Last Updated on 01/08/2019 by Mark Beckenbach
All photos by Salvatore Matarazzo. Used with Creative Commons permission.
Saturation and strong flash are the tools of the trade for Italian contemporary street photographer Salvatore Matarazzo when shooting street portraits. Check out how he does this in his series called Smoke.
Flash photography is not the first thing that comes to mind when shooting out in the streets. Still, some photographers have found it a pretty powerful tool to capture some unique street portraits. Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden is most likely the best known when it comes to this, and we can say that Matarazzo has been doing good in adapting this style for his own work.
Smoke is just one of Matarazzo’s series exploring this technique, with the spotlight on smokers he spotted in the streets. Now, that may not exactly be an eye-catching or noteworthy subject in itself, especially if you’re the type to look for narratives in street snaps. But with this close-up angle and flash, we get something visually interesting.
With the direct flash adding extra brightness and saturation to his street portraits, we get to vividly see some details that we would otherwise ignore; the glint in the jewelry, the sheen of the hair, the freckles and lines on the faces, the textures of the clothes, and the smoke from the cigarettes. These elements also make certain details and features extra prominent, like the eyes, the facial expressions, and the colors of the make-up, clothes, and nails.
We could say that the focus of Smoke is not to present an accurate representation of the subjects. Rather, Matarazzo’s intention was to paint an image of these people as larger-than-life characters all doing something as mundane as smoking. On that note, I think he has successfully made this visual style effective for his street portraits.