Interview with Luca Meola | GBPW Episode 90

The main focus of my work is the human being, especially the human being in a situation of marginality and fragility.

Luca Meola

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Italian street photographer Luca Meola is the star of this week’s episode! Luca describes his work as “hyper-realistic”. He mainly photographs people, especially ones in marginalised communities, and aims to tell their stories as realistically as possible. His recent project – ‘Crackland’ – won the Projects & Portfolios Award on Urban Photo Awards.

We talk about:

  • His background in sociology and how it has affected his work
  • The reason he chose to photograph the people in Cracolândia, a place notorious for drug trafficking
  • How he keeps his life balanced as a full-time photographer

& much more!

Luca is a great visual storyteller. I enjoyed finding out about his experience as a street photographer in Italy, Brazil, and other countries. If you’re interested in this genre and want to learn how to be more authentic as a street photographer, you’ll learn a lot from this episode!

Here is a preview of our conversation with Luca Meola.

Q: What’s the most interesting or most impactful story that you’ve heard from a subject?

Luca Meola: In the neighborhood of São Paulo, I collected a lot of stories. There’s a story that is very powerful. I was there in the streets of this place and I met a guy who asked me to give him my phone. On my phone, he showed me his Instagram account. I saw that he was an influencer with a lot of followers. On that day, he was smoking crack because he had lost himself a month ago.

It was very interesting. I understood that it wasn’t black and white. There were people with many different stories in that place. I think it’s interesting to show the reality with complexity because the reality, for me, is not just black or white. There are lots of grey areas. It’s very important to speak about the value of reality.

Q: When do you decide that a project is complete? Do you give yourself a deadline or do you just feel it?

Luca Meola: It depends. There are commissioned works. You have limited resources. You have to decide a beginning and an end. For example, this summer I went to Albania to create some work about immigration from Albania to Italy. It was commissioned work for an NGO and I worked for 10 days. I knew that in 10 days, I had to tell three stories about the families. That project had a beginning and an end.

In the case of my long-term projects, it’s very difficult. I’m very lucky because I live in Brazil, so I spend a lot of time there. Cracolândia is 15 minutes by bicycle from my home in São Paulo. When I stay in São Paulo, it’s very easy for me to go to this place every day. So it’s more like a feeling.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to take honest and meaningful photos of the world around them?

Luca Meola: The greatest talent, and not just in photography but in life, is determination. My greatest motivation is to be able to live doing what I love, which is taking pictures. It’s not easy. You have to insist, insist, insist, insist. If I had the chance to give advice to a new photographer, I’d say the same thing that I tell myself every day: it’s very important to focus on photography, art, cinema, and literature daily. If you want to build your own style, I think it’s very important to understand how other people, in other art forms, tell stories.

If you want to tell a story, you need to understand how to do it and how other people do it. For example, I study photography every day. Not just contemporary photography. I love to discover other photographers from the past or from other cultures. I’ve discovered a lot of very good Brazilian photographers. Every place has a specific way of taking pictures.

Another thing that is very important, and not just in photography, is to leave your comfort zone. Every time I leave my comfort zone, it’s a risk. It’s tiring. Doing this project in Cracolândia was going out of my comfort zone. Every day that I went there, I felt fear. I didn’t feel comfortable. The necessity of telling the story was more important than my feelings.

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