A graduate of Rutgers University in New Jersey, he went on to study art in Florence and Urbino. Professor of photography at the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan, assistant to Bruce Weber in New York, he works for the most important international fashion and lifestyle magazines. He lives between Italy and the United States.
WOULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR BEGINNINGS? HOW DID YOU FIRST COME TO PHOTOGRAPHY? YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES
I was 20 years old when, while attending a writing course at university, I chose to delve into visual culture and specifically how photography and culture were related and created reciprocal influences.
Although it was not a practical workshop but only a theoretical one, it stimulated my desire to start shooting.
Photography had always fascinated me since I was leafing through family albums and I liked to observe the differences between styles and colours in the 60s and 70s.
It was very evident how the images were a testimony of the culture of the period.
My path to professionalism started with working with various photographers, stylists and set designers until I became an assistant to the person who became my mentor and teacher; Bruce Weber. From him I learned everything I know.
YOU HAVE WORKED QUITE A LOT FOR MAJOR MAGAZINES AND PHOTOGRAPHED CELEBRITIES; HOW DO YOU ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST WITH YOUR SUBJECT, AND IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO HAVE IT?
I think the relationship of trust between photographer and subject is fundamental and can only be established through direct contact. It takes empathy and listening not only with your ears but with your eyes and heart. Being totally present puts the subject in a state of complete trust that allows the photograph to capture the true essence and create magic.
WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN HIGHLIGHTING IN A PORTRAIT AND WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A FACE?
The face conveys everything, it is the central point from which emotions and moods come out and it is constantly changing, even when it is apparently still.
What interests me in a face, regardless of canons of beauty, symmetry, volume and other physical characteristics, is the truth that puts it in touch with what the subject is feeling and emotionally engaging, with their deepest thoughts.
NUDITY IN YOUR SHOTS SEEMS TO MOVE AWAY FROM THE EROTIC ASPECT AND TOWARDS A COLDER CONTEMPLATION, HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR SUBJECTS?
For me, the nude subject is what makes me tend towards the ideal according to the principles of classical beauty, even towards those of classical sculpture; sometimes I like to frame only certain parts of the body almost to subtract the human aspect.
The subjects I choose to photograph always have something to do with me, either they are people I know intimately or they are models who already have a clear perception of my working process and with whom I create a relationship of mutual trust and confidence.
WHERE DO YOUR PREFERENCES LEAD WHEN YOU ARE NOT SHOOTING ON COMMISSION?
When I am not shooting for work, my eye falls on what I have around me and what I experience every day, friends, objects or my city, which at the moment is Milan.
I like to travel and, even if it is a "cliché", I like to photograph the journey, the route, the new things, everything that opens my mind more, that makes me discover new dimensions.
WHAT MAKES YOU DECIDE TO SWITCH TO BLACK AND WHITE AND WHAT NEED IS IT LINKED TO?
For me, shooting in black and white was the first step in observing reality; by eliminating colour, the essence of things remains, the forms and their purest nature, more direct. With colour you create many overlays; photographing in a colourful way almost always imposes a choice of dominant colours, certainly there are more variables to consider.
THERE IS A CLEAR SENSE OF ARCHITECTURE BETWEEN BODY AND SPACE; WHAT CONNECTION DO THEY HAVE?
The relationship between body and architecture makes me think of the practice of yoga, that I have been practicing professionally for several years, of its many positions, the different asanas.
Looking at the forms sculpted by the body in real time, seeing what extremes it can reach and what it can, sometimes unconsciously, create, is like looking at the light that, when it falls on an architecture, enhances its power and strength.
The body has always been an essential element for the built space, creating a mutual dependence, and this has always fascinated me and is what I try to highlight.
HOW DOES YOUR PASSION FOR SCULPTURE RELATE TO YOUR WORK AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?
Turning to sculpture, which I do in parallel with my work as a photographer, was a fairly natural evolution.
Having always worked in two dimensions, with an eye accustomed to observing light, I felt the need to return to three-dimensionality almost out of a visceral need to regain contact with the material.
In photography I don't have the physicality that I need and that sculpture gives me. Observing the light and how it reaches the objects, in this specific case, also leads to a spatial depth that I had begun to miss.
WHAT PATH DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO MAKE A CAREER OUT OF PHOTOGRAPHY?
There is no precise path towards becoming a professional, but for me there are some essential points that I never stop remarking to my students.
In addition to a basic knowledge of the tool you use, the camera, you have to work on yourself to recognise your artistic identity.
Anyone today can improvise as a photographer, the technological resources make it possible to have good quality cameras available in one's phone, but for those who want to make photography their work, they need to go much deeper, they need to know both the tool and themselves.
Experimentation is another important element that must never be abandoned; it must always be present both during the studio phase, or when you are an assistant to a photographer, and when you begin your individual journey and start shooting for yourself.
Images provided by Roberto