Simone Zeffiro is an Italian photographer born in 1979 in a small city close to Milan. About eight years ago he officially started his artistic journey combining his own feelings, sensations and personal visions of what an image should be. His interpretative ability brought him to study different photography fields, from fine art to portraits, from street to land and cityscapes, with a particular interest to black and white, nocturnal pictures and nature. During 2008 and 2009, Simone participated as an official photographer to the Italian Sailing Cup MINI650, increasing his experience in the field of Sports/Action photography. 2009 also saw Simone involved with interesting travels and direct cooperation with a leading fashion photographer in Italy. In June 2010 he was acknowledged by an exhibition at the renowned Brick Lane Gallery London.
Simone, thank you for taking some time to talk to me. Tell me about your background and how did your passion for photography come about?
SZ: First of all I would like to thank you Paul…It’s a pleasure for me talking to an art lover like you are. Well, sincerely it’s quite strange, because I started playing with photography when I was about eighteen, attracted by nature, art, lights and shapes, but only eight years ago I seriously understood that photography was more than such a passion. I bought my first camera just for fun, but suddenly I discovered there were a lot of different ways to see the world and things around me. I studied a lot, because I didn’t really know anything about photography…things like focus, exposition, lights management.
At the same time I was really interested in understanding how to achieve the idea I had in mind. The experience gained during these years and a lot of practice helped me to better understand what to do, how to do and where to go.
Looking through some of your photographs, what stands out to me is the lighting and diversity of the subject matter. Is most of your work spontaneous or do you set out with an idea for a shot in your mind and then try to achieve it?
SZ: Ideas suddenly appear in my mind, it doesn’t matter where I am and what I’m doing…it simply happens.
The problem for me is keeping it in my memory, because sometimes I forget the images as fast as they appear in my mind. It could be funny, or ridiculous, but I solved the problem with a small book…where I immediately write down and draw (to draw is a big word for me) all the details of the image. After that, the most difficult thing is to create exactly whats written. When the result is about 70% or 80% of what I thought to create I’m really happy and satisfied, especially if what I have in my mind is not so easy to create.
Your work encompasses so many different areas including black and white, portrait, landscape and fashion to name but a few, do you have a favourite? And is their any one type of photography that you feel comes more naturally to you than the others?
SZ: I absolutely love black & white photography, the subject matter is less important; it can be a landscape or a still life, a woman, a flower or a butterfly. In particular I really love the “old” analogical black & white photographs, possibly with Ilford films. Of course, when you look through all of my works, it becomes clear that I also love colour photgraphy.
I’m passionate about lightning shots, even if Italy in not a well known stormy Country. I love nature and anything around us that is natural including flowers, green fields, trees, lights or shadows, animals or women.
At the moment I’m trying to concentrate on my interest in faces and bodies, but I’m not so keen on the standard fashion style of photography. I prefer to create something deeper than a sexy smiling pretty woman. For me, there must always be a reason to take a shot and capture a beautiful moment.
As technology has advance over recent years, photo manipulation and enhancement software has become an essential part of many leading photographers toolbox, how much of an advantage have these tools been to you and generally how do you use them?
SZ: Digital photography is allowing everyone the possibility to generally increase the quality of their photographs. Peronally I prefer to simply manage what is called “digital dark room”, balancing levels and saturation if necessary or, eventually, the conversion to black & white.
For black & white a simple conversion is not enough; there’s always too much grey…and the final result is absolutely flat. To put it simply, I don’t like “unreal” images, even if there are a lot of fantastic artists out there that produce amazing results.
You spend your time photographing others, how do you feel when someone photographs you?
SZ: When someone wants to take a picture of me usually I say “no…thank you, I much prefer being behind the lens and not in front of it”. In fact, my mother always remarks that although I’m a photographer, I don’t have any photographs of myself. It’s funny but I think that it’s probably because I am, in some cases, extremely shy. Another reason is that…usually I don’t like how other people immortalize me. I just have two or three “institutional” photographs of me that I use if required.
You had the distinction of being exhibited at The Brick Lane Gallery in London, describe your memories of this, what were you feeling – excited, proud, nervous?
SZ: I felt a lot of different sensations, especially because they selected me for the participation, I was excited, proud and at the same time nervous.
I wasn’t sure my work would be good enough for such an important exhibition in London, a place I’ve always considered ‘the City of Art’. It was bith funny and unreal looking at the people standing face to face with my work. I felt like a visitor, because some people did and didn’t know who I was, I was really unsure of what to do. I kept thinking “should I introduce myself?”… It was absolutely surreal. I was there with my girlfriend and two of my best friends and they were encouraging me to say something to all the people looking at my work. Although I was hesitant – I did it through gentle nudging a couple of times!
You’ve expanded your repertoire of skills into the Analogic and Digital fields, if you can please tell us about this.
SZ: You know, as I mentioned before, my repertoire started in the middle of the digital age, so 99% of all my photographs are digital images.
At the same time, a litle while back I found an old analogical camera that belonged to my uncle, it was a 1979 CANON AF35M and I’ve proudly started to play with it using black & white film. I don’t want to repeat the same concepts, but I think that for black and white the analogical films are always much higher performing than the digital cameras.
What has been the proudest moment in your photographic career to date?
SZ: There are a lot of different events I could mention. The first time I saw one of my works published by one of the most prominant Italian photography magazines (FOTOCULT), the participation in the official calendar 2009 released by FOTOARTS and, again another later work published on FOTOCULT.
Two of my works selected for the “XI Biennal International of Photography” in Spain AQÜEDUCTE 2010 organized by AFOCER; this was a great result because there was about 16800 images submitted from over 100 countries worldwide. These proud moments aside, I think the exhibition at “The Brick Lane Gallery” in London is the thing that has provided me with the most pride and satisfaction to date.
You spent time as the official photographer to the Italian Sailing Cup MINI650, to me as a ‘very’ amateur photographer it seems like a million miles away from the serene calmness of the beautiful photographic art you produce. One would seem to require patience while the other is fast paced and ‘capture the moment’. How did you find the transition between the two forms and what parts of this role did you find most enjoyable.
SZ: I always try to find new targets and understand my photographic limits. One of the organizers of the event contacted me with the offer to be the official photographer. I was on a boat with the Italian television (RAI Sport) and other freelance photographers. As you said, it was a completely different situation because every single second can be important and unique to get the best photograph. All the boats were rushing everywhere around me. This means you have always to jump from the bow to the stern of the boat every five seconds, it’s not an easy task as both your boat and target are floating. In a few situations I almost fell off the boat… These variables can all hinder you, but the most positive thing is you get back home to discover that the end results were very nice, even if it was just the first time for me in that field.
Have you taken a photograph that has given you complete joy, something that when you look at it, you honestly feel that you could not have done better?
SZ: Yes, I particularly love the lightning shot I called “Electric Activities”, that is one of my most published photographs, but I also love some of my still life photographs with forks or a calla and the blakc and white perspective view of the stairway, taken in a historical residence.
Another series of three photographs that I’m extremely proud of is the series I called “Spirit of a Woman” and another photograph I called “Spirit of a Musician”. You know, sometimes it’s difficult to choose individual shots, especially because I’ve taken thousands of photographs over the course of my career.
You worked with one of the top fashion photographers in Italy, tell us about this and what did you learn from this experience?
SZ: It was the first time for me in a professional studio, and it was with one of the most important fashion photographers in Italy for an advertising session. I was excited but, at the same time, scared.
I like fashion, I like advertising projects and I’d like to work again in the future in these specific fields. On the other hand, I like to see a spontaneous model in front of me, turning around her. I don’t like static situations, where the hair-stylist is jumping up and down every 3 minutes to “recompose” the model, especially if it’s not necessary.
I think that the best photographs, are taken casually, without a static position. There has to be a connection from the photographer and the model, that’s why I usually work only with models without anyone else around us.
Now that our readers have found out about you and seen some of your art, how can they contact you and purchase some of your works?
SZ: The internet is the best and fastest way to get in touch. I publish my works on a number of different websites, but now I’m concentrating all my new and best works on ArtLimited.net where there is the opportunity for people to purchase my works with “standard” resolutions and dimensions.
For particular and specific requests, specially for unique prints and out of standard dimensions, I think the best way to get in touch with me is through my official site www.simonezeffiro.com where there is a variety of different styles, not only still life model photographs. Another way is simply type ‘Simone Zeffiro’ on google!
Simone, it’s been a pleasure, thank you for your time and is there anything you would like to add?
SZ: First of all thank very much to you Paul for all these interesting questions, very different to the usual interviews you can read. It’s absolutely clear to me you have an in-depth experience and interest in art.
What more could I add? I hope your readers appreciated my works and found my answers interesting – for those reading this – I’m always open to new interesting cooperation!