Vittorio Daniele: A Photographic Pilgramage

Vittorio Daniele was born in 1965 in Syracuse in Sicily. He attended the “School of Cinema” in Milan where he graduated with a degree in Cinematography. He has shot documentaries, fiction, commercials and music videos; however, his true passion is street photography and reportage. He has exhibited his photographs in various exhibitions in Siena, Turin, Italy, Rome. Vittorio Daniele currently lives in Palermo and Rome, continues to travel and take still photographs on film and in black & white. Below he tells us about his photographic journey in his simple and expressive manner.

Q: Hi, Vittorio. When did you first start taking photographs?

A: I tarted taking photographs at the age of fourteen. I received my first camera as a gift from my grandfather and namesake, Vittorio. Initially I learned the rudiments of technology, photographing and printing my black and white photos, documenting the religious festivals of the tradition in the small town where I grew up in Sicily.

Q: How would you describe your photography?

A: I think that analogic images are able to communicate emotions that, up to now, digital photography is not able to return. For me, the Leica rangefinder camera is unique because it allows me to get close to the people, who can see me in the face; this enables me to establish an intimate relationship with them based on trust and not intrusive.

Q: What is your experience with Leica? Do you use Leica cameras, if so, which ones?

A: I have used and continue to use black and white film. I have got an old Leica M4-2 that I use and my favorite lenses are 21, 35, 50 and sometimes 90 mm. In 1990, I bought my first Leica, a M4P used, and I began to collaborate with some Italian newspapers; I worked about the news for the “Giornale di Sicilia.”

At the same time I started to travel. The ultimate goal of my work is to tell the life of man. During my travels the road becomes favored setting in which it takes place my work as a photojournalist. My Leica M because of its small size and its silent shutter, it gives me the chance to get to the people and I’m not a spectator photographer but I am in the same scene photographer, entering empathy with them. Often I shoot “a la sauvette”, other times I wait for the right moment, the decisive moment to shoot. My camera is always with me, essential and discreet friend. I like establishing a relationship with people, when I photograph I often stop to talk with them about their lives, their tragedies and their dreams.

Q: When did you first become interested in photography as a profession?

A: My interest in photography was soon joined by the passion for cinema, at nineteen. After finishing classical studies, I left Sicily to move to Milan, where I attended courses in cinematography. Those were important years for my education. In 1985, in Milan there was a great artistic ferment. I used to attend photo galleries, and I watched a lot of movie pictures. In 1987, when I finished my photographic studies, I started working as an assistant and as a photographer for industrial reports on the implementation of large civil engineering projects in Italy and all over the world. Cinema and photography from that moment become for me a profession. 1988 was a breakthrough year for my way of shooting: in Padova, thanks to an exhibition dedicated to him, I found the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Suddenly, I changed my approach to photography. People then became the central element of my photographic research, attracts my attention, I was curious and I was attracted by their way of interacting daily with the surrounding world.

Q: The images you provided are thought-provoking and powerful. Is this a specific series?

A: Yes, these are from my work “My Way to Santiago.” It is my personal journey along the 800 km that separate Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago in Spain. Driven by the interest to tell through my pictures an intimate moment of human existence, I decided to undertake this long pilgrimage on foot.

Q: That’s amazing you undertook this on foot. Can you tell us about that experience?

A: I started off in the month of November because I thought it was the best time to start this trip, the atmosphere best suited for my photographs. I wanted to stay away from situations of organized pilgrimages with large groups of people, typical of the spring / summer. In winter, the cold, the rain and sometimes snow, put a strain on pilgrims, who in this period often travel alone. I tried to capture in the eyes of the pilgrims of their hard labor and travel at the same time I took their desire to discover their true essence entering often in an almost intimate with their thoughts (this is the magic of photography).

Q: Did you learn anything along this journey through your photographs or your personal experience?

A: I was attracted by the looks of the people living along the route of the journey and often interested in trying to understand what could push the human being to deal with so much effort. Along the route, the pilgrim becomes an integral part of nature and with it is measured daily discovering their essence and beyond their limits. Many of the people I met during the long journey were not motivated by religious ideals but by a desire to know their self. This is what happened to me, I thought to take a photographic journey that would document the experience of others but I actually told my personal experience from which I came out profoundly changed. Photographing, as Henry Cartier-Bresson said, it is “a way of life.”

Q: Can you tell us about some of your other work and what you try to capture with it?

In my photographic journey, I have always been attentive to the diversity of discriminated minorities. I took images in 1999 in the Balkens that show the slow reconstruction of Sarajevo and Mostar straight out of the bloody conflict. I’ve documented a famine in Ethiopia. In 2009, I lived for fifteen days in close contact with those who lost everything in the terrible earthquake that hit Abruzzo.  I consider myself a sort of “photographer-pilgrim.”

Thank you for your time, Vittorio!

- Leica Internet Team

To see more of Vittorio’s work, visit his Facebook page and website.