Interview: Tim Freccia, an Artistic Photojournalist

Interview: Tim Freccia, an Artistic Photojournalist


Tim Freccia is the type of photographer who travels around the world to bring us insights of a world we would never have a chance to visit, he is also the fierce mind that will capture social issues of the earth to spread awareness. I found Tim traveling in Bolivia…

Hi Tim. What brought you to Bolivia?

I was recently in Bolivia for 3 days in a remote village in the mountains to shoot a television ad for an NGO.

Tim, since the very first time I laid my eyes on your photos I was impressed by the feeling they convey. Your photos are powerful pieces of art! When did photography intrigued you?

Thanks. I was interested in photography from a young age. My father was an avid hobby photographer and had a darkroom in the basement. I bought my first camera- a Canonete rangefinder, with my saved pocket money at a yard sale when I was about 8 years old.

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Your pictures capture your love for photography. Your portraits are the most interesting photos because, in a way, you can reveal their soul. Most of us are trying to capture a face but… fail. What is the secret behind this expressionism of your portraits?

I am attempting to capture my subjects in their environment, while trying to focus on them and not the environment. I believe their personalities are conveyed in their postures and facial expressions. My subjects are the object of news, however, I am trying to capture the humanity that exists outside of the current affairs.

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Your photos are a social awareness tool and at the same time, amazing fine art pieces. Reading your bio, I learned that your career traveled through several areas of photography. From journalism to advertising. Which is the photography area that you can express yourself best?

I’ve shot pretty much everything over the years. I believe documentary photography gives me the most opportunity to express myself. I’m reluctant to call myself a certain “type” of photographer, however, I prefer to shoot what I see in front of me, rather than to create a story (through props, styling, etc).

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What is it like for you to be photographing war and conflict?

This is something I’ve been doing for 25 years. I’m accustomed to it. In a way, I feel more comfortable around conflict and combatants than I do in “civilization”.

While photographing conflict do you feel any fear? Would you like to share your most interesting or fearful moment in your career?

I don’t know if I feel “fear”, per se. I have been in many situations where I am conscious of danger, but again- I’m accustomed to this, and it’s part of the “job”. I’ve met quite a number of people who I guess one would find “scary”, but this doesn’t really register while I’m working. To be honest, I’ve been much more scared in NY City, than in any conflict I’ve witnessed. Sniper fire and mortar fire are disturbing, but honestly- conflict is fairly easy (for me) to process. It’s much more “black and white” than say- a dinner party where everyone is smiling, but may actually have an agenda that I don’t understand.

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Is there something you dream to photograph but haven’t done so yet? What excites you most?

There’s a lot I’d like to photograph and haven’t. What excites me most is capturing humans at what I call “redline”- the moment when they are most “alive”. This doesn’t necessarily have to do with action. It has to do with capturing images of people when all the external stimuli are momentarily suspended.

What countries have you captured so far?

I’ve lost count. I’ve covered most of the African continent, much of SE and NW Asia, Haiti, Europe and Eastern Europe.

Do have plans to visit my country, Greece? If yes, what would intrigues you most to capture there?

I’ve visited Greece once, on holiday- I came straight from Mogadishu, so it was a bit surreal for me. I had a wonderful time. I’d like to return to Greece to document the social change there. I’m very much interested in the social, political and economic changes that are sweeping Europe right now. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance int he next year or so.

Going back to your social awareness, do you believe social awareness can spark change?

Yes, I do. But I’d like to stress something: my goal is to present what I see and let the viewer decide what they choose to see. I don’t see myself as an “agent” of social awareness. If my work creates awareness, that’s great. If it has another effect, then that’s fine with me. In a sense (this may sound selfish), my work is really for me. If it has an impact on other people, then I’m happy, but in the end, I’m shooting for myself.

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Do you also consider your photos as fine art pieces?

Up until recently, I really didn’t. However, I believe I have a good understanding of visual art, and I understand why people would consider my work fine art. It’s maybe a little difficult for me to look at something I’ve been looking at for decades- documentary photography- and see “fine art”. But, if my audience chooses to see my work in that way, I’m happy for them to do so.

The Cowboys of Yirol is a series that you were commissioned to do. Are all your photography excursions commissioned works?

Actually, Yirol wasn’t commissioned. Most of my work isn’t. I generally create a body of work, and in some instances, sell it after.

Would you like to share with us your experience meeting The Cowboys of Yirol?

I had driven through Yirol a few times while traveling between Juba and Abyei. What struck me was that men came in from the cattle camps and “posed” on the side of the road, hoping to attract future wives. On one trip through, I decided to stop and make portraits. The subjects were very honored to be chosen to be photographed- it was sort of a “status symbol” for them. I hung a white sheet under a mango tree and I believe the portraits capture a moment of “suspended animation”: both the subject and the viewer are looking at each other.

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Have you ever felt really angry with some incident that forced you to travel and capture it?

I’ve never felt “angry”, but I can say that I’ve photographed situations when I felt I shouldn’t be there. At that point, I’ve removed myself. After about six weeks following the earthquake in Haiti, I decided it was time to go. I had an experience in Eastern Congo in 2012: M23 had invaded Goma, and it was my birthday. I had been in Goma on my birthday four years earlier, and at that time, the same army (under a different name) was laying siege to the city. As I photographed civilians running from the fighting, I recognized a woman (at the moment that she recognized me) that I had photographed under the same circumstances four years earlier. Our eyes met, and she ran on. I decided to leave the next day.

Is photography a way to expresses yourself as painting artists do?

While I believe I express myself in some way through photography, I don’t think my work is the same as a painter’s, in that I am simply documenting what I see. A painter has much more “creative license” I believe.

To close our interview, please, tell us something you would like to share with the world in words and not in photos.

I think we live in a very interesting time. Information spreads quickly, and far. There seems to me to be a “last scramble” by corporations and governments to consolidate power and wealth before some sort of “critical mass” is met. I believe we are seeing the beginnings of a massive change in humanity.

Tim Freccia has a show of recent portraits from South Sudan (along with the Yirol series). The opening was on Thursday, July 10th and will run through mid- September! Check more here and make sure not to miss it!!! www.riccomaresca.com/

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