Turning the camera on themselves – Marco Urso
Who is Marco Urso?
This is one of the quotes that made an impression on me when I was young: “Limiting your view of the world to the place where you live is like reading a single page in the book called life.” It is one of those sayings that I’ve always kept in my heart as a reference, one of those axioms that you like initially because its meaning strikes an immediate chord with a young person, but also one that you appreciate and understand better as you get older.
For me, travelling is changing, engaging with things, responding to innate curiosity. Photography has helped me a lot in this respect, with its grammar of the before and after that extends beyond the image itself.
Although I now work as a wildlife and travel photographer, I still put my background in medicine to good use by holding lectures on important conservation topics and animal behaviour in Europe. I also organize multicultural photography workshops, taking groups of photographers with me to remote areas of the planet, and I founded the Academy of Photography in 2015. More than 1200 photographers have participated in the photography workshops and courses offered there.
How did you become a wildlife & nature photographer?
I became a full time photographer 10 years ago, after a 30-year career as a manager that not only involved extensive travel to visit colleagues all over the world, but also helped me develop my observation and listening skills. This spirit of continuous discovery grew inside me, adapting to the different turns and moods of life, but always intact and strong. This has always been my horizon. Then, ten years ago, I decided to change my lifestyle and quit my job at the height of my career, saying goodbye to all the many privileges and comforts that I had, to embark on a simpler but immensely more enriching life with more time for personal interests, particularly photography. Everything I had learned during my studies and professional career came together and reemerged as a fascination for people and their different cultures, and a heartfelt interest in the behaviour of different species in nature. This was more than curiosity; I wanted to engage in serious research and look below the surface like a photographic eye, driven by my commitment to protect nature and its immense beauty.
What has been your most amazing photo shoot experience?
I have many great memories. I am very fond of bears, both polar bears and brown bears, and spend several weeks a year taking pictures of them. I observe their behaviour and personality for anything up to 12 hours a day. Bear cubs fascinate me and I managed to shoot some fantastic photos that highlight the similarities between this species and humans. Some of these photos have won international awards and I have based my watermark on them. Entering a polar bear’s den was one of the most exciting bear-related experiences of my life. Of course, the mother and the cubs were not in when I paid them a visit. I was attached to a rope and had to crawl through a tunnel for almost two metres before reaching the main chamber. It was spacious enough for the mother to live in for several months. A shelter where she had given birth to her tiny 600 gram cubs and fed them for weeks, keeping them warm until they were old enough to leave the den with her. I was overwhelmed by my emotions!
What does it take to become a successful wildlife & nature photographer?
From a photographic point of view, wildlife and nature have a great deal in common. They both require a synthesis of techniques, instantaneous photographic vision and an ability to express inner emotions in the image. But even these skills are not enough; you also need cultural knowledge, a good understanding of the environment and how a particular species behaves and huge patience as you build up momentum. And, above all, passion and a love of what you do. Staying out in harsh weather conditions such as extreme cold and torrential rain requires more than just physical fitness. On one occasion, I stayed out for 8 hours in temperatures around minus 46 degrees centigrade. Nobody would do that unless they were driven by passion.
What is your experience of working with Fujifilm and/or Original Photo Paper?
I appreciate the company’s professionalism, which I experienced when I helped Fujifilm develop the XT2. And the staff are clearly enthusiastic and committed to their work – highly motivated, friendly people, both in Italy and elsewhere in the world. These additional “human features” make all the difference and help photographers overcome any difficulties they may experience. I always received support when I needed it. As for the equipment, I think its commercial success speaks volumes. I love the way the camera feels, the ergonomics.
Do you have a favourite photographic paper?
I have successfully printed fine art calendars on Fujicolor photo paper and the results exceeded my expectations. In addition, when people ask for a print to hang on the wall in their home, colour longevity and the depth of the tones are extremely important, as is the variety of surfaces available for creating a specific aesthetic and mood. Based on the kind of pictures I take and my personal taste, I am a great fan of Fujicolor Crystal Archive Digital Pearl Paper. Photography is a highly competitive business.
Do you have any tips and tricks for emerging photographers?
Everybody knows that modern cameras allow even novice photographers to take good pictures. And sometimes, we even see exceptional pictures from industry newcomers. But developing a personal style requires time and a willingness to listen to your inner voice. There are no shortcuts there. You can only produce images of a consistent quality once you have found your personal style. In addition, every modern photographer needs to have the managerial skills required to promote and organize his job and the ability to listen. Because it’s so complex and all-round, it’s a fascinating job.