Hello Emilio, welcome and thank you for your availability! Please Introduce yourself
Thank you Max! Glad to talk with you. I’m Emilio Barillaro and I’m a nasty italian street phographer.
What made you start with photography?
I have a family tradition. My father is a photographer, painter, writer, poet, etc. I also tried to paint, to draw and to write but with very poor results. I received a camera as a gift and it all started naturally. I knew right away that I found the medium to express my creativity.
I also tried painting only to find later in photography a more democratic form of art and this fascinates me: the necessity to tell something through images. What does move in you the desire to take pictures? Are we really leaving a trace of our lifetime?
Agree! We are all artists at the end, we only need to find the right art for us. I will be a philosopher myself, but I would have given an identical answer to one of your hypotheses. hahaha. Once I heard that our existence will end when our name will be pronounced for the last time... maybe with our photographs this moment will last a little longer. I think that's just why we do it.
I know that you're a photography teacher. Does this leave you enough time to work on your private projects? Are the two things influenced by each other?
Besides what you say I work as a media planner 12 hours a day. It’s not easy to be able to reconcile all things. It requires a huge effort and inevitably reduces both the time to shoot and to devote to me and my family. But what would a person be without passions?
What advice do you give to your students? Are you motivated by them?
I try to give a lot of advices, from all points of view. I try mainly to make them understand that there is nothing wrong with taking pictures of people and I try to get each one of them to do what they really have inside. I’m satisfied if I managed to teach even only one thing to each of them. Of course I’m motivated by them! I think I learn more from them than they learn from me.
Describe how you shoot: do you have a specific approach or is it more spontaneous? Is there something specific you look for when taking pictures?
When I'm around to shoot I go into a kind of “trans state”, in which my whole body tries to plunge into the world and my eyes become a radar looking for that special little thing to photograph: a gesture, a coincidence, something interesting or unusual. It's like hunting. Follow the instinct, the belly, and shoot hoping to have caught the right prey. However, you already know that 99.9% of the time there will be something that will not satisfy you in the result and the picture will inevitably be eliminated. I would define my approach as "primordial".
What are your master photographers? Are you interested only in street phography or did you study and take inspiration from other genres?
There are many photographers who have influenced me and some of them I have also had the honor to know in person. The first name is definitely Trent Parke. I also have a tattoo with a picture of him on my shoulder. Then there is Joel Meyerowitz, with whom I was lucky enough to do a workshop. Antoine D'Agata, with whom I exhibited during a festival and had the pleasure of chatting. Then William Klein and Garry Winogrand. And finally Jason Eskenazi, whom I consider one of the greatest contemporary talents. My focus is almost exclusively on documentary photography. I do not really like other genres. I am influenced more from other forms of arts, such as music, painting and cinema.
Color or B&W? Please explain why
Until 2014 I thought and saw exclusively in black and white. I started to see in color during one trip to New York and from there we can say that color has become part of my photography. I believe that our way to photograph depends on the mood that we have at a given time. At least for me it is so. My photos reflect what I have inside and this thing obviously changes from phase to phase.
How important is the editing phase to you? What’s your editing process?
I believe that the editing phase is at least as important as shooting, if not more. It is also the most difficult part because being objective with yourself and being able to leave out the emotions experienced during the shooting phase is completely unnatural. Let's say that after so many years of photography I can do it better then before. Surely the best medicine is time: time between the shooting and the editing phase, and time dedicated to the actual editing. I wait months before reviewing my photos. Once I decide to see my pictures for the first time, I print it and put it on the floor. Then each day I take care of them and select them. Even this phase takes weeks or months.
You're right, the editing phase is very important, we express ourselves with the images we choose to show. Please tell your opinions about the role of social networks and the internet in general.
Internet is definitely essential, both to show your pictures and to see and know the photos of others photoraphers. I believe it gave photography, or even to it, absolute democracy. Without internet today many talents would have never had the opportunity to come out. it’s a different matter for social media. I see them as potentially harmful. They lead you to wanting to share everything and immediately, leaving you no time (the time we talked about before). I decided in fact to actually do not use social media. I know that this is certainly harmful to me, but I think this is the right decision.
You are a co-founder of the Italian collective Spontanea. Tell me about it and what it means for you to be part of a collective.
When I started taking street photos I created a showcase site, inviting street photographers I knew or found on the internet. Few months later, among these authors, I invited Umberto Verdoliva. He told me he was not willing to stay on that site, because there was poor selection of both: photos and authors. So we decided together to create a collective with selected authors and selected photos. So Spontanea was born. Being part of a collective is stimulating. There is a continuous comparison that helps you a lot. There are also some of the negative sides though. It is difficult, in fact, to share choices and make decisions when the people involved are many and each has its own opinion. We often do not agree on many things, but it is inevitable.
Do you have any specific project going on which you’d like to share?
Yes, I have one: street and experimental. But being experimental, I do not know if it will work in the end. Stay tuned and in some months you will tell me what you think. For the moment I do not want to say more.
You can find Emilio here: