Londonist Behind the Lens: Massimo Usai

By SallyB2 Last edited 119 months ago
Londonist Behind the Lens: Massimo Usai

A series celebrating the talent of our friends over in the Londonist Flickr pool who make our site look great with their fabulous photographs. Here, they introduce themselves and share their favourite London shots.

Meet Massimo Usai: I got started on photography in my younger years when I would spend hours and hours in the dark room waiting for the latest memory I had captured to develop. After years of taking the wrong pictures with disposable cameras only to be put in boxes never to be looked at again, my Minolta (with around 3 different lenses) got stolen and I stopped capturing what I saw around me for a fair amount of years. From 2003 I started again with a Digital and, at first, I hated it. However, I started to understand that everything we see on a daily basis isn’t ‘ready and perfect’ on camera, and that it takes a personal touch from all of us to make a picture serve justice to the world around us.

Why do I take pictures? ‘To remember’ would be my first point. I like the idea of being able to see people and places from the past. Sadly, I don’t have a lot of time to see everything I’ve captured and so I convince myself that when I’m old enough to stay home for a living, I will sit down and remember everything of my past, see people I don’t see everyday. At the end of the day, when you are old, it’s better to spend your days looking through your past and remembering than sitting alone watching television for hours and hours…

I like photographing cities. I like photographing the contrasts between the architecture of the past and present. But I also love sitting on a bench in the middle of a city and photographing the every day citizens who pass by. To do this I zoom 70-200 so that the people aren’t distracted by my camera and are able to be immortalized through their spontaneity.

I arrived here in London in 1999, as the city was preparing to enter a new millennium. In those days it was difficult to take pictures without seeing building works happening from every angle of an image.

London is a gift to photographers for its architecture and its people. And most of all its colours. This is a concept impossible to explain to someone who has never been to London, but in certain parts of the city it’s as if you’re really not in a hectic and busy city in the north of Europe.

In London you can do interesting experiments with extreme lenses, like high angles at 10mm. But the angle I love most is the shot which unifies the Millennium Bridge with St. Paul and the Tate Modern. In a small area there’s the story of the world’s architecture and from the bridge inaugurated in 2000, you can have the visual of the city’s history, the present and ( looking towards the Swiss Tower) the future. Moreover, if you don’t walk on the Millennium Bridge for six months, you will find the landscape towards the City different every time.’

London, like Venice, is interesting to photograph, as well as visit, just how the legends and literature have described it. Grey, Rainy and Misty. So Autumn, in particular, is truly a magical time of the year to take pictures. The spring, when the colours explode from everywhere turn London in the most beautiful city of the world.’

I use Nikon. Everything Nikon. The reason is simply related to the sound of its name. Canon didn’t sound right in my mind. I joke, obviously, but let’s say that Nikon has always given me the idea of solitude. For the developing and editing I use Mac (I have an iMac at home and a MacBook Air for when I travel and have to work in flight) and I use Aperture for my ultimate photo programme.

To new photographers I would say: Wake Up Early in the morning and take lots of pictures using the early light of the day ahead, the best lighting for any visual. I say this to others because, unfortunately, I’m not very good at getting up extremely early in the mornings myself. So if someone else gets the chance to take pictures in that perfect light, there are some truly beautiful moments to collect. Another tip is NEVER to photograph from the same point of view of the subject you are capturing: kneel down, jump up or get your trousers dirty! Take pictures from every single viewpoint except the ‘ordinary’ one; it makes every picture extraordinary and I can assure you that when you’re looking through the results you’ll see that it is definitely worth the effort.

If you haven't joined our flickr pool yet - get snappy! In fact, why not come and meet some of our regular flickr folk at our very grown-up exhibition, Slow Exposure.

Last Updated 11 April 2009