“Photography means to give a sense to reality. What it’s impressive is the amount of different levels that photography involves: connecting esthetical, emotional, sociological, political and anthropological aspects.”
Elena Perlino (born in 1972) is an Italian photojournalist. She holds a degree in History and Cinema from the Univerity of Turin. Elena Perlino started her formation as a photographer attending several workshops at “Toscana Photographic Workshop”. Later she assisted at “Reflexion Masterclass” in Paris, France held by Giorgia Fiorio and Gabriel Bauret.
In 2011, Elena Perlino was a “Magnum Emergency Fund” nominee. Her work has been exhibited internationally, for example in Spain, USA, and France. Elena Perlino’s pictures have been published in magazines and newspapers such as: Elle, Max, GQ, Burn Magazine, and Fuse Magazine.
“Nigerian Trafficking to Italy”
“Italy is an important destination and transit country for women trafficked internationally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In recent years, we have witnessed a sharp increase: young Nigerian women in rural areas constitute the bulk of the population most vulnerable to the mechanism of trafficking: they come in particular from Edo State area.”
Elena Perlino, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
My first camera was an Olympus and my first photographic experience is linked to my family world. My father loved to take a lot of pictures. I soon realized that I was more interested in photographing things that don’t strictly belong to my daily life.
Why did you become a photographer?
My mother is still hoping I will start a career as teacher.
What does photography mean to you?
It means to give a sense to reality. What it’s impressive is the amount of different levels that photography involves: connecting esthetical, emotional, sociological, political and anthropological aspects.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
In 2000, I saw Michael Ackerman’s work and it really touched me. Robert Frank, Mario Giacomelli, Jim Goldberg, and Krisanne Johnson are also sources of constant inspiration.
Jim Goldberg “Open Sea” (2009)
“There are many images which I miss on purpose. I’ve done too many of them before and photographing them again doesn’t change the world, or me.”
A short film about Jim Goldberg’s book “Raised by Wolves”
Since the book has been out of print for some time and thus it’s difficult to get a hand on it, this short movie is a great opportunity to look at this beautiful work.
Your favorite photography quote?
“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.”
It talks a lot about the way I see photography, physically and metaphysically.
How would you describe your photographic style and way of working?
I need to get in touch with the subject I am dealing with. Getting closer and closer, in a physical and emotional way. Empathy is necessary; it allows to realize an exchange between worlds that are completely different. In the meantime, I try to answer to a series of questions that come to my mind. When I work on an editorial assignment I try to focus on my clients needs, on their specific target.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
Everything starts from something that really gets your deep interest.
At the beginning I was wondering: “How can you distinguish a good subject from another?” Then you learn to see what you really want to photograph. At that point you just need to be persistent: shooting and making thousand of mistakes. That will allow you to discover if photography is what you were looking for. It takes time, no matter what they say.
The idea is to find your own vision. You receive constant inputs that condition the way you see things. Photography allows you to work on it, to find your own way to describe the world, abandoning stereotypes. You need to constantly recall yourself that as a photographer you are going to be alone the most of the time. If you are ready for that and if you think you have something to say, just go for it.
“A bitter place. Stories of Nigerian trafficking to Italy” by Elena Perlino
What qualities does a good photographer need?
I would say patience, self-confidence and a good attitude to self promotion. You are perfectly aware that there are plenty of younger, better equipped and more determined photographers than you out there – but that doesn’t really matter.
You can reveal that world that appeared to your eyes, exactly the way you saw it. If you are not going to do it, nobody else will.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
An element of surprise and unpredictable mood that doesn’t allow you to understand what it’s going on at a first glance.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Daily life is an extraordinary source of inspiration for any photographic project. Then books, magazines, exhibitions, and discussions with friends to exchange visions.
“A City within a City”
“Turin, Piedmont. We are close to the highway entrance leading to Milan. The city centre lies two kilometers behind us. The Stura River divides a park, until recently frequented by drug users and dealers, and a vast stretch of public wasteland. The region has the pending plans for a golf course to revive this stretch of land but at the moment the area is being occupied by a large group of transient Romanian people, that have already spent the fifth winter there, ignored by the general public.”
How do you keep up to date with new developments in photography, to keep on learning new things?
I usually ask suggestions to a few friends who work in photography. Taking some good class, here and there, always helps. At the beginning I tried to do everything myself. Then I realized I was not that good in the post-production phase. I started delegating.
Knowing and accepting your limits can be a relief sometimes. (As long as you have a good post-producer next door).
Digital or analog?
It really depends. I use digital, especially on assignment. But I like the idea that you are not going to know what you got on the film till the moment you develop it. It’s something extremely exciting that exists only in analog photography.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Canon 5d Mark II, Leica M6, Holga, and Zenza Bionica.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
There are several: Magnum Fundation, Burn Magazine, Open Society Foundation, and VII Photo. I cannot stop watching everything involving high-level documentary photography.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Never miss the chance to attend to any photography workshops or portfolio reviews held by professionals. Online you can check international photography fairs and festivals, where you can find great photographer’s work. Even just on week attending a workshop can make a huge difference in your life as photographer.