Giorgio Cosulich de Pecine began photographing at the age of 16, fascinated by the images that his father, a photojournalist, used to shoot around the world. He learned to develop and print black and white film and soon he had his personal darkroom at home. After graduation from high school, he started working as a crime news reporter for a daily newspaper in Rome. He took a photography course of three years at the European Institute of Design (IED) in Rome.
Then he decided to move to New York where he had the chance to work in the fashion industry, at the photographic studios Pier 59 Studios. He stayed for over a year, but Giorgio felt sacrificed closed in a photo studio and so he left and he followed the photojournalism path. In over twenty years of work his pictures have been published in magazines and newspapers around the world, such as Newsweek, Time, Stern, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and many others.
Today Giorgio lives in Rome and he is a contributor of Getty Images. He also shoots corporate images for clients such as Nike, United Nations, Ethiopian Airlines, Shell, Qantas and others. Beside commissioned works, he follows his long term projects.
In 2013 a photo book titled Africa Express was published by Postcart Editions, it was the result of ten thousand chilometers traveled by train in Africa. With the same publishing house, a new book titled Driving in Addis will be released at Christmas 2015, a journey inside Addis Ababa photographed from a taxi, to show the huge change that the Ethiopian capital is experiencing in these years.
When did you discover mobile photography?
I began to experience mobile photography with the purchase of my first smartphone. The quality of the camera was not that good, but I enjoyed equally shooting images, with no purpose other than to record visual notes, ideas, moments. After some years I bought an iPhone5 and I became aware of a new world.
From that moment I began to experiment with interest this tool, testing different photo apps, dedicating myself to the mobile photography more seriously, trying to figure out the boundaries of this new tool and its expressive and narrative potential. Today, when I work for my clients, I alternate the digital SLR camera with the smartphone one, producing some interesting results that excite and surprise always the clients.
It is clear that today SLR camera still plays a leading role in the professional field, especially in certain areas of photography industry, such as sports or fashion, but the smartphone is becoming a valuable alternative tool for many situations related to photojournalism and editorial publishing in general.
What shooting with a smartphone adds to a project or, in general, to an image?
In my opinion, the use of a smatphone has four key benefits: portability, speed, easiness and popularity. Four aspects that make the big difference with traditional SLR cameras. The first thing to consider is that our smartphone is always with us, because it is our means of contact with the world. On every occasion we are potentially able to take a picture.
Bringing along a SLR camera is the result of a very clear choice and it does not always suits us, for obvious reasons. On the contrary, carrying with us a mobile phone is the result of a different process: we don’t choose it, we need it. Smartphones generally have a very quick accessibility to their camera, even in a stand-by mode.
Within seconds we can pull it out of our pocket and shoot a picture, without worrying about technical aspects such as setting the shutter speed, the lens closure and the ISO. Your smartphone will take care of it, quickly and with excellent results. This is what makes the tool extremely easy and intuitive to use, allowing anyone to be able to successfully take a picture. An operation that has become a gesture in everyday life for so many of us worldwide.
The extreme popularity of this tool, makes it an element well accepted in the big community and not at all intrusive or threatening to people’s lives, as it happens often with a SLR camera. This makes it extremely versatile in many situations where taking photographs becomes a shared and common gesture. Nobody will notice you, no one will think you’re doing something suspicious.
With a smartphone, becomes possible to photograph in circumstances where a traditional camera can not be used, where permits and authorizations are required. If you are discreet and natural while shooting no one will notice anything strange. This is the huge and precious advantage.
What do you really pay attention to when shooting?
I’m always very attentive when composing, lighting and choosing the right moment in my shots. The composition is the way we want to formally present an image, the aesthetics of the content, but also the aesthetic that creates the content. It is the first look that an observer will give to our images.
The light somehow fills forms and gives strength to the content. A different light from another can change the final message of the same photograph. I really like to work on the so-called unfavorable light, when the lighting conditions are not favorable to a proper lighting of the scene. Backlight, shadow, flair, light cutting, flat light situations are for me full of inspiration and combined with a proper post production they will give amazing results.
Since I use a smartphone, this element has become even a more important as part of my research, using specific apps I will enhance the richness that is hidden in unfavorable light situations.
Finally I am very attentive to the moment when I shoot. My main subject is always the human being and it is important to capture gestures and expressions in the exact moment they are accomplished. The composition in itself is not enough, in the scene everyone has to play his role.
Even in a wide angle picture, where people are small in the background, for me it is important that everyone is in a position or is making a gesture that makes sense.
This is the way I like to get the balance point in an image.
When you take photos, not for an assignment but as a “professional passionate”, do you look for a specific element? And where do you get your inspiration from?
Images taken during an assignment, either editorial or commercial, they need to meet the needs of the client and not always these coincide with our needs. So you are free to express your sensibility but to a certain point, the important thing is to manage our ideas in coincidence with those of the client. This is a big sign of professionalism, in my opinion.
When I shoot for me obviously this factor decays, I feel more free to follow my way, both in terms of subject of photographic approach. I really like to experience new approaches, new way of observing, new recording tools. When I follow a long-term project I like to combine different tools, using them all to create a patchwork of languages, a mix of different results that enrich the overall vision of the story. In this sense, the use of the smartphone is perfect and produces excellent quality results.
The main element of my work as a photographer is the human being, the life he leads and the society in which he lives. My ideas and my photographic projects always go in that direction and in the stories I tell I try to convey that same humanity that the people gave me while I was photographing.
Do you post-produce your images? And if yes which apps do you use/suggest?
I always post process my snap photos, some a bit more, some a bit less. It depends on the subject, on the light, on the situation. I use a lot Camera+, because it allows me a full manual control of the parameters both during shooting and post production. When shooting, I can adjust the ISO, shutter speed, focus and the camera exposure EV. In this way, if I decide to use the manual setup I can perfectly control all light situations.
Obviously using the camera on manual mode takes some time, to set all the parameters. The use of the automatic mode facilitates recording in some very difficult situations, such as action scenes or sudden changes between shadow and light. But is not the only app that I use. I also use ProCamera that guarantees me shooting functions and post production similar to those of Camera+. Often the functionality of different apps look similar, but in reality everything depends on the algorithm related to functionality.
The fact that two apps have both the opportunity to lighten the shadows or recover detail in the highlights, this does not mean that the result will be the same, the algorithm to get the final result might be not the same. It happens therefore that I use more apps at the same time to optimize the post-production of a photograph.
Recently I have been using the native camera of my iPhone to create an original balanced picture and then I use the different apps to change the image. In this way I can also preserve the original shot, because the changes are made automatically on a copy.
The last app I downloaded and I’m experiencing at the moment is Hipstamatic. It has a series of films (filters) and lenses that can be combined together to obtain interesting effects. The only problem is that this app, which otherwise is used by many mobile photographers, creates an original already processed and filtered. This means that there are no more originals and no more opportunity to re-start processing the picture in a different way.
I suggest to download two or more apps to combine together to achieve specific results.
When you think about mobile photography and its potential, what do you think first?
I think at the speed and anonymity of the medium, in which we can hide while photographing with a smartphone. But I also think at the different perspective from which we can observe and catch the subject. I think the freedom and the opportunity to be able to record more closely and more from within some aspects of our lives, to tell new stories. All this potential is available to everyone.
As a photographer, do you think that “soon” many features will be shot with a smartphone?
Although the mobile photography is catching on fast in the world (more slowly in Italy), although there are agencies and photographers who already are driving in that direction, although have been established festivals and international awards, in reality it is still a phenomenon spontaneous and not organized by a professional point of view.
Apparently anyone can take beautiful pictures using a smartphone and is the gesture that perhaps all of us are now taking more frequently every day. Precisely for this reason we still tend to think that a photograph taken with a smartphone is not a serious thing, much less professional (and as we saw before this is really still an advantage for the mobile photographers).
Most clients feel the same way. Why should I pay a photographer working with a smartphone when I can use it myself with the same results? There are still a few brave clients that instead they realize that it is not a matter of what tool we use, but instead it concerns more the eye of the photographer and his professional experience. A photographer can use any tool capable sensitive, what matters is what he sees and how he will represent the scene in an image.
Recently, the United Nations have commissioned me a reportage on the three days of the Govern Council 2015, at the IFAD (International Fund for Agriculture Development) headquarters in Rome. I shot entirely with my iPhone and the images were posted on IFAD Instagram profile. It has been a very interesting experience.
Last week I made a corporate shooting for Nike Italy, using again my iphone, but this time along with an SLR digital camera.
Where do you think mobile photography will be in 5 years?
As we can see the world is moving very fast and I think that within 5 years the mobile photography will have conquered a good part of the photography industry, customers will begin to consider and to trust this kind of photo coverage. Those who have figured out in advance the potential of the smartphone will enjoy the first real results of their investment, all the others who didn’t aware of it will try to make their way to it a bit late.