Roberta Pastore’s photography, from reportage to self-portrait
Roberta Pastore is a brilliant photographer with a huge and solid background in reportage and street photography. By going though her exceptional photographic artwork, we will try and understand how photography has helped her to evolve as an artist and as an extremely emotional woman.
di Luigi Coluccia
I have a deep admiration for Roberta, her photography has always been able to evoke strong emotions in me. I love those authors whose photographic artwork comes from an intimate journey that is often influenced by everyday life. Roberta is so real, immediate, discreet, sensitive but at the same time concrete, determined, clear.
Born and raised in Rome, she has always considered photography, as well as a great passion, as a support to overcome those difficult moments that life inevitably puts on our path. Her photography reflects her way of being and brings together three different kind of sensitivity, as a photographer, as an artist and as an extremely emotional woman. She loves people and the street, which is the place where all human relationships come to life. Always attentive and responsive to all the political and social problems that unfortunately affect the town where she lives, she has always spent herself in documenting some protests and battles through her reportage photography.
She is the founder and creator of one of the most authoritative social groups dedicated to Street Photography, Street Photography in the World, aiming at sharing and collecting those impactful images related to a journey along the streets of the world.
Her admin staff in the Group selects and awards images showing captures of ordinary street life, true stories which are the expression of hilarious situations rather than dramatic moments. Many photographers of this kind have formed through her work and that of her staff. The Group is referred as a point of reference for all those interested in growing their ability and skills in this photographic genre. You can really understand what the “street photography” is.
AVB: Roberta, thank you for accepting our invitation, giving us the chance to investigate on probably the most intimate and personal meaning of your photographic production. When was your passion for photography born and how was the start?
RP: I’ve always had a special attraction for photography, since I was a kid. I can remind of a large box containing old photographs at my parents’ home, which I often opened in search of memories. Photographs of childhood, but especially of my parents’ childhood, gave me the opportunity to know the story behind my parents and family, actually showing what has happened before I came to life. When i think about that period, it is all about feelings and sensations: the special sensation given by touching those prints, the charming feeling of analog photography, the evocative power of black and white. Those hints gave me the perception of being part of that story. My professional photography career begins in the 90s with the documentation of experiences and projects carried out in some nursery schools and kindergarten in my town.This allowed me to specialize in image and video editing.
Over time I’ve been experimenting with various kinds of photography. In addition to the reportage and street photography, I was passionate about studio portraits, highlighting the woman’s natural appearance, going beyond the superficial element of physical beauty to explore their most intimate aspects. My research in portrait and street photography has been mainly about telling stories and emotions because in each of those faces, I’ve probably found a small part of myself. Telling a story requires time, dedication, sensitivity and technical skills. Nothing can be done properly unless you have a deep passion for what you want to communicate, that passion involving heart and mind. I do not have particular preferences between B/W or color. although in my latest works, I mostly express myself in color.
AVB: Your artistic evolution has undergone many, different phases. This virtual journey has made you land in different places, ranging from political-social documentation to a more intimate expression. You actually started with some political-social reportage works, taking your inspiration from some political battles and protests, happening in your town What was the trigger to start that kind of photography?Did you feel involved in those struggles or did you try to report them with objectivity?
RP: At a certain point in my life, I felt the need to keep in contact with ordinary people in the streets, but also to witness through the camera, stories, situations and events of my times. This compelling need has been probably fueled by my family background; I am a worker’s daughter and as a child, I always listened to my father’s stories about union problems and labor struggles.
Some of my shots report about the workers’ protests of the first decade of this century. Between 2008 and 2012, I took actively part in the students movement Onda Anomala, spread among the Italian universities, at that time opposing to the new Education plan promoted by the Education Minister Gelmini.
Students protests, 2011
Roma, San Giovanni 2011
Social stike 2014
AVB: Your images are very significant and evocative. Most of all, I appreciate your point of view, you are always part of the scene, you are at the heart of the fight. Wide captures of the scene that make you feel involved, alternate seamlessly with the faces of the protagonists who are prominently framed in the foreground. Roberta, you have the ability to take us in the middle of the crowd with you, let us hear the noises, the smells, experiencing the urban guerilla like we were among the people you have masterfully shot. What do you think?
RP: If you do not “feel” the street and people, if you are not sensitive to people’s troubles and emotions, you can’t practice this kind of photography. I’m always trying to produce photographs that the viewers can perceive as emotional and vivid. My shots might not be technically perfect, but I don’t care much about aesthetic perfection. On the contrary I’m really interested in evoking emotions in those observing my photographs. I’m not a professional photographer, after all. I’ve never worked for agencies, either for newspapers or magazines.
I think, I did it especially for my own need, looking for myself. I have always avoided dangerous situations even though sometimes you just get caught in them. Adrenaline flows in the body and you feel, you must capture in a frame those particular moments. As I said before, this is not a job, so I have always tried not to exceed certain limits. There is a good quote by a very appreciated photographer, which perfectly suits to me: “Most of my shots refer to people. I look for the unveiled moment, the moment in which the naive soul peeks out and become experience impressed on a person’s face. “
AVB: I can imagine, moving from social reportage to street photography has been natural to you. In your opinion, what are the main differences between these two genres?
RP: As I realized that reportage could not be affordable to me and could hardly led me to a professional career, even though I was driven by a strong passion, I’ve turned to Street Photography, which allows me to capture the urban scene, without being in danger. This kind of photography has become very popular over the last years. thanks also to the advent of digital photography. I think the main difference between the two genres is based on the approach: even though the shooting approach is very similar, in a reportage you shoot a series of photographs with which the author builds the story to tell.
Street Photography captures a moment in a single shot, a situation capable of evoking emotions. The photo-reporter starts from a topic, conceives the project basing on the message to communicate and takes photographs following that thread, extracting from the surrounding environment those visions and shots that most effectively can communicate that message. In Street Photography, the photographer faces the road without expecting anything: it’s about looking around carefully, promptly pointing the camera on what strikes his sensitivity, reading the scene and being quick to shoot and capture the crucial moment. It is about the ability to capture a fragment of life or steal it, always trying to find out original situations.
AVB: Many of your artistic works are inevitably tied to your town. How deep is your connection with Rome? What have you given to this own and what has it returned to you?
RP: My connection with Rome is rather contradictory: I love and hate it at the same time. By going around with my camera I have discovered many things I didn’t know about the city. Some of them were good, some others bad, however I’m grateful to my town, welcoming me in the difficult moments of my life, protecting me while I was trying to find myself back in the streets.
AVB: I know you love literature and poetry, I also guess these have been good companions in your life, supporting you in your persona and artistic growth. What are the authors you feel more alike or those stimulating your creativity?
RP: I love all the arts, because I think they are closely connected. Photography has an evocative effect on me. Sometimes an image reminds me of a song I appreciate rather than the scene of a movie I love. I’m used to combine some of my shots with captions coming from literature, poems or song lyrics. Actually I feel free to decide if my “newborn” image” needs a phrasal or sound frame.
Coming to authors, I could actually mention many of them, but those I feel closely related to my self-portrait project started in 2015 are Charles Bukowski, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Anais Nin, Alda Merini, Anna Achmotova, Emily Dickinson, Octavio Paz and Wislawa Szymborska.
AVB: At a certain point then, you felt the need to start an intimate journey in search of yourself. You were probably trying to recover that part of you, you had in some way lost. When did this need arise and how did it become clear to you?
RP: It actually started about two years ago, I had gone through an intimate investigation and photography turned out to be a trusted companion which helped me easing the pain I was feeling inside. That was the moment I approached intimate photography using the self-portrait technique to express myself: I was feeling my emotions and moods through the careful study of my body. I was highlighting my femininity, my being a woman, documenting the my way of being through a camera.
The input came after I met Cristina Núñez, a Spanish photographer with a life packed with events. In 1988 she was in Los Angeles and started looking at herself with “the look she needs”. I did the same and started a sort of self-therapy through self-portrait sessions. Those who have followed her study know that you can express a liberating feeling just by triggering the button of a camera.
AVB: Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use, their interpretation and the way they express a meaning. Simplifying, we can say that semiotics is the human science that deals with the study of all the signs as a significant part of communication, where the “sign” is “something that is in place of something else”, whose meaning can probably be wider. In the field of Arts, semiotics go beyond the verbal language, investigating all aspects related to the body language that through its gestures and signs communicates to the outside world that inner reality, hardly explicable by words.
In your self-portraits, are you then highlighting the posture of your body, your gaze, your sinuousness, to connect with the outside world by communicating a mood, an inner feeling or an emotion, rather than triggering an intimate journey towards a better understanding of yourself?
RP: Release to public some of my images has not been easy, I was ashamed to be seen naked. Then I made a choice, showing myself as I am, getting rid of an identity that was no longer representing me. I was showing, and I still show, my most feminine part and sensuality, using the body as a form of communication.
AVB: Among all your works, is there one you are more attached to and why?
RP: In 2015, I worked on a project that reflects my way of life part, taking inspiration from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “Antifragile: things that gain from disorder”. The author states that: “Some things take advantage of shakes: they thrive and grow when they are exposed to volatility, chance, disorder, and stress factors, and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty.” Taleb defines this phenomenon as ‘Antifragility’ because it goes beyond resilience and robustness. What is resilient resists shocks and remains identical to itself; The “Antifragile” improves. ”
I think these words reflect my life which has been a long journey sofar. Sometimes I have run, sometimes I had to stop. I have experienced moments of chaos and after each of them I have undergone internal transformations. A bit like some elements that surround us, the clouds, the waves of the sea, the earth. The sky. This project talks about me, it deals with my evolution, always looking at some of the above mentioned elements that I feel are part of me, are continuously changing and never stop. Like I do.
AVB: It seems you have reached the top of your artistic evolution, however I think you are still thinking to some, new projects for the future. Maybe you can tell us some about it. What are the next steps along this endless journey?
RP: I think a woman in her 50s has reached her maturity. Now I feel “as a real woman”, capable of expressing herself without any hesitation. In fact, I have worked on two other projects related to this intimate investigation, “The Absence” and “Secondary effects of the dreams”. Two more projects are currently in a “work in progress” state. I can’t see an end yet, I do not set goals or limits. My photography is not “mainstream”, very far from exhibitions or photo competitions. I like the fact, I can tell a story to those interested in reading it through my shots.
Secondary effects of the dream
AVB: Roberta, we just have to thank you for this passionate journey to discover your personality and incredible talent. Our best wishes for the future.
RP: Thank you so much for this opportunity to tell my story and greetings to all the readers of ArteVitae.