Art & Culture (le cose belle)

Zvia Talks to Romans: Rocco, Photographer

From "Behind the Smokescreen" by Rocco Rorandelli

Rocco is a photographer and photojournalist currently living in Rome. He is currently working on Behind the Smokescreen, which documents what exactly goes into the tobacco industry in various countries. 

Name: Rocco Rorandelli
Age: 38
Where are you from? I was born in Florence, live in Rome now.
What was the last restaurant in which you ate? “Il Molisano,” a small restaurant in Monteverde with traditional cuisine from the tiny region of Molise.
Which was the last pub you drank at? “Aristocampo” on Viale Aventino.
What was the last photo you took?
In Berlin, 2 weekends ago, of my wife Preet next to the reconstruction of the door of a Babylonian city, in the Pergamon Museum.
What do you think of the iPhone apps that make everyone a ‘photographer’? A camera is simply a tool to record reality. From this point of view mobile phones might revolutionize the way photos are taken. Just like the small portable ‘Brownie’ did at the beginning of the 20th century, reinventing the concept of a snapshot.
What camera do you use? I use a Canon digital camera, for the commercial assignments, and medium format film cameras for my long-term essays.
Finish this sentence: ‘The bigger the lens, the…‘ heavier your bag! Film cameras are very bulky and heavy!
What is your PhD in?
Nothing to do with photography: marine biology!
When did you leave science behind? During my PhD I slowly got into photojournalism, and once I completed it my degree, I decided to give it a try and see how it went. That was 5 years ago.
What made you decide to change professions? Academia is fun and interesting but sometimes I felt too far from the “real” world. After I met with a photojournalist I realized that serious, committed journalism is a way to document reality and try to increase awareness about lesser known issues.
How do you describe what you do? I consider myself a documentarist, using photographs and videos to create a visual narration of the topics I am interested in. There is always a journalistic element at the base of my work, which provides a backbone to my stories.
Where do you get inspiration from? There is a strong school of visual journalism that provides a constant reservoir of inspiration for my work. But the people I meet during my work, their stories, and their hopes are the strongest source of inspiration.
What do you hope to work on in the future? I am always thinking of projects to carry on. One of the topics I would like to cover is deforestation in the world.

In 3 words, describe the art/photography scene in Rome:
 Oligarchical, small, underdeveloped.
If you could change anything about the art/photography scene in Rome, what would it be? Mainly, we need a real photography museum in Rome. Without this, it is hard to imagine that photography will ever be considered something more than a craft that you develop on your own. With an institutionalized approach to this art, education will also be forced to include it among its official course of studies, giving it a more professional status. This is what happens in many other countries!
Any advice for us amateur photographers walking around Rome trying to capture its beauty? Look for the unusual, beneath what is apparent at a first sight there are many less visible but more interesting elements.
What are you currently working? 
Apart from the small commercial assignments, I am devoting myself on a long-term essay on all that concerns the tobacco industry in different countries of the world. In the last 3 years I have visited India, China, Indonesia, Bulgaria and Nigeria to document what is the impact, and what lies behind the production, marketing, and utilization of tobacco products.
Next year I am planning to visit the US. My trip will coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first successful tobacco plantations on American soil. The industry has spread all over the world, commercializing not only a product but also a “way of life”.
To fund my project I am utilizing a crowd-funding platform called With, backers who make donations receive in return a set of rewards, in addition to helping me realizing the work.

From "Behind the Smokescreen" by Rocco Rorandelli

You heard it from the insider! Now go take some photos of beautiful Rome, and don’t forget to support Rocco’s worthy project!

2 thoughts on “Zvia Talks to Romans: Rocco, Photographer

  1. Great interview …. great project !!!
    I am also doing a phd, but realising I am spending alot of time thinking about other things … and photography is one of them .. I believe, one important part of the phd process is that it opens your mind to new alleyways which has nothing to do with what you are studying .. As Rocco says academic life is interesting but there is so many other interesting ways of leaving an impact .. and reaching out to make a little different ….

    • So glad you enjoyed the interview!
      Having done an MA in religion and philosophy, not the most ‘applicable’ fields, I know exactly where you are coming from… especially since my mind was opened to moving to Rome as soon as I graduated!

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