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Manuel Cafini

I’ve recently been interviewed by a famous photography Italian website, and I thought that citing this interview would have been the best way to introduce myself.

Manuel, tell us a bit about yourself. When did you start study photography?

I started 4 years ago. The reason why I started with photography is pretty bizarre and still when I think about it, it makes me smile. It happened almost by chance, at that time I was trying to help my then-girlfriend to follow her dream to become a professional photographer. Well, now she’s doing something totally different while I’ve taken her place somehow! I wanna say “Thank You” to her, by the way. I can still remember that when I entered the fabulous world of photography, it took me so completely that I dropped out of university while I was about to take a degree in engineering. I’ve started studying photography with the same passion and tenacity I put in preparing my finals at university. I am completely self-taught and I am a fanatical about all the technical details concerning cameras. I think this fondness for technology has been the key to my success, as it has allowed me to understand the limits of modern cameras and also to overcome them.

What really caught you about photography when you started and what catches you now that your cultural and professional background has grown?

Good point, thank you. Well, there are very few things that really impress me at the moment. Fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t do without reverse-engineering to analyze every picture I see. It’s pretty easy for me to understand the secret aspects and tecniques of a pic at a glance. I don’t see this love for the details as an impediment to my personal and professional growth: on the contrary, it makes me look for something new or not very well-known. When I started, everything struck me at first, because everything was so new and every day there was a marvelous discovery waiting for me.

How much does other arts count in comparison with photography for you? You often shoot dancers and ballerinas.

I think there’s a strong connection between photography and any other art. As a photographer, I cannot watch a movie without analyizing it thorugh reverse-engineering, for instance and wandering how the set has been made. I cannot look at a painting without examining its composition and light methodically, or even listen to a song or watch a music video without synchronizing chorus and images with photos in my mind. What I mean is, every art is a sort of melting pot of ideas, suggestions, stimuli. There’s an unbreakable thread between dance and photography. If the posture of a ballerina, her techinque or facial expression aren’t at their best, it’ll be hard to make a good shoot of it. Vice versa, if you don’t have good photography skills, a strong will to move who will see your pic, and the ability to do so, you’ll never capture a beautiful photography even from the best movement. The perfect dance photo shoot is the combination of technique and expressiveness coming from both the dancer and the photographer.

The kind of photography that suits you most is studio photography. How would you describe your style and what do you think about other styles and tecniques?

To me, there are two main schools of thought: the first concerns the creation of the perfect light, the management and the complete control of its sources, while the second is about managing the existing light at the moment of shooting… Personally, I prefer the first one, that is, a total and thorough control of light. As a consequence, I am much more oriented towards studio photography, still life and portraits, but I also like reportage photography and macro. I know for sure that landscape photography is what interests me the least, although I really appreciate photographers who can make good landscape shoots. Matters of taste, you know. Let’s say that personally I feel more attracted by genres in which fantasy and originality can make the difference.

Your last shoots are a perfect blend of a wise use of tecnique and a strong emotional component. What have you been inspired by to create this kind of pics and what did you expect at first?

In my shoots I have always wanted to render the impression of movement. I have tried panning and following the rotation of the subject, using burst zooms so to make static what’s dynamic and vice versa, moving horizontally the camera while the subject is static or moving it in the opposite direction of the subject’s. While experimenting and experiencing these new tecniques I’ve come up with my last project I’ve always known what I’d work on and what to expect, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the overall sharpness of the result – it was far more than I expected! It’s a matter of eliminating any reflection using a completely black room and through the right iso settings, apertures, time and other tricks.

As far as I know, you’ve recently experimented this kind of shoots even without any flash. Correct?

Yes, correct. I’ve been able to get the same results even without any additional flash. It has been a great success to me! And when I say “Same results” I mean also the stroboscopic effect without any flash, everything in continuous light! This allows me to get the same result in every theater, during any kind of show (maybe with a little digital noise, as I am forced to use slightly higher ISO settings). Using this technique for international artists during any kind of performance It’s a great satisfaction – both for me and for the artists, too. Moreover, I can take pictures of moving dancers inat their best moments of expressiveness and technique. The result will be even more natural than what you can get in a studio.

According to you, what are the limits of photography in general nowadays – and what are the boundaries to overcome?

If you’d have asked me this question one month ago, I’d have written tons of pages to answer it, but for now I just want to find the limits – which still I haven’t found by the way - of this new discovery: it has really opened up my mind to a brand new and undiscovered field of photography.

What are your objectives for the immediate future?

I am trying two new techniques. One concerns black light combined with continuous lighting and flash, while the other concerns lighting through projection. I’m still working on it but so far so good. As soon as I am ready, you’ll be the first I’d like a feedback from!

So Manuel, before saying goodbye, is there something else you want to share with us?

Well, what else…photography for me is everything – and much more. My cultural background is merely technical and during the past years I used to look at everything in a very linear way. These mental schemata have gone all of a sudden since I started studying photography some years ago. They’ve tumbled down, paving the way to a wider and more malleable vision of the world that surrounds me. It has been a godsend, it has changed my life and my way of living it. Photography has helped me expressing myself, quelling my fears, facing my doubts and uncertainties…it’s like a therapy that has made a better man of me! I love my work and the satisfaction I get from it really fulfills myself. There’s nothing more beautiful than this.

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