The streets behind Piazza Navona are crowded with restaurants, pizza joints and bars, and hence lots of tourists, and if you are looking to photograph a bit of local atmosphere tourists somehow just don’t fit the bill.
How happy I was then to be able to photograph this group of real genuine Romans who run a restaurant in Via della Pace.
They were waiting to open up the restaurant, and so were just hanging about outside until opening time. We were chatting about the films that have been shot there, it being a location much favoured by film makers, and they have witnessed them all, including, most recently, Woody Allen’s upcoming (for 2012) film “The Bop Decameron” which he was in Rome shooting this August. Watch out for them in the film as I think they will make an appearance. Before him the stomach churning Eat Pray Love with Julie Roberts played out several scenes there, and among Italian films an unforgetable Alberto Sordi in Il Marchese Del Grillo and the 1961 film, “I Fantasmi di Roma.” (Ghosts of Rome) with Eduardo De Filippo, Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni, three of the greatest Italian actors of the time (let’s face it, probably still).
Asking strangers if you can take their photo is problematic for a lot of people, and sometimes the moment would be gone if you did, like the picture of the little girl drinking at the fountain while she is photographed, probably by her grandmother, while her mum looks on.
I go by the maxim that if it’s an irrepeatable moment I’ll shoot first, ask questions later, but if I want to get closer to the person and present their personality then it’s simply imperative to ask their permission. That way the whole nature of the photo changes and in a few short seconds you try to create a very quick rapport with the person. If you have the right subject and you are convinced that something special can come out of it then hang in and get as much as you can. Don’t forget though this is not a studio situation. The best shots come after the subject has loosened up and got used to you, but remember that if you take too long over it he or she is going to get fed up. And always approach and shoot with a confident but friendly air, get your camera settings ready beforehand, rather than fiddle about with them later while the person you’re photographing starts to loose interest, or gets fidgetty. Lastly, don’t get nervous. You’ll pass this on to your subject immediately. So be relaxed and enjoy yourself.