Anna Chiara Di Maio is a talented Italian photographer who gracefully expresses herself through analog photography. I discovered her work on Instagram, where she often shares stunning photos of people and nature. The emotions and details in her work are breathtaking, which is why I was very eager to feature her.
I had the opportunity to talk to her about self-doubt, achievements, inspiration, and more. I hope her work inspires you to experiment with film photography, embrace your uniqueness, and keep taking great photos.
Your portfolio is filled with beautiful film photos. What inspired you to get into analog photography?
Surfing the internet and seeing Tumblr and Flickr photos with that unique, aged look definitely is the thing that inspired me the most and made me curious about film photography. Also, I asked my father about analog photography. My father is the kind of man who’s really passionate about technology and photography, but everyone in my family says that he’s a total disaster at taking photos. Anyway, he had a sort of sideboard in his studio, in which a lot of old cameras where displayed. Not all of them worked, but some of them did, so I had the possibility to try analog photography. I probably could never really get into film photography if I didn’t have all of these materials.
Film photography can be very intimidating. What advice would you give to beginners?
This is my advice: do not have fear to make mistakes. Be prepared to waste money and to lose some shots, sometimes entire film rolls, because it’s unavoidable due to inexperience. Be prepared to capture the moment and to think about the composition and significance of every single frame. But then… be free. Go on an adventure. Shoot. There is no screen on which you can look at the picture, but this is in a certain way a chance to feel the sheer and pure photography experience. When you shoot on film, you finally understand what photography really means. And when you can finally watch the developed negatives… it’s priceless. Don’t be afraid! Use your instinct! And don’t be sad if you don’t like all the shots on the film roll because I think that there’s some kind of beauty in that too: not everything can be good, but surely one shot will be absolutely stunning.
How do you deal with creative self-doubt?
This is a difficult topic for me since I often feel so insecure about my photography. On one hand, I think that all social media in which every photographer can display his/her works are so useful, but on the other hand, watching the flawlessness of other’s shots and comparing them to yours can be very frustrating. Generally, I focus on what I feel. I think that what one feels is different from person to person; so it must be that everyone expresses him/herself in different ways. Then I focus on my progress, I think about and analyze some photos from the time when I started taking photos seriously. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Mostly it depends on how other ‘fields’ of my life are doing in that time (love, University and study, relationship with my friends/parents, also how I perceive myself – ugly, pretty, too fat, and so on).
Do you have a place/activity that gives you instant inspiration?
Yes! Absolutely. Watching a random Wes Anderson movie instantly boosts my inspiration (my favorites are Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited). Music and reading a good novel/collection of poems is also a good inspiration. When I have to think, I furiously listen to Bill Evans (he is a jazz pianist). The more I listen to jazz music, the more it seems to match the rhythm of my thoughts. So it is pretty useful when I feel that a good idea is coming but I can’t really express it.
If you were given $1 million, how would your photographs change?
Probably I would buy the most expensive and performing film scanner of them all! And I would travel a little more. To be honest, I probably would buy more photography books or attend an advanced photography course (yes… I’m thinkin’ about Annie Leibovitz. Sigh) to improve my technical knowledge and to better shape my style. The truth is I’m a bookworm and even $1 million could not change that! So… probably my photography would be a bit more “correct”, but I think that photography style isn’t really a thing that could change only with money. It also needs a “feeling change” if you know what I mean.
Is there anything you wish your younger self-knew about photography?
Probably not. I think that photography is about discovery and failure and apparently I’m the kind of person that can truly learn only from her mistakes. So, I’m behaving a little badly with my younger self, but it’s for the better! I promise.
How have taking photos changed your life?
Let’s say that I see all with different eyes. Photography, analog photography especially, is like poetry. There is a certain truth —objective or subjective it doesn’t really matter — but there is a Truth. Every photographer, or every poet, “filters” that truth with his/her eyes and reads it in a different way. Big, noticeable things could mean nothing for a photographer/poet, while for another one they could be the core of their art. For what concerns me, sometimes the most trivial scenes become magical. I pretend to listen to some 60s music. I see some pink where there’s no trace of it. And I shoot. So, since I started photography I became crazy! But it’s so beautiful anyway.
You take very graceful photos of people. How do you make your subjects feel comfortable in front of the camera?
Thank you! I generally shoot people I know (university colleagues, friends, my loved one), so it’s not so difficult for me to make them feel comfortable. Much really depends on the nature of every single subject, but the key for me is talking. Probably anyone reading this interview could guess I’m a sensitive person. I’m very emotional, so my photography tries to be emotional. And the conversations I have with my models are emotional too. I learn a lot from the people I shoot by looking and talking to them, also because they confess spontaneously things if they feel that someone’s really listening. The ‘sunflower boy’ told me that, when he first met me, I seemed an unpleasant girl. Probably I was. But then he began to know me and suddenly I wasn’t unpleasant anymore. Who knows, maybe something really changed in me. Or in him. Anyway, talking is not only a perfect device to make the subject feel comfortable, but it turns out to be a beautiful way to know something more about others and ourselves.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I think that my best achievement so far was learning to manage some of the endless instruments and techniques of photo-editing. It’s still a work in progress, though, but since photography is not my job, I take every little progress as a goal.
If you could meet any photographer, who would it be and what would you ask him/her?
If I had the possibility, I’d pay to have a chat with Vivian Maier! And I would ask her how to take street photographs so beautifully and naturally. Street photography is, in my opinion, a really really difficult genre. But the look of her photos is so light, so alive and, again, so natural. I would love to shoot like that, to have that playful and vivid vision of life. Dear Vivian, I’m slowly but constantly working on that.