school trip by the sea with a Polaroid Land 1000 that I actually still own. It amazed me to see the picture appearing like magic, and I fell in love with instant photography back then. I recently found those Polaroids that I had left in my hometown Torino years ago, and I must say they aged much better than I did. I realized my love and passion for photography later on in life, as growing up I was more focused on drawing, painting, and design.
We learned you're also very versatile with other artistic skills! In your own opinion, what makes photography different from your other passions?
I have a more straightforward approach to photography comparing to the other media I use. Photography is a more immediate way to communicate, and this lets me be more “zen”. A deep but calm relation with your view, without so much thinking in between. I also enjoy mixing up media, both analogue and digital ones. I reckon it’s also because I was born the 80s and grew up in the 90s where the transition from analogue to digital happened on a consumer level. I had to learn and deal with both sides, and I don’t really see one tech to be better than the other, but indeed mutuall complementary.
You do a lot of street photography. What makes a great 'street photograph' for you?
Some people argue that there isn’t such a thing like “street photography”, but I think it’s useful to have some sort of categories to describe photography styles. A great street photography for me is the ability to document the mundane life of the surrounding (not necessary a city) and communicate the feeling of the moment through composition, point of view, people’s actions or expressions.
I’m not a fan of street portraits (even if I appreciate it as portrait photography), or asking directly for permission or compose people, as I prefer a natural and candid image where the action is not affected by the photographer — but at the end this is just a personal preference. A great contemporary (street) photographer is Junku Nishimura, I really love his style.
Your recent Glimpse of Asia and Italy series are some of our favorites, very reminiscent of the photographer Fan Ho. There's an antique, dramatic ambiance in your photographs regardless of the black-and-white. May you tell us more about your work style?
Thank you very much, Fan Ho is one of the greatest photographers of all time, and a hero of mine. I think the frame of the camera is the most powerful tool that photographers can use to communicate through a photo. The way you crop the reality through your frame, that’s how you give meaning to the picture. You can create a balance in your frame that wasn’t there in the view, because you choose what to include. This can really make a difference as you can crop in editing, but you are still limited by your initial framing.
Now to the next question, what do you love about shooting in black and white? When do you use color?
Being a designer I love colours, but I also learnt to use colors with meaning, as they can be a distraction. Black and white photography lets me focusing the attention to shape, composition, and mood. It’s minimal, simple, and timeless. I shoot colour film, or choose colour digital editing, when colours can add something in those categories, when it’s an essential part of the composition. It depends also on the place, but I mainly shoot black and white and it’s definitely my favorite look for street photography, too.
Just for fun -- if you get stuck on a desert island with only one photography gear, what would it be?
Difficult question, as I’m quite addicted to photography gear (especially film cameras). I would probably go with my Leica M6 and the small Summicron-C 40mm because I love the experience of shooting with that camera and lens. It’s smooth, versatile (for the type of photography I do), and not too big.
Here's a personal question. If you can spend a day with a person you look up to, or interested in, who would it be and what would you two be doing?
I think I would spend that day with my father. I cannot do that anymore, but he always inspired me since I was a child. I would love to continue one of our discussions about painters or family’s stories, while drawing each other’s portrait as we used to.
What's a day in the life of Claudio Gomboli?
I work as a designer, mainly user experience, interaction, interface. I always try to walk during lunch break or on my way home in order to enjoy some street photography. The office is in Canary Wharf, which is an area of London that is very business oriented. It’s a bit alienating because there’s nothing else all around it, a bit like an island when you walk, but I think it’s a great place for street photography. I also spend time with my family, as having a child is really fun and demanding! I like going to street markets or second hand stores looking for some film cameras, vintage video games to collect, and rolls of film. London is an amazing place where you can find whatever interests you, and the city has many different aesthetics and areas, so it’s always nice to wander around.
Lastly, what's next for Claudio? Any upcoming project?
I’ve been planning a zine for a while now, but as I have several different ones in mind I’m still wondering about the content. Would love to make a zine with only my Game Boy Camera photos, that’s something that I’m definitely going to do. I’m also experimenting with mixing photography and graphic design for my personal projects. As always, merging techniques is fun and worth exploring.