Scent of Asia
I am Davide Sorrentino, from Rome, Italy, but currently living and working in Vietnam. I am an Italian language teacher for foreigners. I chose this job not only because I love it, but also because it gives me the opportunity to travel everywhere while working. It gives me the freedom to meet new people and cultures every time, it is a good way to deeply understand a new and unknown country and its people, and that’s something that’s got something to do also with my photography. Besides teaching my main hobby has always been travelling and, relatively not long ago, photography. Everything has always been an excuse to travel somewhere.
Although my first serious travelling and working abroad experience has been in China many years ago, I didn’t start with photography back then. My first approach with a camera was in 2015 while I was working in Normandy, France. I was surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes and got a lot of free time. So it came natural to just order an almost random camera online and start shooting.
My first camera was then a super-zoom bridge camera from Canon, and my early years’ style was heavily influenced by the environment around me in Normandy, which brought me to do only landscape photography. I used to live really far from everywhere in a small village in the countryside, but on the other hand that place was fantastic! There were almost no people but nature was amazing. That’s why, at first, I didn’t allow any human being to stand inside my photos. I wanted my pictures to focus only on nature and to be pure, picturesque and almost abstract.
Then I’ve found out people. Yes, I really found out that people exist and that they’re beautiful in all their expressions, their movements, in every pose they can stand. So imperfect in their essence, but even more pure than nature, just natural. And Asia is the paradise of street photography: people everywhere always doing something, always busy. People driving bikes and cars, people walking, selling anything you can imagine; the colors of the food and the fruits in the markets and all these people moving around and around without ever stopping, a crowd of humans to capture over and over again.
Approaching people and street photography hasn’t been easy to me. I didn’t feel comfortable shooting at people in the middle of a street, interrupting their intimacy or their private moments. I used to be scared and feel like I was a spectator in a zoo, and people were animals to photograph. This feeling never let me act freely. I put myself in their shoes and I would feel really annoyed and uncomfortable if while I’m walking or drinking my coffee someone would take photos of me.
Therefore the process from landscape to street photography hasn’t been straight. I slowly started to insert people into my photos. At first only subjects in the positions I wanted them to be. Then slowly include them into my frames in their natural and spontaneous movements. The trip that really turned me into a street photographer was the one in Taiwan. In Taipei, for the first time, I just took my camera out, walked into the crowd and started shooting anything that moved. What made me feel so comfortable and free to shoot was that I felt I was lost into the city and nobody knew me. Shooting is like doing sports: you have to practice and train it every day to get better in every situation.
But you only understand that you need a new camera when you realize that your phone takes better pictures than the current one. That Canon accompanied me for many years, although I loved to take pictures, I wasn’t a photographer, it was just something to do when going somewhere special or a new place. That’s why when I moved for the second time to Vietnam I felt it was time for an upgrade, something that could let me take photography more seriously, though always as a hobby, and unleash my creativity.
But that time I knew what I needed, so I started to look up information and ask people and friends what kind of camera could fit my needs, and eventually many friends of mine recommended me Fujifilm. And that was something unexpected because you know, if you’re not too into photography, you only know about the same brand names, such as Canon or Sony. So after I don’t know how many weeks spent to compare different cameras and brands, watching YouTube videos, reading online reviews, trying cameras in my hands and talking with people, I finally decided for Fujifilm. I must admit that what really attracted me in Fujifilm cameras at first was their looks. That retro style has always been fascinating to me. But after trying my first Fujifilm I was sure of my decision and so I got a second-hand X-T10 with a Fujinon 18-55mm. That combination may be considered as basic but it’s actually really powerful.
As I said I’m not a professional, but I wanted to get a good camera, something I could use for many years and improve just by buying new pieces of gear, and though the X-T10 is a 4 years old camera, I feel it still has much to give and it won’t easily get old. Colors reproduction and skin tones look really good in every picture. The film simulation modes are perfect to give that analog look to my pictures. I love the external dials and knobs, for their looks and the way they make easy and fast to adjust all settings without even looking at them.
Image quality, mostly if compared to other cameras with the same price, it’s amazing and there’s a big choice of great quality lenses. To consider is also weight and cost. It’s a camera you can always bring with you everywhere without even notice its presence. I have never regretted my decision and I’m still deeply enjoying my new (old) Fuji.
So I was finally in Vietnam and with my new Fuji camera, I just had to go out in the streets and shoot! Vietnam is the perfect place for both street and landscape photography. Big cities like Hanoi are just so inspiring to me, and they’re the perfect choice if you want to capture people and beautiful sceneries. I love that mix of modern and traditional, skyscrapers and temples, people still living like hundreds of years ago inside modern cities. Everything is full of culture and tradition, and you can really feel it around you.
What I’m trying to do is to represent this world, which is so different from mine, and often misunderstood from western people. Through my photos, I’m trying to tell a story of this country and its people in all their different facets. Photography is also a way to tell my family and friends in Italy a story they will never get with words, a way to show them my point of view of a country that I love.
But sometimes, even though I go out with my camera only to take pictures, walking through the Vietnamese countryside and villages, it still ends up that I feel hesitant to take my camera out and shoot what I see. I still feel like I’m interrupting something magical and private that only belongs to them and just like a little secret I want to keep between me and the non-photographed subjects. Something I’ve seen but I don’t want to share. So I just keep watching and enjoy.
“I am Davide Sorrentino, from Rome, Italy, but currently living and working in Vietnam. I am an Italian language teacher for foreigners. I chose this job not only because I love it, but also because it gives me the opportunity to travel everywhere while working. It gives me the freedom to meet new people and cultures every time, it is a good way to deeply understand a new and unknown country and its people, and that’s something that’s got something to do also with my photography. Besides teaching my main hobby has always been travelling and, relatively not long ago, photography. Everything has always been an excuse to travel somewhere.”