In part 1 of our interview with Marco del Pra’, we learned he is a compassionate and thoughtful photojournalist, concerned about the state of the human condition and social justice. del Pra’ was born in Italy in 1979, studied Photography in Milan, and Visual Communication at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. Today he is a freelance photographer for international newspapers and magazines as well as on editorial and more extensive photojournalistic projects. He is represented by image|trust photo agency. In part 2 of our interview, we delve deeper into his views on photography and his Moroccan images.
A: A great friend of mine, the Moroccan painter Chakib M., has been painting fantastic watercolor and oil paintings of an imaginary almost timeless Morocco for over 30 years. Probably unconsciously perhaps I summon up his paintings in my own way in these images. Especially at night you can inhabit and experience this country’s incredibly timeless visual sensations from the past. I think these images are enigmatic and evocative because they do not include almost any elements of the modern age, but they still tell silently a lot about the current state of Morocco, trapped between a the rich, proud culture and traditions of the past and the changes and challenges the country is forced to endure in an increasingly global world.
A: I try not to categorize my own photography in terms of genres and I never execute a project following strict rules. There is always something unpredictable that I am looking for. The “classic” way of narration of documentary and street photography are the tools I use most often but the final result very often differs.
Q: You’ve observed that the Leica M6 is an exceptional and perfect tool for your kind of work, and that you are “fighting for deceleration” and “prefer handcrafted photography.” What is there about film that you find so compelling, why do you apparently have an antipathy toward digital? Have you ever considered using, say, a Leica Monochrom, a digital Leica M capable of yielding superlative black-and-white images?
A: With an M6 you are obliged to think. You do not click like an idiot. you have 36 photos; each one has its own value and can be decisive. I have no antipathy toward digital imaging. Indeed. In my commercial work it is essential, given the times we live in and the flow of the Internet. It’s more the overdose of digital information and images that assails us daily that scares me. This desensitizes the public, and I am not immune to this muyself. My passion for photography has roots that have nothing to do with a monitor and a computer. I’m trying to work against it, and at least in my personal projects I would like to possibly stay away from digital.
Even if I would not despise a Leica M or Monochrom (I would prefer the Monochrom!), it would tie me even more to the digital workflow and I would lose the pleasure I already mentioned before in my comment about classic photography as I perceive it. In the end I want my pictures to look like they were taken with an M6 anyway, so why all the stress? Also when I’m traveling I want to be independent and not having problems with charging batteries, laptops, backup, etc. I’ve experienced many trips with digital equipment, and traveling only with an analog camera is a completely different experience for me.
Q: In talking with your people your age you said that you “learned the perspective and hopelessness of their generation.” Do you think you communicated any of this in your Morocco portfolio? Isn’t there also some sense of hope expressed in your images of people at what look like celebratory and assertive events—such of a smiling man and woman holding a large spear (?) as they march in a parade?
A: This portfolio has to be seen as an extract, and in context with other pictures I took in the past where I concentrated more on this issue. I learned the perspective and hopelessness of their generation on my first journeys to Morocco. Things have changed very much since then. At that time Europe was still seen as the “El Dorado”, migration was the topic of the day in everyone’s mind—France, Italy, Holland, Germany. There are definitely more opportunities in Morocco now than in the past and you can really feel that people have started to realize that problems can and must be solved in their own country.
About the sense of hope, this is the point. Here the narrative part should prevail, and the story still has to be written. Morocco is living a revolutionary process as are other countries in the North African region are, but in a more subtle and completely different way. The picture shows the celebrations for the visit of King Mohammed VI in the little village of Chefchaouen. There was a huge parade with almost half of the inhabitants on the streets waving Moroccan flags and waiting the arrival of his majesty. He did never appear that day.
Q: Do you plan to continue shooting images of Morocco, and have you placed any of them in the commercial media, in galleries, or are they part of your personal creative portfolio? Since you support yourself as a freelance photographer, are these Morocco pictures the kind of pictures you shoot for a living, or are your (for lack of a better word) commercial images of a different character altogether.
A: I am definitely planning to continue photographing in Morocco as soon as my finances allow it. I have a number of different photographic projects in mind that can only be realized there.
But the Morocco series is only one of many personal open-ended projects I’ve never really placed in the commercial media or in galleries. I am a terrible editor of my own work, and see my work largely as a work in progress. I make my living mainly by shooting commercial images of a completely different character.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?
A: My father used to work in the darkroom as an amateur. He made great prints using a Leitz Focomat 2 enlarger. I knew early on that Leitz glass was something very special and the year 2000 I finally bought the M6 TTL with a 28mm Summicron lens that I still use today.
Q: What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
A: My approach to photography going forward is to continue to shoot as much Tri-X film as possible. I tend to dismiss all this digital photography, Internet, Facebook, etc. I am fighting for deceleration, restoring my black-and-white darkroom. I prefer handcrafted photography. I see photography as the chapters of my life, something that has accompanied me for a long time, long before I tried to make a living from it, a sort of very personal diary. I am essentially an addict. Photography also has very much to do with prose. I do see a lot of parallels between photography and literature. Very often my personal photography projects were made in collaboration with artists or journalists who wrote about the themes I expressed visually. Very often photography needs literature, text that accompanies it, to give it context.
Q: In addition to your father’s darkroom, was there anyone or anything else that shaped your photography?
A: In high school there was a darkroom where I made my first prints at the age of 14. Soon afterward I discovered the work of Magnum photographers and felt in love with their way of documenting the world. From 1999- 2000 I studied photography in Milan and from 2000-2004 I studied Visual Communication at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. I discovered and studied with passion the work of the masters of photography of the last century. Those that made me understand and love the potential of photography include Rodschenko, Moholy-Nagy, Brassai, Man Ray, Giacomelli, Scianna, Morath, Cartier-Bresson, Depardon, Hilla and Berndt Becher. From the present I can name only one: the Serbian photographer Boogie. I personally have problems with the limitations imposed on journalistic photographic documentation used in daily newspapers.
Q: How do you see your photography evolving over the next, say, 3-5 years in terms of technique, content, or creative expression, and do you plan to explore any other locations or photographic genres other than photojournalism, documentary, portraiture, and fashion?
A: I do not want to sound too pretentious but my intent is to continue to document and interpret the world and society that surrounds me using my own aesthetic language. I see my photography in continuous evolution. I do not know over the next 3-5 years what will happen, but for sure my camera will be at my side.
I would like to have more time and money to concentrate on my documentary projects, and devote my photojournalistic work completely to this genre. Much of my work in the past revolved around the recurring theme of “the borders of Europe”. About this issue there is still so much that should be done. In the future I’d love to work more with journalists and authors and concentrate more on in-depth photojournalistic projects. Inch’allah.
Thank you for your time, Marco!
– Leica Internet Team
For more information on Marco, visit his website and blog.