Let’s start with a small presentation who is Lorenzo Castore?
I was born in Florence on 22 June 1973. I had an intense childhood which means surreally strange and kind of tough therefore magic and beautiful. It was a time full of rich inner dialogues and strong visions. I moved a lot with my mother: we changed many apartments, a few places and various contexts. I was a grown up kid, then I tried to make up for that early maturity by stretching adolescence as long as I could until somehow I became a man who tries to keep alive and powerful his child soul. I guess that for my unpredictable childhood and for a natural inclination my sense of identity is flexible, fluidly rooted; I’ve always had trouble understanding where I end and the beyond begins.
When did you start taking pictures? Do you remember what it felt like? How much has that feeling changed since today?
I have been taking pictures since I was 19. I was in New York looking for temporary jobs, just after high school. I felt lonely and amazed by the beauty and the energy of the city. I followed people in the streets trying to photograph them by stealing snapshots. I was shy but so magnetically attracted by that restless crowd where it felt so good to get lost. It was 1992. I hope I grew up and improved in the meantime. I still love taking pictures - otherwise why should I continue doing it? - but my approach is more conscious, open and free - I’d say less ego concerned.
When you tell a story, I take as an example Ewa & Piotr, that impressed me a lot, in a certain way do you build your imaginary from the story itself? Is it a wrong assumption to say that this process goes beyond reportage, and comes closer to literature or cinema for the kind of dynamic?
I live the experience, I do not calculate. I follow an inner voice and I try to read the signs I receive from the outside. I don’t give myself a deadline and I try to minimise my expectations. I just go on and on until it happens that I look at the work and it feels it is almost there. I don’t know about reportage, I don’t care about genres and even less about style. Talking about style actually embarrasses me. Literature, cinema, music and generally art are an important part of my sentimental education: they are sources of inspiration and they contribute to define my taste and my work. I tend to favor a holistic approach and I have sympathy for the hybrid nature. I basically try to do what I have to do, the how is each time a revelation. Photography is just a tool. I care about what pushes me and about the energy I transfer in what I do.
Which authors have influenced you? If there are any, and most importantly, did you ever notice, perhaps at first, that you were unconsciously influenced by the work of others?
Many, from different disciplines. If you want to know specifically about photography I can say that I decided to try to be a photographer after finding myself by chance at the Koudelka exhibition Exils. It was an epiphany. Just after that the work of Robert Frank, Diane Arbus and August Sander helped me to clarify my ideas and direction. A few years after I met Michael Ackerman and through him Christian Caujolle who immediately took me at VU’ which was the best agency and gallery around. I was 28 or 29 so the youngest of the members and being part of that group of exceptional human beings and photographers changed my perspective: till that moment I was living in my bubble knowing the work of the photographers I love through their books but from then on I met many of them in person and I became a good friend with some. The atmosphere at VU’ was unique, it was a weird family of strong individualities. The mutual influences were evident as the respect for each other. Everyone took something from the others while always keeping his own distinct way. In those days I have learned that it is important not to feel superior or inferior to anyone and that the qualities of who you admire always enrich you if you are able to make them yours in a true way.
I’m going to ask you a question that’s been going around in my head for some time; What do you think about workshops? Do you think it’s too overused? In some cases it seems to become a passepartout that opens otherwise closed doors, directly adjacent to the doors of publishing houses. What do you think about it?
I think a workshop could be a fantastic opportunity, both for the teacher and the participants. I often met amazing people sharing intense emotions. I can say that many real solid human relations were born during my workshops. I don’t think it can be overused; if the workshop is well organised and the people enjoy being together is a great thing to do. About the practical aspect of it I have no idea. I have no particular talent in understanding the smart moves to be made to get in touch with publishing houses, editors, etc.
What do you hate about photography?
What are the subjects you love to photograph? Are there situations that constantly return to your work?
I’m attracted to tension. I get excited when opposites somehow coexist. To tell you more specifically about subjects: to enter in relationship with the other I need to fall in love. Falling in love is always different, it can last a lifetime or burn in one hour. It cannot be separated from a carnal attraction and contact as from an emotional ‘brotherhood’. Then, I don’t know why but wherever I go I always meet and photograph someone with eyes that look in opposite directions. I like to think of a sorcerer who is after me. It makes me feel strangely protected… I make up many things :-)
A photo you’re particularly fond of? Show it to us.
How much courage does it take to be a good photographer?
You need courage in life, period. You need it to try to be yourself and live your life for real. To be a miner you certainly need more courage and balls than to be a photographer. Taking pictures is a privilege so you have to deserve it. You need to know (or at least strongly sense) the why, you don’t want to be just a vain parasite. It is a warning and it is better to keep it in mind. I do.
In a hypothetical podium, where would you put honesty? And what would be the other two values that you consider indispensable in a photographic work?
Obviously honesty is a great thing. As generosity, independence, loyalty and many other qualities. In general I don’t like to use too big words, it makes me uncomfortable as lectures and a paternalistic attitude. I prefer to try to be honest than talking about honesty. I feel I’m never enough and I try to have high standards. What I do should speak for me, not what I say. When you are a teenager you have a big mouth, now I try to be closer to a man type. It is a challenge of course. And another one is not to be tepid.
One or more obsessions. If you have any.
I have obsessions of different kinds. Here I go for a light random list… I can’t stand white sneakers, the hair on the plate, having modern cars in my pictures, milk; I’m crazy for old maps, anonymous vintage pictures, the island of Andros, anchovies, Fiorentina…
Tell me an anecdote, something curious that happened while you were shooting.
Once in Bilbao I thought I was about to be killed. I walked in a beautiful bar, it was sunset and the room was illuminated by this beautiful orange light. I saw a chubby girl sitting alone at a table in front of the window. She was very well dressed - old style elegant - and she had the make-up rubbed all around her eyes. She was quiet, a bit spaced out, surrounded by a cloud of smoke which looked great because against that magic light that was all over the place. It was so beautiful. I couldn’t resist and I walked to her. I started to talk to her gently asking if she would have liked to be photographed. She was pleased but a bit anxious. I realised in that precise moment that there was another glass on the table. I turned around and I saw a little scary gypsy with long oily hair full of prison’s tattoos and scarves coming in my direction. It was no good. I tried to explain to him my innocent motivation but I immediately understood that I was just making it worse and worse. He said I had to leave right away. They were so beautiful, even more together. I tried to say that. He showed me his knife. I went to the counter and ordered a small beer. It felt like we were in a splatter western movie just a few moments before the big mess. I thought that if I would have left immediately he would have followed me in the dark street and stubbed me. The barman told me that if something had happened he would have pretended he hadn’t seen anything. The gypsy was staring at me constantly. I drank my beer in two shots and then walked out with some other people, made a left and finally mixed in the crowd.
Thanks for the talk!
Thank you, my pleasure…
If you want to know more about my work:
www.lorenzocastore.com (even if it is a while I don’t update it…)
If you want to buy my books:
For Nero (2004), Paradiso (2005), Ewa & Piotr - Si vis pacem para bellum (2018) go to your favourite photo-bookshop (SUPPORT PHOTOBOOKSHOP IF YOU CAN, IT IS IMPORTANT!) or if you don’t have any photobookshop around you check on Amazon.
For ULTIMO DOMICILIO (2015) and 1994-2001 | A BEGINNING (2019) go to https://www.lartiere.com/
For LAND (2019) go to https://blowuppress.eu/products/land