Luca Giorietto's street photography: trash & dirt as cultural expressions

Street Photography London recently received a submission which could have slipped through the net being so devoid of people. They say first impressions matter and when we look at one's street photography, we either get a gut feeling very quickly or not.

This is one you just can't help but feel attracted to. A perfect (and rare) example that in some cases, street photography does not require the human presence, but just what's left behind. There's a quality to Luca Giorietto's work that's very hard to describe. It's a colourful, organised chaos and manages to make everyday trash look somewhat attractive.

This may well be the Marmite of street photography and you may call us mad... but we love it!

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Luca, tell us a little about you and your photography?

I'm an Italian freelance photographer and my education was somewhat unusual. It started with music, I'm an enthusiastic listener and a great admirer of the alternative scene of the 80's and the 90's in particular. As well as appreciating the pillars of music history, I also discovered many interesting musicians on the internet, particularly bands that were formed in the last decade. I started collaborations with some of them, designing flyers and posters for their gigs, and thus my first works came about. My first creations were basic collages, with no post-production whatsoever. This is also when my most important artistic collaboration began: it was with the Italian band Betty Poison.

Afterwards, as I was still living in my home town and studied photography at the local Academy of Fine Arts, which prompted me to experiment with different styles and concepts and led to my first proper photo-shoot, called "Ophelia", the model for which was Lucia Rehab, the singer of Betty Poison.

I also spent a term in Wroclaw, Poland - a beautiful city that has a special place in my heart - and some of the photos I took there made it into a recent exhibition. When I came back to Italy, I started working with other bands in the Rome area, particularly Luminal. I did a few interviews as well: among others I interviewed Eric Avery of Jane's Addiction, the singer Inger Lorre and director/graphic designer Nick Egan.

On the whole, photography becoming predominant in my work was an unexpected occurrence and I took it as a challenge, an opportunity to test myself beyond the boundaries of the techniques that first shaped my aesthetic view of the world.

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What attracts you to London and shooting here?

London has always been a special city for me, both recently as resident and in the past when I visited as a tourist. Its cultural life is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. I can't describe it better.

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This series is really interesting, although it doesn't feature people there is a real human side to it, a real London feel, can you explain it?     

Last year, when I moved here, I wished more than anything to start shooting with local bands as soon as possible, but I had to take some time to learn about the music scene. During that time I also felt the need not to sit still and find another opportunity to challenge myself.

This particular kind of photography is entirely new to me, as I have always been more inclined to work with people. It is immensely rewarding to be able to express myself in a completely new way and see that people who have appreciated my former work can relate to this new series too. What I wanted to capture was the "other side" of London, the hidden part, I was uninterested in the typical tourist's experience of the city, that does nothing for me. 

There are plenty of beautiful photos of the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park and all the other landmarks: I don't feel drawn to that particular scenario. I wanted to show the city as it really is in everyday life, the alleys and the feeling of getting lost in the night, the lights, the sex shops. I'm bored of the Disney-style postcards.

I love Street Photography London as a website because it's full of great artist with ideas that I feel I can relate to. One last thing about this series: in two of these pics two human figures can actually be spotted, if you look hard enough...

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What is the reason you prefer to leave people out?

The reason is very simple: I did it to get a completely new start. Having only ever photographed bands and models, I wished to deconstruct that point of view completely, which I did by not actually showing people, but making sure the human element is felt, rather than seen, in these new shots.

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"I feel irresistibly drawn to what is commonly considered trash and dirt: these things, to me, are cultural expressions in their own right."

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Something else that comes out from your London street photos is a sense of solitude (for example that shot from the window over the rooftops). Something quite rare in London?

I agree that most of my shots share an overall sense of solitude, which I probably unconsciously derive from Edward Hopper, one of my favourite painters. I went to see an exhibition of his works in Rome a few years ago and I was struck by the chilling and essential beauty he expressed. I acknowledged that lonely feeling as I was taking the pics, but it was not something I had planned or intended to convey: it just emerged, it was not the result of a conscious decision. I don't think solitude is that rare in London though: quite the opposite. I think the outward appearance of a frantic metropolis like London - but the same holds true for New York, Rome or Berlin - conceals a massive amount of urban solitude. 

Everyone is always running, we have too much to do (I do that too), our energies get drained by a multitude of deadlines and commitments and we hardly ever get a break. And when we do we are more likely to interact with the world through the screen of our smartphones than look at what's actually around us. Even without portraying people, I could feel all this isolation seeping into my pictures.

The particular shot you mentioned features an element that ended up being quite relevant in my London project: windows. I frequently find myself getting strongly inspired by windows while taking a stroll down the city alleys. Windows allow me to catch a glimpse of someone else's personality, mirrored in the things they chose to display, thus giving me an idea of what I may expect to find in their flat. This is definitely one of my favourite subjects, though I do have quite a few.

Besides Hopper, I've also been strongly influenced by the style of other artists, including film directors such as David Cronenberg, Terry Gilliam, Gregg Araki and Peter Greenaway. Music photography played a huge part in the development of my artistic taste as well, particularly the golden age of Jane's Addiction and Sonic Youth and Maria Mochnacz's work with PJ Harvey and Killing Joke. Pop culture is my lifeblood.

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It looks like it's shot on film. If you shoot digital, can you explain a little bit your process to give it this more saturated/contrasty look?

Thank you, I really appreciate you noticing this. That is exactly the effect I intended to achieve. I really like the idea of assembling a collection of good frames. I shot digital at the moment and the post production mainly consisted  working through contrasts of light and colour,  layer masks and emphasizing the general atmosphere. Beforehand, of course I had selected each setting carefully, but the editing has helped me to enhance the soul of each frame.

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Two of your photos feature sex shops and escort flyers in telephone boxes, so I guess it's shot in Soho. Is there something behind this? Apart from these, you seem to show a "dirty" side of London too, am I right?

Yes, those photos were taken in Soho, which is one of the neighbourhoods I have been feeling most attracted to. There is something uniquely sinful and dirty about it that I find extremely appealing. I get bored with glossy and conventionally elegant images, I'm more interested in the dirty side of things, which I find usually more beautiful and charming. I feel irresistibly drawn to what is commonly considered trash and dirt: these things, to me, are cultural expressions in their own right.

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More of Luca's work can be seen here.

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We hope you enjoyed this interview. Please leave us a comment as we'd love to know what you think of Luca's work.