Where are you from and how did you get into street photography?
I’m from Napoli, Italy. I got into street photography almost naturally, since the downtown streets of this city are just like a stage 24/7.
How would you describe your street photography style?
I try to be unobtrusive, like a dancing ghost. I shoot mostly on film, both black & white and color, with a Leica M system (Leica MP & M2, splitting time between the Elmarit 28mm and the Summilux & Summicron 35mm).
I hope to transmit the emotions I feel and be objective at the same time.
I love your beach shots, tell us about that, you know, the good, the bad, and the ugly of shooting people oceanside.
There is so much going on in those locations. During summertime, people get even more crazy and cheeky. This is simultaneously a good and a bad thing.
Are there any street photographers in particular that you draw inspiration from?
I love the work of legendary photographers like Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Abbas, Susan Meiselas. They have been (and still are) a constant source of inspiration all through these years.
You’ve got some really great portraits in your feed. How do you choose a subject? And do you always interact with them?
I always try to get in tune with my subjects, establishing an empathetic level of communication. This makes me feel they are giving me the green light.
So, do you get in tune with them without speaking to them directly? I’m curious because the photos you get as a result are excellent.
Sometimes I speak with them, sometimes I don’t. Usually, I start a conversation and make them feel at ease.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in street photography and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is managing to get so close to unknown people and take photographs without their explicit consent.
My advice to get through this is: be honest, straight and polite. And of course, don’t take stupid risks.
What is your most memorable moment or photo from street photography?
I really love baptism rituals on the beach. They represent a nice blend of sacred and prophane, which is a common Neapolitan cliché.
Interesting. Do these baptism rituals happen a lot? What are they like? And why do you say they mix the sacred and profane?
They only happen a couple times per year, but there’s no common rule. For instance, the best year was 2015 (there were 4 rituals as far as I remember), while the worst was 2021 (zero). The preacher and those being baptized are wearing long white vests. One after another, they reach for the preacher in the water and then their heads are put under the sea for several seconds.
What has street photography taught you?
Respect is the key. And life can be so unpredictable. Random encounters are always around the corner, and most of the time they turn out to be the best.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about Robbie and see more of his work, be sure to visit his Flickr photostream. This photographer was selected from our Flickr group (Street Photography Magazine), where we regularly choose photographers’ work to be published in our magazine.