Feature Photographer: Dario Mitidieri


Written by James Ratcliffe
05 Wednesday 05th February 2014

Well known for his revolutionary Black and White reportage work, Italian born Dario Mitidieri spoke to Don't Panic about his process, heroes and inspirations, spanning his 27 year career, since starting at the Sunday Telegraph in 1987.

This week we take a look at his project  Street Children Of Bombay. 

100,000 Children — 1 Year — 1 City

Are there any projects in particular you have loved / hated working on recently?

I have recently done some work in India to cover the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad and Holi, the festival of colours, in and around Vrindavan. Although I have spent a lot of time in India nothing can prepare you for these two events.

The Kumbh Mela in particular was incredible, and unless you were there is impossible to comprehend how big the event was. We are talking about 100 million Hindu devotees attending the event, with an estimate 40 million wishing to bathe at Sangam (the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers), on the same day. The challenge here was to capture and distill moments when there was so much going on around you, and to avoid the police who were constantly harassing photographers.

The Holi festival is something that everybody should witness once in their life. It is India at its best, very colourful, but just like Kumbh Mela, it's very difficult to photograph due to the sheer number of people. Being a Westerner does not help as you become an automatic target for everything colourful being throwing at you, including lethal powders and liquids that get stuck to your skin for weeks.

Next week we take a look at his project Holi – India's Festival of Colour

Your projects are based all over the world, what do you enjoy most about travelling on the job?

What I love the most is diversity. Kumbh Mela and Holi festivals are an example of that. Traveling and getting involved in different stories allow me to experience different things that most people would never be able to do so. I felt very privileged on many occasions to be there and be given the opportunity to participate and photograph events that most people will never be able to do, whether is being invited in someone's home in Tibet, or to photograph a project in Angola. I feel alive as a photographer and as a person when I travel and meet new people.

People are a key feature across all your work, how do they usually respond to you taking photos of them, or do you build a relationship/communicate with them first?

Obviously it depends on the situation. There are moments when people do not wish to be photographed, and when that happens I will just walk away. But there are other situations when as a photojournalist you don't really have a choice. What I mean is sometimes the very people who don't wish to be photographed are the very people we should photograph. That's particularly true for news stories.

Generally speaking, I will always try to build a relationship with people I photograph. The stronger the relationship, the stronger the photos. It is for this reason that, in my opinion, my strongest set of pictures are the ones about street children in Mumbai, where I had the opportunity to work on the project for one whole year.

What do you find inspiring?

What inspires me the most is the resilience and courage that I found in people despite the most adverse of circumstances they might have had. I also find that the poorer the people are, the more noble they are. In our comfortable lives we take everything for granted. When you meet people that have nothing, and yet they have such a positive attitude to life, it really puts things in prospective. It makes you think what is really relevant and what is not. It's a reality check, if you wish. I always say to my friends, that "If you have never been to India, you cannot understand life".

How long have you been practising as a photographer and what is your background in Art & Design?

I have been working as a photographer since 1987. Actually I picked up my first commissions when I was still a student in 1986, when I was studying photojournalism at the London College of Printing.

Who are your heroes?

As an aspiring photographer, I was very much influenced by the B&W work of Ansel Adams, Irving Penn, Bill Brandt, and of course W. Eugene Smith, to name a few.

But if I have to name one photographer that I still admire the most, he has to be Henri Cartier-Bresson. It is incredible the amount of work he has produced in his life. Just when you think that you have seen all his work, a new book comes out with pictures you have never seen before. And ALL his pictures are always amazing. Truly inspiring. 

Still to come this month from Dario we have:
Children in Wars

More of Dario's work can be found on his website.


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