DA­VIDE MON­TELEONE

Doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher

Friday - - In The Uae -

Da­vide Mon­teleone firmly be­lieves that the photography world needs ‘ed­u­cated, smart peo­ple who know what they are talk­ing about – pho­tog­ra­phers who ded­i­cate time to re­search and think what they want to say and how they want to say it.’

Ital­ian Da­vide be­came a pho­tog­ra­pher in 1998 and three years later moved to Rus­sia. His plan was to doc­u­ment the lives of peo­ple there for six months, but the coun­try made such a strong im­pres­sion on him that it be­came his se­cond home. Rus­sia was the sub­ject of the three books he pub­lished, with the last, Red This­tle, bag­ging him the Euro­pean Pub­lish­ers Award for Photography 2011.

‘Photography,’ says Da­vide, who has been fea­tured by Time, BBC and The New Yorker, ‘is a tool to have ac­cess, to open doors, to look at the world to dis­cover and to think.’ What has your most chal­leng­ing photography project been? Ev­ery project I’ve done was chal­leng­ing in dif­fer­ent ways, and prob­a­bly the next one will be even more so. For me, the most chal­leng­ing thing is to de­cide how to visu­alise the idea I have in mind and find the best way to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive story that re­spects both the ini­tial con­cept, topic and sub­ject. The most dif­fi­cult things come be­fore the act of tak­ing pic­tures – re­search, lo­gis­tics and or­gan­i­sa­tion. Of­ten, tak­ing pic­tures is pretty or­ganic and sim­ple when I have a clear idea of what I want to do. Nev­er­the­less, sur­prises on the field are al­ways pos­si­ble, some­time they are wel­come, some­times not. Is photography a jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery? I think it’s both a jour­ney and [a process of ] self-dis­cov­ery. I travel to dis­cover my­self. Photography is a tool to have ac­cess, to open doors, to look at the world to dis­cover and to think. Now af­ter over 16 years in the busi­ness, I think I use photography in the same way I use my senses – I col­lect in­for­ma­tion and emo­tions and elab­o­rate them in the form of pic­tures that be­come books, ex­hi­bi­tions, photo sto­ries. I tend to fol­low sto­ries I have a per­sonal in­ter­est in. What are the com­mon mis­takes begin­ners make in doc­u­men­tary photography? There’s a note I’ve kept in my note­book since I de­cided to be a pho­tog­ra­pher. It’s Ital­ian but it can be trans­lated more or less like this: ‘Pho­tog­ra­phers go to a place to take pic­tures and as soon as they un­der­stand some­thing, they go off some­where else.’

This is the big­gest mis­take you can do when you at­tempt doc­u­men­tary photography. This is an old stereo­type but, for­tu­nately, is chang­ing. Pho­tog­ra­phers need to ded­i­cate time to re­search and think what they want to say and how they want to say it.

‘Pho­tog­ra­phers go to a place to take pic­tures and as soon as they un­der­stand some­thing, they LEAVE. This is the big­gest MIS­TAKE you can make when you at­tempt DOC­U­MEN­TARY PHOTOGRAPHY’

The book Red This­tle, which in­cludes an im­age of a woman walk­ing in Grozny, Chech­nya, as blood from a slaugh­tered bull flows to­wards her, won Da­vide a 2011 Euro­pean Pub­lish­ers Award

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