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Interview: Photographer Nicola Toscani (Italy/Belgium)

Can you tell us a little about you?

I am an Italian expatriate to Belgium in my 50’s. As main profession, I am an engineer. Beyond engineering, I have a lot of interests, one of which is photography. I love travelling, regularly to central Italy, but also Latvia (the original country of my partner) and, of course, often to Belgium and surroundings. By origin, I am a mountain guy, so I like nature, I am a good planner, and I like challanges. In spite of what many people around me seem to believe, I am a fan of ‘quick and dirty’ solutions.

How and when did you get into photography?

It was in 2014, during a stressful period personally and professionally. I felt the need for a space of free expression, to get out of the usual environment, but still with some engaging in some technicalities. I have always had the wish to practice something artistic, but life circumstances offered limited chances. Probably I do not have a lot of patience, but found digital photography what I needed, whereas previous trials with analogic failed due to too long waiting time to get results.

Interest and dedication even grew further at each training step. Initially I attended some photography courses by The Photo Academy in Brussels, where I learned basics. A turning point was also a workshop on portrait photography with Peter Coulson in Paris, and the discovery of several online courses, among which I found those by Lindsay Adler on fashion photography the most impacting. A second major step was represented by progress in the post production processing. A course on Photoshop which I got at home by Max Pelagatti, an Italian professional photographer living in Brussels a few years ago, disclosed to me more possibilities, further developed with clips by Unmesh Dinda on his Piximperfect Youtube channel.

What does photography mean to you?

Pleasure for the eye, and possibly beyond, for the brain. New challenges, and stimulus. A continuous exercise of self confidence. Possibility to sometimes break rules and standards. An excellent environment of artists and professionals. An alternative way of communicating. I am into an excellent stable relationship, but I feel I still have to come to terms with my past in which for a long time I was considered a nerd and was single, and model photography rewards me under this perspective.

Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.

My training was initially influenced by street and architecture photography. Interesting field, however I felt it less suitable of planning, and unconfortable in shooting alone in the streets. Modeling offers me a more controllable process, as well as more meeting possibilities, and a safer environment. Anyway, I retain from the initial phase, an eye for for shapes and geometries, and composition, which I apply to model photography.

I generally shoot up to topless. I prefer that images are sometimes integrated by imagination by the brain, and only suggested in photography, so I am not a super fan of nude. Additionally, I am into life coaching and personal development and use my skills during sessions. I believe that by putting models in a very comfortable and safe feeling favours their extra mile performance and deep expression, including -why not- some element of their dark side, which I try to capture with photography. In many circumstances, after a session with me, many models express positive feedback, to my surprise, ahead of seeing results. Speaking again about dark side, I am amazed by the Rembrandt light and, given the chance, which is very rare, love shooting in nocturnal atmosphere.

Studio, on location or both?

I would say both. However, as in Belgium weather is not so reliable, I usually book a studio, it is safer. In Italy I am more confident and often shoot in location, often in the open. As I already said, I also love night shots, the quantity of useful photos is lower, but the atmosphere is unique.

Where do you get inspiration from?

I believe that it comes from my background of visitor of expositions, there is a bit of classic and renaissance. I also get inspiration from films, in general I am fascinated by heroines (both good and bad, some of the most remarkable being the ‘Bond girls’). For a period I have been studying color toning and which gave me the possibility to exploit color combinations from certain advetisement campaings (for instance, Chanel N. 5 has often been an excellent source of inspiration). Last but not least, I am amazed by fetish style, which, I believe, is also someway reflected in my production, but not developed yet to the level I would like due to limited networking, but also due to the considerable cost of fetish clothing and sceneries. Anyway, my idol is definitely Helmut Newton. In the fetish panorama, I consider Karl Louis, Peter Wolfgang Czernich, coJac, Nikitzo, and Raymond Kerrin Larum great artists and source of inspiration.

Do you think in advance what you want in the picture?

Generally not, I just hire the models and have confidence in them, and in the inspiration of the moment. I have a small wardrobe for their availability, which I only propose to use, leaving final decision to them. I prefer to catch the genuine expression of the models. Along the years, I am becoming more and more selective as to the models with which I want to work, and this is the way I control what I produce. I occasionally work with non-professional models. This is quite interesting and even recommendable to complement a photographer’s development, now and then.

Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?

Hobbist for the time being, but who knows in the future? Anyway, I have been hired for some small work related to the city of Brussels, it was also fun, and satisfactory, as the customer appreciated it. Waiting for the first chance with modeling/fashion. ;-)

What has been your most memorable session and why?

I normally work in Belgium, but I am Italian and shooting there for me is rare, and for this reason probably I have more intense feelings.

In August 2019, I managed to organize a session with Sadie Grayheart in Rome. She is an Italian model working worldwide. We are both citizens of Rome. It was not easy to organize, as when people are expatriates, are also very busy. We did not have a studio, neither we had time to organize in the ususal places in the centre and the circumstances dictated to remain in a suburban area, where no tourists would dare to go. Anyway Rome has a special atmosphere, particularly in a sunny afternoon in August, with few people around and warmness at 30 degrees. We worked until night and I was exhausted. Result where appreciated in some competitions.

There was something special about that session, probably working in my original environment with a model from the same place, or because it was one of the last before COVID 19 pamdemics, or because it represents the revenge of suburbs as inspiring place.

Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?

Nikon (and Leica).

I started with Nikon D3300, just bought out of the inspiration in the shop. How many bad photos I shot at the beginning! But now, I still use it, with a Nikon 10-20mm, it is fantastic to get some amusement with lens distortion.

My most reliable camera is my Nikon D750, preferably with a Sigma 35mm.

My most recent camera is the Nikon Z-50, with Nikon 35mm, the lighter one.

I also have a Leica Q, it has a 28mm conceived for street photography, but it is has such a quality that it also excellent in studio.

Because of my limited eyesight I am not at ease with electronic screens, but I am confident in the model, the camera and myself, and results come anyway (as I said, I am a fan of ‘quick and dirt’).

In studio I always like to use two or three cameras, as this makes me save time to change lens, and at the same time gives more diversity of results.

What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?

First of all, to cultivate your own self-confidence. Every time shooting is a challange, mistakes are frequent, there is a lot to learn, new technologies are introduced, and taste of the public is ever changing, not everybody will appreciate you, there is a huge amount of clever photographers around, but you are unique, and there is also space for you, and there can be value in what you create, be ready to positive surprises.

Having said that, it is important to keep learning and experimenting, to be a good business planner sometimes leaving room to gifts from the unforeseen, to create a good teaming atmosphere, to be sensible to the public and look for feedback, to give priority to emotions rather than to technical details.

What do you think of our new magazine?

I did not know it until a few weeks ago, that’s an excellent publication. It is impressive for the quality of the photos in there. The format of magazine provides a different, more thought and meditated, form of fruition than from websites and photo-dedicated socials. Moreover, I see it as a rich source of inspiration, and, why not, even networking. Keep up with it!

I consider it rewarding the possibility to contribute to it. Many thanks! 

Model: Vita Goncharuk Ig: @vitagoncharuk

Model: Riona Neve Ig: @riona.neve

Style: Riona Neve

Model: Sloane Ig: @vdcsloane

Model: Sloane Ig: @vdcsloane

Model: Sara Scarlet Ig: @sarascarletmodel

Style: Sara Scarlet

Model: Riona Neve Ig: @riona.neve

Style: Riona Neve

Model: Sadie Grayheart Ig: @sadiegraymodel

Style: Sadie Grayheart

Model: Sadie Grayheart Ig: @sadiegraymodel

Style: Sadie Grayheart

Model: Denisa Strakova Ig: @denisastrakovaofficial

Style: Denisa Strakova and Nicola Toscani

Model: Denisa Strakova Ig: @denisastrakovaofficial

Style: Denisa Strakova and Nicola Toscani

Model: Anna Johansson Ig: @miss_anna_johansson

Model: Denisa Strakova Ig: @denisastrakovaofficial

Style: Denisa Strakova and Nicola Toscani

Model: Denisa Strakova Ig: @denisastrakovaofficial

Style: Denisa Strakova and Nicola Toscani

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