The last September i have an interview published in EYE-Photo Magazine (https://issuu.com/eye-photomagazine) about my project “Europa”. Thanks to Stefan Cimer and to all the people working there.
Yuo can buy the book here: andrearatto.bigcartel.com/product/europa-the-photobook
In 2017, I walked the streets of 26 European countries with my camera in a fully independent journey, taking about 85,000 photos. At first sight, this may seem insane, but actually, it was just my personal attempt to the answer to two primary questions that I have been asking myself in the light of the current economic, political and social evolution we are facing: Does the European society exist as a whole? And if it does, how does it work? The desire to get these questions answered led me to make long trips, in which I have been fulltime dedicated to the search of images describing or just conveying sensations which might reveal the true nature of such European society in 2018, from my very own point of view. This journey has helped me to evolve and grow on my initial thoughts, adding nuances that I was not able to observe from the comfort of my house by only getting filtered and simplified information from the media. In my attempt to remove that filter I have approached many people in their daily life,
observing what is happening on the streets of Europe, but trying to be invisible and only taking “candid” and “unstaged” photos. The final 85 photos that I have selected to be part of this book summarize my vision of Europe by focusing on the common points of society discovered in my journey, on the different scenarios and countries I had the chance to describe; hints of what society holds in common and, in short, of what we are. The photobook was Crowfunded and i published a first self edition of 150 photobooks in September 2018 (sold out). A second edition is available from December 2018.
-What was the initial idea of making this photo book project?
This is a very good question, because I did not start this project because of photographic reasons alone. Rather, I noticed the need to further investigate the important historical moment that we are experiencing in the old continent. I am referring to the social and political repercussions in Europe as a result of the great economic crisis, the unusual moment that our institutions are experiencing after Brexit and also the severe immigration crisis. The initial approach was to take the camera and go to see first-person the reality on the streets, without the filter of the media that inevitably makes an influence our vision. During the whole process I have not tried to look for objectivity: My goal has been to live the experience directly and capture in this photo book my impressions about our society in this particular historical moment. Robert Frank and “The Americans” was an important reference at the time of starting and developing my project.
-You have been in quite a lot countries within Europe. Can you remember all?
I have been to 26 countries, I had already visited most, but it was my first time in many of them. It has been a powerful experience.
-How long have you been traveling and how much time did you spend in each country?
I traveled between March and September of 2017 for 24 hours camera in hand, coming back home a few times to organize the material. In this project I wanted to reflect Europe in 2017, so I had to visit as many sites as possible in the shortest possible time. I had to find a balance and the truth is that I stayed for longer than a week in some capitals like London, Paris, Rome and Berlin, but otherwise I spent an average of 3 days in most other cities, with a few exceptions where I only had a few hours before I had to go. I was very surprised that in the final project I included many photographs from these quick stays.
-Under which criteria did you select the countries?
I tried to visit as many countries as I could but I had to give up some: this project has been totally self-financed and I have put all my money in it, I could not afford to visit one more, not even for few days. I did it because I needed it, it’s not an investment, I do not think about what I can or can not get from it, it’s not something rational and studied. Anyway, I think I managed to cover the territory quite well, dividing it by zones.
-Which of those countries was your favorite, if you can name one?
No, I couldn’t. I did not have time for sightseeing, I tried to make it a trip across a continent, and to me it does not matter which countries the photos were taken in. They were taken in Europe.
-What was the most concise incident you can remember?
The making of the project was itself an adventure. I had to constantly change accomodation arrangements. I remember in Helsinki where I was lost for 2 hours in a residencial area trying to find the place where I had already stayed the night before.Google Maps was lost too. Finally when I found the right building I could not remember the right floor. It was late at night so I tried the key in the second and third floors. My floor was the fourth.
-What was the most fun time during the trip?
Sometimes I met with other photographers in their countries. This element of the trip was very enjoyable, I met wonderful people and the time that I spent with them helped me a lot getting around the places that I visited.
-Did you travel alone or in a company?
I traveled alone. I think that to work seriously in the streets, you have to be alone.
-Did you interact with your subjects? If yes, how did they react to you and the project?
I never interact with the subject. I try to go unnoticed, work quietly and fast. Sometimes the subjects look at the camera and there may be interesting reactions. For me it is very important that the photos are not prepared, I do not look for objectivity but I need to work from a real documentary base.
-Did you face some unpleasant moments while taking pictures?
Inevitably there is always someone who does not react well in front of a camera: I don’t usually have problems but of course when you do this kind of work all the time it is normal that some people react in unexpected ways. The most unpleasant moment probably was when a boy tried to steal my camera, I had to struggle with him and I managed to walked away. The worst case scenario to me would have been to be left without the possibility of continuing the project.
-I would also like to ask some questions about the crowdfunding process on Kickstarter: How was the process on Kickstarter, did people jump into the campaign from the beginning or was it a more rugged start?
The experience of Crowdfunding has been good, but it is certainly something complicated to carry out. Thanks to friends, other photographers and many people I do not know directly, I finally achieved the target. People supported it from the beginning but I had to be on the lookout until almost the end of the campaign. It was very stressful but I made it. I don’t like to keep asking or reminding people to support me but if you start a Crowdfunding campaign you have to do it.
-You get almost 180 backers. Did you expect it from the beginning?
I received the support of many people and it has been surprising especially nowadays when you see photography as something you can enjoy without paying anything.
-If the crowdfunding was not successful, would you have made the trip anyway?
The trips were finished before starting the Crowdfunding. But I probably could not have published the book without the campaign.
-Final question: what advice would you give to someone who is playing with the idea of starting a similar project? What could he or she learn from all your experience?
Surely I would advise to prepare very well psychologically because it is a type of project that requires a lot of determination and perseverance. You could also say to carry out the project without worrying too much if you do not find what you were looking for at the beginning, the experience is that it determines the final result.