Member in Focus | Matilde Gattoni

Updated on Monday, February 4 2013

Matilde started her career in Palestine in 2000 covering the second Intifada. She was then commissioned by the UN to cover the consequences of war and drought on the local population in Eritrea and Tadjikistan. In 2004 Médecins sans Frontières asks her to cover the psychological consequences of the tsunami and the war in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Since then Matilde has been focusing her work in post war countries and the condition of refugees mainly in the Middle East and Africa.

Her stories are published on Time, Time Lightbox, The Financial Times, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, The Observer, Die Zeit, Foreign Policy, Neon Magazine, Geo, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Elle, The International Herald Tribune.

Her book “Uzbekistan, 10 years after independence”; published in 2002 was made in collaboration with the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, one of the major experts of Central Asia and Afghanistan. The book depicts a social frame of Uzbekistan 10 years after its independence from the USSR and poses the delicate question of the future of the Uzbek nation, the most powerful country in Central Asia thanks to its strategic geographical position.

She has been awarded the IPA, Px3, Lens Culture, International Color Award.

1.  What sparked your interest in photography?

My first approach to photography was looking at my grandfather’s pictures from Eritrea where he lived for 20 years. I grew up hearing incredible stories related to his images of a country that seemed surreal for a little girl growing up in Italy. The beauty of these magical landscapes and faces made me dream for years. Those images allowed me to imagine my father’s childhood as well as the lives of the people who were portrayed. I was immediately moved by the image as a tool of memory.

2. When did you start shooting?

I started when I was 19, at that time I would study Art History in University and work to collect some money for my summer trips. I went to Morocco and borrowed my father’s camera. Bought some Ilford rolls in a small store in Casablanca, they had been exposed under the direct sunlight for ages probably and when I developed them they had huge round marks on each print. But I felt something was there and that was the beginning of a lifetime passion I guess. I had always been attracted by visual arts but I didn’t know where it would lead before that trip.

3. How often do you shoot?

It depends. Being a photojournalist today means that you spend 10% of your time shooting and the rest looking for stories, editing, looking for  funds.

4. Why do you love photography?

I’m curious and photography gives me the opportunity to enter into people’s life, to get to know them and understand how they live, why they behave in one way or the other. It is a tremendous opportunity to open your eyes and your heart and try to understand the world we live in.

You often get to share incredible moments, happy or dramatic with your subjects and this is the most precious gift. Every time a person allowed you in the intimacy of their lives you feel  blessed.

Photography also helps me to put a little bit of order in the huge chaos that surrounds us.

5. What gear do you own?

Canon Mostly and a rolleiflex that my grandfather had.

6. Other than your camera, what piece of equipment couldn't you live without?

My Domke bag and dates for the energy :)

7. Who are your biggest influences as a photographer?

Definitely the painters, many of them, from Vermeer to Turner and Michelangelo, but also some filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai. Writers as well like Albert Camus. Everything in my life transforms into an image, since I was a kid, I cannot but read without visualizing things. I guess everything I see, I feel, I hear goes into a little secret box where I dig instinctively when it’s time to take a picture.

8. What's your best advice for someone

starting out?

Get a film camera, learn how to use it and go out and shoot whatever sparks your attention.

10. Where can we see your work?