From the Same Street: Italian Street Photography Collective SPontanea

Street photographers from Italy on how they started to develop the genre of street photography in the country together.

SPontanea was born in 2013. It unites 11 street photographers and until 2016 it has six more selected authors — they are invited to the collective for two years to exchange experience and work on common projects. In December the photographs of the members of the collective will be presented at the Miami Street Photography Festival.

From The Same Place series by Umberto Verdoliva.

How the Collective Was Born

The idea was to found an Italian collective dedicated to Street Photography, capable of facing on equal terms the other existing international realities. “We also thought to give a few other street photographers (what we refer to as ’selected authors’) the opportunity of a constant contact and dialogue with us”, — one of the founders of the collective Umberto Verdoliva explains.

He says that during the last few years photography in Italy has experienced significant development through many festivals, an attentive focus on photographic culture and the creation of foundations and photography schools: “At the same time many excellent photographers achieved important results at an international level. Photographic exhibitions are much visited and they attract the interest of the media.”

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_02.jpg”, “text”:”From City Limits series by Fabrizio Quagliuso.”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_03.jpg”, “text”:”From The Same Place series by Nino Cannizzaro.”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_04.jpg”, “text”:”From City Limits series by Gabriele Lopez.”}

Development of Italian Street Photography

With the growth in interest in the street photography genre we have also observed a growing number of people who speak about or teach street photography without having the necessary experience and without having demonstrated any talent, Verdoliva says. “It is easy to create and organize such events through the web especially if someone has the support of big brands and photographic institutions as these events are seen as an easy way to make a profit,” he thinks, “We think that SPontanea has further stimulated the development and the attention toward Street Photography in Italy.”

One of our main goals is a critical approach to the continuous delivery of images and demonstrating that while Street Photography could be approached by everyone, when it comes to quality it is not within the reach of all.

From The Same Place series by Emilio Barillaro.

Communication in the Collective

At first the members of the collective knew each other only via the Internet. “We keep in contact on a daily basis online using a private forum, where we exchange ideas, opinions, advice, works. We live scattered in different places and meeting face to face regularly would be difficult. The Internet makes keeping in touch possible. However, we meet in person as often as possible, on the occasion of exhibitions, workshops, festivals to which we have been invited, and it always is a true pleasure to spend time together.” – Verdoliva explains.

It is not mandatory for the photographers to participate in the collective project and only those who want to – and who ’feel’ the chosen theme – participate in it.

It is false myth that being chosen as member of a collective means one is a ‘better’ photographer, the members of SPontanea say: “In a collective it is very important that members cooperate and share tasks among themselves. It takes a lot of commitment, time and personal resources to prepare activities and these can only happen if everyone does their bit.”

Common Projects

SPontanea has two common projects. The first one, City Limits, lasted a year: “Each photographer developed the theme independently according to their personal vision. We uploaded our project photos in our private forum where each of us could express their opinions, likes, doubts, ditch photos, modify sequences, point out the most significative and strongest photos. For a few of us, City Limits is still an open, ongoing project; for others it is a completed work; for some others instead the project never started. In fact it is not mandatory for the photographers to participate in the collective project and only those who want to – and who ’feel’ the chosen theme – participate in it.” The final work was exhibited in an important Italian photography festival, the Face Photo News in Sassoferrato.

The group will shortly be presenting their second collective project, ‘The Same Place’, realized in a little less than a year. You can already see a selection of photos from the various personal ‘Same Place’ projects on the web or buying a copy of the first issue of the SPontanea’s self-produced magazine.

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_06.jpg”, “text”:”From City Limits series by Mario Mencacci.”}

From City Limits series by Emilio Barillaro.

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_08.jpg”, “text”:”From City Limits series by Nino Cannizzaro.”}

Membership in the Collective

SPontanea is not going to expand: “We already reached the maximum number of members we can manage and we are not thinking of adding more authors in the short term. The founding members chose each other. Over time, a few left and new members have been integrated upon the other members’ proposal and unanimous approval.” – Verdoliva says.

SPontanea members look for selected authors themselves: “We identify up and coming Street Photographers whose work we find interesting and invite them to join the selected authors list for 2 years. The continuous interaction and exchange is good for everybody and produces excellent results, even if it is a resource-consuming activity.”

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_09.jpg”, “text”:”From City Limits series by Umberto Verdoliva.”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_10.jpg”, “text”:”From City Limits series by Massimo Napoli.”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_11.jpg”, “text”:”From The Same Place series by Massimo Napoli.”}

How to Start Your Collective

Umberto Verdoliva thinks that for any group to be meaningful it is not enough to gather ‘elite’ photographers: “A collective put together from a list of good photographers, just to form an ‘elite’ or a talent show-off, is not enough to build a meaningful, important activity. We believe that there should be a strong motivation, a common purpose and the wish to achieve something good and lasting, alongside a constant personal and collective research. Being part of a collective only becomes important when you grow personally with the help of the others, thanks to the stimuli given and received, otherwise it is not worth starting one. We believe that the final results are proportional to the efforts made.”

On October 10 in Florence the collective will hold its first event called StreetFolio where it will review and discuss the works of Italian street photographers. “We believe that it is a significative and unique initiative, the first of its kind in Italy, to promote Street Photography. Richard Bram, a major American street photographer, in-Public collective member and our friend, will participate in the event and along with all of us, will review, evaluate and award the works submitted.”

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_12.jpg”, “text”:”From The Same Place series by Mario Mencacci.”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Italian_13.jpg”, “text”:”From The Same Place series by Dino Jasarevic.”}

Gabriele Lopez
Milan-based photographer, works for Millennium Images agency

I was first introduced to SPontanea in an email from Umberto. I was curious to see if it was possible to propose a different approach. I don’t pay too much attention to trends and situations of street photography, Italy included. It is good anyway if some approach from us can inspire someone. I constantly change, but it has nothing to do with the collective anyway.

Nino Cannizzaro
Palermo-based photographer, The Worldwide Photography Gala Awards, National Geographic contest, Tizipac International Contest prize winner

When they asked me to join Spontanea I was happy because to be part of a photo collective gives you the opportunity to talk about photography and develop new projects. This is exciting because it is a stimulus to work better and better thanks to the interchanges among photographers. I think that to be part of a collective can broaden your photographic horizons. Of course you are still the same but you get in touch with different realities, different approaches to photography so you can constantly grow as a photographer, but also as a human being as well. We have to work a lot and go on with new interesting projects and good photos….and in the future other people will say if we became a trend in street photography.

From City Limits series by Dino Jasarevic.

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