99% of street photography, if not more, is about failure

Marcello Perino is 42 years old photographer who live in Rome. He is interested in photography since he was a teenager.



What inspired you to become a photographer?

This is a good question… I could say I decided to take pictures because I've always been addicted to travelling, but at the same time I've got a really bad memory so it's easy for me to forget some details that would be worth remembering, so basically I would say that photography is a sort of workaround for me. However there should be something deeper, the journey is made by a continuous linking of connections, influences, and decisions that resulted in my interest in photography.




What inspires your photography?

I draw inspiration from many things, most of which comes from the street. There is so much beauty on the street, and it's incredibly inspiring: it could be a facial expression or an interesting gesture that touches me somehow. At the moment, for example, I am trying to snap pictures of different street scenes around the world. At the beginning of September I'm going to Vilnius, and to India in November. By the way: does anybody know what the best place in Vilnius for good street photography?




How did the project start?

This particular project started long time ago, but as you can see on my website, I do not have many pictures, because I'm really strict about which pictures are worth publishing. Street photography is seemingly easy; you can walk around streets and take pictures of whatever you see in front of you. But, actually, it's really hard to find scenes that instill a sense of beauty. I completely agree with Alex Webb who said, “99% of street photography, if not more, is about failure”.




This is absolutely true. It's really difficult to get a good picture, there's always something that goes wrong. That's why I prefer publishing just those pictures that “have something to say” (at least for me). Actually I have two sections on my website: “in mono” where I publish just black and white pictures that, somehow, evoke emotion, and “in color” where I publish color pictures that show ordinary life, sometimes even humorous.




What does it mean to you?

Street photography makes me feel alive and connected with the streets around the world. Street photography is a way of experiencing life, a street photographer captures pieces of life of a puzzle that is in continual evolution without interrupting it, which is very complicated considering that you have to control your fear, but also the composition in a busy place, often completely unknown… now tell me: aren't these some good reasons that give you an extra bit of adrenaline that makes you feel alive and connected with the streets you are travelling?




How did you approach the subject matter?

For this project I just take candid shots, and I try to have my subject between 2 and 5 meters away. I try to find subjects that are integrated into an interesting background, and if that is not possible, I try to find a subject who has a cool expression or is doing something interesting.




What cameras did you shoot and why?

I mostly shoot with my Fuji X100T, with a 28 mm lens (wide angle conversion lens), it's a really cool camera, small enough and not intrusive.




Any anecdotes you can share?

The anecdote that I am about to tell you is about this type of risks in street photography and, therefore, the need to control fear, which sometimes inevitably rears its head. I was in Sao Paulo with a Brazilian friend, we were in a sort of big shopping center, but not the ones that we Europeans are used to visiting; it was a sort of big building made up of little rooms where people sold their wares. We were there because my friend had to get dreads in one of these little shops, so while she was waiting her turn, I decided to go for a walk in the building to see if there was something interesting to take pictures of. I was a little worried because it actually wasn’t the best of places.




Anyway, when I got to the top floor, I saw an interesting scene, and I immediately brought my camera up to my eyes… a failed attempt, however, because suddenly I was being observed by too many hostile looks and I felt in danger. I went right back to where my friend was and waited there for quite a while. Suddenly two thugs stormed into the shop, one stayed at the door while the other yelled at me to go outside. I immediately understood that all their anger was from my attempt to take pictures.




It was all made more complicated by my inability to communicate… I was trapped, I couldn’t go anywhere, but, at the same time, I didn’t want to follow them, so I took out my camera and asked my friend to tell them that I was only there as a tourist. We were able to stall them for a bit, then, luckily, one of them decided to check my pictures one by one, and then he left. Later I found out from the owner of the shop that there is trafficking of all sorts on the top floor and those guys were convinced I was a journalist. It was a bad experience that fortunately ended without incident.




What are you looking for in street photography?

I am looking for the “magic” shot, the shot you get in the right place at the right time, the one that probably never comes, but it’s for this reason that I keep on shooting.




Any closing comments?

Most of the time, I don’t interact with the subjects I photograph. I take the shot and leave. But one day I’d like to meet them and talk to them because sooner or later those photographs that portray them will become a photo documentary that will recount those pieces of life of a puzzle in continual evolution…




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1 thought on “99% of street photography, if not more, is about failure”

  1. Marcello is pretty much spot on when he says that a 1% yield is what you can expect from your Street work – especially if you are as tough on curation as he is! There really is no substitute for working the streets – that’s the only way you are going to put yourself in the position to ‘discover’ the best images. Patience and Persistence is definitely the name of the game! Great post, I very much enjoyed the images too.

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