Develop Your Style: An Interview with Photojournalist Enzo Dal Verme
Enzo Dal Verme’s work has been published in Vanity Fair, l’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Sport, The Times, Marie Claire, Gioia, Grazia, Flair, Amica, D di Repubblica, l’Espresso, Madame Figarò, Elle, Glamour, Class, Max, Panorama and many other magazines. He is currently based in Milan.
BL:What is your photographic specialty and how did you become interested in it?
Dal Verme: For over a decade I have been shooting reportage. I traveled wherever in the world I could find an encouraging and uplifting story to report or an inspiring portrait to shoot. To me one of the interesting things is the traveling itself – it’s going from one place to another and being exposed to all of the contradictions. What is taken for granted in one place is absolutely unimaginable somewhere else. What is considered “good” in one country is seen as “really bad” in another. Everything is relative. In Algeria, I saw women swimming completely covered with black veils and wearing black gloves. In Miami or in Rio you can see women almost naked and with plenty of plastic surgery.
I enjoy observing reality from many different angles and photography gives me the opportunity to do so. In other words, I experience my profession as an exciting exploration of the world and, above all, of myself. In fact, because of my work, sometimes I find myself out of my comfort zone. It can be very challenging but also enriching. Some of my stories are a collection of portraits. Portraiture is definitely my thing and, despite all my traveling, I consider myself a portrait photographer rather than a reporter.
BL:How long have you been teaching and/or writing about photography and how would you describe your teaching/writing style?
Dal Verme: I started writing consistently about photography when I started my blog, which was a bit more than three years ago. I have been told that my “no frills” writing gets straight to the point. It makes sense – I like to be simple and understandable without using too many words. That means that I tend to give a lot of information without adding unnecessary noise. I have the same approach teaching my portraiture workshop, which is an intense and fun weekend designed to help participants enhance their ability to interact with the subject and compose their images quickly and intuitively. If you read the participants’ feedback on the workshop website, you will have an idea about what they think about my teaching style and the workshop itself.
BL: What is your single most depended on photographic item aside from your camera?
Dal Verme: Curiosity.
BL: What type of gear, new or old, are you most interested in experimenting with?
Dal Verme: I have never shot a story with a Rolleiflex and, sooner or later, I’d like to give it a try.
BL: Describe what prompted or inspired you to create How to Shoot Reportage?
Dal Verme: I wrote the manual because of all of the emails that I get from photography students or photographers asking me for tips. The book is a time saver tool for me!
BL: What are some additional resources that you recommend to others getting started in photography?
Dal Verme: Photographers are usually obsessed with technique and equipment and what they often forget is that the style needs to be educated and developed too. On YouTube there are some very interesting photographer interviews where they explain their unique approach and vision. They can be very inspirational and I strongly recommend watching them from time to time. I often post those videos on my Facebook Page dedicated to storytelling.
BL: In what ways do you expect readers to improve after reading your How to Shoot Reportage eBook?
Dal Verme: My book gives brutally practical tips on how to conceive, organize, produce and deliver reportage, facts about the publishing market, and some technical advice. Shooting reportage can be quite complex because there are many aspects to take into consideration. To summarize, I could say that, for me, it all starts with a good idea that I am curious to explore and that has some potential to be published in a magazine. Then I document myself on the matter and try to find some good contacts. The pre-production phase is very important because it helps me get the best out of my trip and prepare for inevitable unforeseen events. Once I arrive at my destination and start shooting, I make sure I organize the pictures I take day-by-day, keeping a constant eye on the harmony that needs to be created among them. Of course I also need to manage local contacts and optimize my schedule, which could include solving problems such as adverse weather conditions, fixing a broken camera or dealing with strikes, assaults, floods and not to mention the endless surprises that a local contact might astonish me with! Then it’s post-production time, which could be quite lengthy if I want to deliver my reportage at the standard that I know my clients appreciate. All in all, it’s a very hard job. But it’s also extremely inspiring. Since I am not a war reporter, the manual doesn’t lists tips on bulletproof vests and such.
I am amazed by all of the positive feedback that I am getting. So far, most people said they particularly appreciate my practical approach and the fact that I share what I learned from my mistakes without pulling any punches. Someone stated on his blog that my “book is simple and straight to the point” and another one wrote,“well worth a read and an eye-opener no matter what your photographic interest” and “it is an important volume for me… wish I had it some years ago”. More comments: “It’s a remarkably low price for such a wealth of information” and “The information contained in this book could save you thousands of dollars. He zooms in on how to avoid problems you just didn’t consider.” All in all, people seem to like the eBook and learn a lot from it.
BL: What is something YOU learned during the process of making this eBook?
Dal Verme: I definitely became more aware of the knowledge that I have on the matter. Trying to explain to a reader the multitude of tricks that I learned over the years forced me to organize all the information that I normally use in “automatic mode”. The writing itself didn’t take me too long because I only had to put down what I do all the time. What has been really time consuming is the final editing.
BL: There are a lot of little rules in photography, such as the Rule of Thirds and the Inverse Square Law. Describe a photography “rule” that you use the most or find most valuable.
Dal Verme: In my opinion, too many rules in your mind might have a bad influence on your capacity to connect with the situation you are photographing. What I consider really important is using your gut and intuition, not a rule. Having said that, in my book I do list a few guidelines. One of them is: leave some air around the subject. It might seem useless because there is nothing important going on in that area of the image…and that’s precisely its strength. One other thing that I consider very important, whatever kind of photography you might be busy with, is to enjoy being flexible and learn how to turn problems into opportunities.
BL: Anything new on the horizon that you are working on, either photography-wise or eBook-wise?
Dal Verme: I started writing a book on portraiture and I have the impression it’s going to take a long, long time to be completed. Then I have many other plans, but…I am not going to tell you everything now!