In this piece, we remember the street photography of Elisa Tomaselli.
In early 2020, the street photography community lost one of its own. Elisa Tomaselli sadly passed away on January 23rd. I’m not sure how or why she passed, but I do know she was far too young to leave this world. I also know she was an excellent street photographer: someone who I had featured on The Phoblographer before. We never met, and only exchanged a handful of messages, so I can’t comment on the person. But I can comment on the street photographer: the fine, talented one that she was.
Raw Street Photography
Elisa was born and raised in Italy. Having lived in Italy, I can tell you I see the no-nonsense, straightforward, poetically beautiful culture that’s synonymous with the country in her work. Her images are so raw. They tap into the idea that, unlike a lot of photography genres, street photos do not need to be pretty and perfect to be compelling. Street photographs can be edgy; they can break the rules. Elisa’s work optimized all that.
I wasn’t the only fan of her work. Elisa had made great waves in the street photography scene. It’s important to also note that, although she had a long relationship with the craft, she took a long break from shooting. It wasn’t until 2016 that she picked up her camera again, and yet, by only 2020, she was well on her way to being a household name.
Her Success in Street Photography
Eyeshot Magazine, Sony, Life Framer, LSPF, were just some of the publications and organizations to celebrate her work. That’s a resume any street photographer would want. As of 2019, Elisa was one of the first members of the newly founded street photography collective, Little Box Collective. Its creation highlighted a new era for street photography, one that shows just how global the genre has become. I spoke to one of the founders, Ilker Karaman, about what he thought of Elisa’s work:
“I first realized her work three years ago. At the time, I was searching for how I could use geometric elements in my photos to enhance them and make them more attractive when people first look at them.
I saw what I wanted in Elisa’s photos. She created her mystery in her photos. For me, this was something original. Sure we had seen people use a flash – everyone knows Bruce Gilden – but Elisa added her own feelings and mystery to this genre.”
Using Her Work for Self Reflection
Of course, it wasn’t easy for Karaman to comment on the situation. This is a difficult time for everyone connected to her. Taking time to reflect, he continued:
“Her mind was complicated; maybe her life is in chaos. All she wanted to do was to catch souls on the streets. The deep, beautiful identity of our souls, something we often try and hide in today’s society. That’s what I saw in her photos. Elisa wanted to capture the emotions that make us human. Elisa left us memories. She left us her feelings and her state of mind. She was very successful at using her street photography as a form of visual self-reflection.
I was very happy to be in the same photo collective as her. I am very sad to lose her at such a young age. She had more to show us, and she has her own language in her photographs.”
Karaman is right, Elisa did have her own photographic language. In a world that’s ever more cliche, Elisa was creating a visual identity that spoke its own truth. That’s a rare attribute to have in today’s society. It isn’t very easy to be yourself in a world that’s increasingly telling you to be a certain way. Through her work, Elisa stood up against that. It’s evident she was determined to break down the status quo and send her own message through her photographs.
To see Elisa continue to create would have been wonderful. But what she has left is a body of work we can all learn and feel something from. I only hope, before she passed, she knew how highly regarded she was in the street photography community. More so, I hope she held herself and her work in high-regard: something creatives often struggle to do.
My thoughts go out to the family and friends of Elisa Tomaselli. And to Elisa, thank you dearly for the contribution you made to our community.
All images are screenshots.