A talk with street photographer Orietta Gelardin Spinola, for #SheShootsNoir, by Susana Soler
Please tell us a little about you and your background with photography.
I graduated in Graphic Design, but since my teens, when I used to follow and admire my mother’s social photography as well as one of my brother Frank’s photojournalism, I have been very passionate about photography. This passion has but increased ever since. It has increased to such an extent, that in the last few years street photography has become a way of escaping, and of isolating myself from my daily issues. The combination of my profession, my love for people and the stories behind them, or better said, the stories that I imagine. These instinctively and intuitively make me want to search for those compositions with a touch of geometry, light and shadows, which on the other hand also push me to go on and on.
Where are you from, and where do you live now?
I was born in Madrid, from an American father and an Italian mother. At the moment I am living in Madrid but am constantly going back and forth between here and Rome.
Does your location have an affect on your work?
These two cities inspire me greatly in every other way, and therefore yes, I suppose they do have an affect on my work. They are both amazing locations for street photography, and I find they have the perfect ingredients for my way of looking and capturing my street stories.
In Rome, it goes from a tourist to a typical classy Italian lady; from a decadent building to one that is architecturally rationalist; from a dark and cloudy Mediterranean sky, to an amazing golden afternoon light. It is all there. With Madrid, it is very much the same, and also so full of wonderful, intense and intriguing stories, which I try to convey through my images.
In your photos, light and shadows appear frequently, what inspires you to achieve this aesthetic quality?
I think the two cities where I am based have an outstanding light to play with, so everything comes quite naturally and instinctively. Also I am very attracted to the different unpredictable geometrical and non-geometrical shapes that are formed by light, depending on the time of day when I am on the streets shooting. Whenever I can, I use shadows to add some mystery to the image. Somehow, it will hopefully take the viewer (and myself) somewhere unexpected.
Shadows and silhouettes are an often-attempted subject in street photography, how do you find and see shadows, and how do you make this successful?
Generally speaking, I think the use of shadows and silhouettes can add an extra bonus to the photo. They can say a lot without revealing too much detail. They may also give an overall graphic look to the image, and help emphasize the rest of subjects in the photo. In my personal case, the use of shadows and silhouettes may also very well be kind of an extension of my profession, where I am used to synthesize a message with the least and most effective elements. In my photography, I probably have this same way of feeling and seeing, where I want to show less but hopefully convey more.
You shoot in color, although you do have some photos in black in white. How do you determine which photos you process or shoot in black and white?
Lately I am in a color phase and mood, so my mind intuitively sees the stories I am attracted to in color. However, I sometimes feel that an image may gain strength in black and white. Sincerely, I have no rules on how I determine which photos should be processed in black and white. Here too, I think it is a question of gut feeling, and I am a deep believer in following my instinct.
Are there ways in which being a woman affects your approach to what you do?
Unconsciously, I think my style has adapted to the limitations of being a woman shooting on the streets, so inevitably I think my style is quite feminine. In this case I don’t mind the result, but what I do mind in a way, is that I haven’t specifically decided for it to be that way. But yes, I have probably been driven to it because of those limitations. I am an extrovert and quite impulsive, and am usually not at all scared of getting close to my subjects, but I know that the fact of being a woman, especially in this side of the world, conveys much less respect than if I were a man.
Orietta Gelardin Spinola | Instagram |
Guest interviewer: Susana Soler