How to Capture the Essence of a Place & its People? – Put Down the Camera
Le Marche, the third region, along with Tuscany and Umbria, that makes up central Italy, is a photographer’s dream – known for some of Italy’s most incredible wildlife and landscapes. It is also a region defined by humble and hardworking farmers who make a living from the land and help feed their communities and the world.
In fact, Le Marche (pronounced “lay markay” and sometimes referred to in English as The Marches, is known for its hearty, simple cuisine deeply rooted in the peasant tradition.
Although photographer Andrea Giandomenico, who lives in the Le Marche village of Montecosaro Scalo, enjoys traveling the world for international photography, he often turns his attention homeward to photograph what might be the most difficult subject in the region – the farmers themselves.
For Giandomenico, who loves international travel photography, it’s also important to capture the rich culture of his homeland by documenting the lives of those who continue to carry on agricultural and artisan traditions through the centuries. Imagine, for instance, that this region of good living and beautiful light is also where many art masters, including Raphael, Bellini, Lorenzo Lotto, Titian and Rossini, to name a few, are from as well.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to try to convince the farmers to be photographed,” Giandomenico said. “These people aren’t prepared to be photographed – you have to convince them a photo can be a remembrance for them.”
He respects the fact that taking an image can be just that – taking rather than making in a literal sense. In the spirit of returning the favor of trust and acceptance of him and his camera, he often gives them copies of the photographs to keep. The Fujifilm Instax smartphone printer is a great way to accomplish this while traveling.
Visitors who are respectful of local residents shouldn’t have any trouble photographing people in villages and working the fields, Giandomenico said. It’s really just a matter of putting down the camera and getting to know the place and people first. Learn a few simple greetings in Italian. Spend enough time in once place to understand the rhythms of daily life and the culture. And don’t hide behind a big lens. Instead, make introductions and ask permission.
Giandomenico said he shoots mainly with Canon, the 24-70 mm 2.8 being his go-to lens. For portraits he uses the 35 mm Sigma 1.4 and for long distances, the Canon 100-400 4.5-5.6.
Photography is a relatively new art form for Giandomenico, who caught the bug in about 2013 when a friend who is a cameraman suggested that he take up photography.
“I decided to buy photography books and began to study technique,” he said, adding that photography cannot become a form of art until technique is mastered, as is the case with art in general.
If he could shoot for a month in anywhere in the world, Giandomenico said he would love to go to a place that combines culture and nature, such as Papua New Guinea to photograph amongst the Yali tribal people; or to the Himalayas to document the elusive snow leopard. He also loves the iconic landscapes of the American west and has traveled to Yellowstone National Park, but said the Grand Canyon is a top destination on his shot list.
His biggest goal, though, is not to get perfect shots or find the ideal location, but to utilize photography on a daily basis while at home and while traveling, as a means to experience the world in a different way and share that experience with others.
“I want my photography to be a portal through which others can not only see a unique reality before them, but also dream of new possibilities.”