The Italian Project

My name is Suzanne Emily O’Connor, I’m Scottish and the most exciting change I’ve experienced recently has been picking up my life and moving it to another country, for love but of course also for the adventure. I had lived in London for nearly 4 years and the city just wasn’t fulfilling me anymore. Although there’s always something fun to do in London, always some place new to drink a £10 cocktail, it felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again. It would get to the end of the month and I’d have no money left to show for all the fun I’d had. So, in January 2019, I moved from London to Lake Garda in Italy with my boyfriend, Matteo.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/4.0 . 1/250″ . ISO 400 – Bologna
Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/2.0 . 1/500″ . ISO 160 – Borghetto

At the moment I make my living here in Italy teaching English, getting a job in anything else let alone something as specific as Photography in a country where you can’t speak the language wasn’t plausible. I’m learning to speak Italian very slowly (it doesn’t help that everybody I know speaks English, most didn’t have an English speaking friend before me so they love the practice and it’s literally my job to speak English) and while I do that my favourite pastime is of course, photography.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/11 . 4.5″ . ISO 250 – Florence
Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/2.0 . 1/250″ . ISO 200 – Milan

I first showed interest in photography when I was a child, my grandfather taught me how to use his Olympus OM10 film camera and I still use it to this day. In high school, my very cool art teacher allowed me to use it in my art class and I got to develop my own film photographs as part of my final year exam. I loved the whole process of shooting to developing and knew I wanted to study it further after I finished high school.

I went on to study Photography at the University of West Scotland in Glasgow for 4 years, where some of my units were focused solely on shooting 35mm film, colour and black and white and the developing process. I left university with a BA Hons in Photography and went straight into a commercial photography job in London.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/4.0 . 1/40″ . ISO 640 – Venice
Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/4.0 . 1/125″ . ISO 320 – Venice

My favourite subject to shoot is people, both fashion editorial style and portraiture but I have worked in advertising for food and products, in e-commerce for multiple clothing companies and I still enjoy shooting the occasional wedding too.

My other main hobbies are walking/hiking and exploring new places with my camera. Now that I live in probably one for the most beautiful and culturally rich countries in the world, making time to do these things isn’t a chore. Before I moved here the only Italian city I had visited was Rome, I had a long list of places I wanted to visit in Italy and surprisingly Verona and Lake Garda wasn’t one of them, this area is more popular with German and Dutch tourists.

Brits have more often heard of Lake Como and places like Venice or the Amalfi Coast. So far the distance that I’ve explored from where I actually live isn’t far at all, it’s predominantly all been in the north, but each place has been so beautiful, no place is the same either.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/5.6 . 1/35″ . ISO 1000 – Venice
Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/1.4 . 1/400″ . ISO 640 – Venice

This year I’ll be returning to my favourite city twice, Venice, and my favourite little island; Elba but I also have 4 new cities planned; Naples, Bologna, Sienna and Lucca. I will, of course, be taking my camera along with me documenting everything as I go.

When I moved at the beginning of 2019 and started exploring my new home I realised that I had come to the end of my very long and, at the end, quite tedious relationship with my Canon 5DII. To be frank, I hated it. I didn’t want to use it anymore, so much so that I resorted to shooting only on my iPhone the first few months. It was too heavy and bulky, it never fit in any bag that I took out with me, so it became a nuisance to take out with me.

The plastic body was chipping away to light grey and the buttons were all wore down from using them so much over the course of 5 years. Aside from the physical negative aspects of it I just wasn’t enthused by how the world looked through it anymore. It was time for a change and seeing as I had just changed my entire life recently, making the decision to change my camera kit felt right too.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/2.8 . 1/8000″ . ISO 2000 – Venice

I’d borrowed a Fuji from an old punter at the pub that I used to work at in South London, to go on a trip to Paris in the summer of 2017, it was an X-T1, and I simply fell in love with it. I fell in love with how it felt in my hands, the mechanic shutter sound when you take a shot, the fact that every adjustment that needed to be made was done using physical metal dials on the camera body instead of navigating on a blue LCD screen with a cheap plastic dial.

Admittedly not every shot from that trip was perfectly exposed, but seeing as it was my first time using an entirely new system I still came away with some beautiful shots. The images from the Fuji were nothing like the images I’d ever seen be produced from my Canon, the quality was from the crop sensor reminded me of my old film camera, the difference in picture quality was immeasurable.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/4.0 . 1/125″ . ISO 400 – Venice

I had decided then, that I was done with Canon. I sold my entire kit to a second-hand shop in Verona and came away with just enough money to cover the body of the camera I had set my sights on and just one lens.

The first trip I went on with it was to Venice, which is at the moment, my favourite Italian city. But this time was already better than the first, because this time I went with Matteo and my new baby, the X-T3.

I came away with so many amazing shots after this first trip that I knew I wanted to publish and share in some way, but I also knew I had too many to bombard my private social pages or website with travel photography (I have a separate photography page and website for my past work which is all either fashion or weddings) so I decided I would create an Instagram page entirely for my photography of Italy.

That’s how The Italian Project was born. It’s mainly a personal photographic diary of my new life in Italy but I also enjoy sharing travel tips and restaurant recommendations for each city or area that I visit. I’m a very organised person and I love making plans and schedules, whether it’s for a holiday or a day trip, I don’t go anywhere without researching what to see there, where and what is best to eat there, etc. So seeing as I like finding sites and blogs to research and plan my own trips, I realised I can’t be the only person like me out there who likes doing that.

Eventually, I would like it to become a go-to IG page and perhaps a website someday that will tell you all you need to know when you plan a visit to anywhere in Italy, from an ex-tourist turned permanent residents perspective. I’ve already had friends ask for recommendations and I simply have to guide them to The Italian Project. They told me it was so easy to find each place with the help of Instagram’s geotag function.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/2.2 . 1/1000″ . ISO 250 – Verona

Travel photography is something I’ve only just grew an interest in; the obvious subject change from gloomy Glasgow and more-often-than-not grey London to the colourful and sunny Italian countryside has definitely helped. I also truly believe changing my camera from Canon to Fuji has motivated me to shoot more everyday now, because I genuinely love using it.

As well as the visual change in scenery between the UK and Italy, the weather here has changed my lifestyle, I do more things outside for a much longer percentage of the year. The X-T3 is so lightweight and unobtrusive, it’s never an issue taking it with me wherever I go.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/5.6 . 1/250″ . ISO 320 – San Francisco

I have an X-T3 with only one lens at the moment, the 23mm 1.4. It’s quite wide but I chose it because I had a trip to the USA planned for a month and knew I would mostly be doing street photography. It’s a very versatile little lens but I’m saving to buy the 56mm 1.4 which is the cropped sensor version of my old favourite Canon lens, the 85mm 1.8. It was my favourite lens for portrait photography, which is the subject I’m most excited to get back into once I get it.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/16 . 10″ . ISO 160 – Big Sur (USA)
Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/1.4 . 1/30″ . ISO 200 – New York

I enjoy editing my photos, I play around with the colour balance mostly. I think different places suit certain colour palates and sometimes on a day with dull weather the images can look flat, so I like to adjust the colour tones to suit each particular place.

In my opinion, the colours in Fuji RAW images compared to Canon RAW’s are just lightyears ahead, the colours in them are so good to begin with that it makes editing them easier and much more fun too.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/8 . 1/3200″ . ISO 800 – Nevada Desert
Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/1.4 . 1/160″ . ISO 200 – Los Angeles

My future plans for photography here in Italy is to eventually build up my wedding portfolio and restart my wedding photography business around Lake Garda, as it’s such a popular destination for not only British people but people from all over the world to get married.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/5.6 . 1/250″ . ISO 200 – Lake Garda

I’m going to continue working on The Italian Project too, the content for it is never ending, as I’m always out exploring with my camera. Hopefully one day it will become the holiday planning/travel advice page I believe it has the potential to be.

Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/1.8 . 1/250″ . ISO 160 – Emma
Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 @23mm . f/1.4 . 1/1000″ . ISO 400 – Kirsty-Anne

"I'm Suzanne and I've been in love with telling stories with my camera since I was a young girl. I shoot with an XT-3 and an Olympus OM10. I was born and raised in the Scottish countryside, thought myself to be a city girl for nearly 10 years but recently I succumbed to my roots and now I live in the Italian countryside. The subject that interests me most is people, but I also love lifestyle and travel photography too. I'm currently an English teacher here in Italy but I'm also building up my wedding portfolio while at the same time working on my new travel website, The Italian Project."

8 Comments

  1. Nice photos. You are certainly making good use of your single lens, and at this point you have a good opportunity to not over buy into your new system.

    I migrated to fujifilm from decades with Nikon, both film and full frame DSLRs. My experiment was suppose to be with a single camera, the XT2, and a single len, a 23mm. Like you, the files that I was getting from that setup were so impressive that I found it hard to keep taking the Nikons out when the fairly petite fuji was so much easier to always have with me.

    My mistake… I started buying every lens that I saw used in mostly online posts and articles touting the fuji system. I am now up to 3 bodies and eight lenses and my results are not exponentially better for having more potential. Where I would have previously just made the 23mm work by visualizing and moving to the right spot instinctually, now I go through mental gyrations just decide on what lens to use. The process uses more mental RAM and slows everything down. Even if I only take two or three lenses for an outing, I vasilate and second guess the choices leading to much frustration.

    If I could go back 18 months, I’d spend much more time with that 23mm lens enjoying the freedom of having no other choices.

    Again, nice images.

    1. Thank you so much Albert and it’s nice to have an opinion from your point of view with regards to the one lens, I never thought about it that way before.
      I’m not getting sick of having to move around to get the image, It’s that sometimes the image I have in my head doesn’t look how it want it to look using the 23mm, the image would only come out the way if imagined it with a tighter crop.
      After hearing your advice I do think it’s a good thing that I can only add to my kit one piece at a time, slowly over time.

      1. If the 56 wasn’t so slow to focus, big, heavy and was WR, I’d sell every other lens and would be happy forever with a 23+56mm. The less you have the more you use it and the more you know your gear!

        1. I haven’t had a chance to actually try it yet, I didn’t know it was slow to focus. I’m planning on renting it for a wedding this June to try and then I will also rent the 35mm 1.4 for another event. I want to definitley try both before I buy one or the other. Glad I made a good choice with the 23mm being my first lens though!

          1. I find the 35 so close to 23mm that I just carry one of them at any given moment. I use to bring 23mm 1.4 on travels because of the light it captures, while the 35mm I use it as a small prime to outing in the city or with the family because of size.

            You can crop 24mpx from the 23mm to get a 35mm FOV with 16mpx (what the X100 series does) so I guess the 56mm will win you out. I love my 50 f2 and the bigger brother seems to be even more creamy!

    2. Sell everything you think it’s slowing you down! I sold 2 Canon bodies, 3 zoom L lenses and 2 primes and bought an X-T1 plus 14+23mm four years ago, and that’s what I used for 3 more years in a row. Still rocking the X-T1 and the 23mm f1.4. I recently sold the 14 to get the 16mm f2.8 and bought a 35 and 50 f2 primes, but 23 and 35 are used 90% of the time and most importantly: they never travel together. That way I keep using 23 for general shooting while having a wider and a tele (16+50) for those unusual pictures. Anyway, most of the time I just carry one body one lens.

      Wow, what a rant haha!

      1. Yeah, I mentally built up some lens pairs for outings. A 16 and 35, or a 23 and 50, just enough to make swapping glass worth the effort. Problem is that I have lenses outside those ranges and can talk myself out of anything before I leave the house.

        Like you said, I seem more productive with one camera and one lens so that is my normal mode.

      2. Yeah, I mentally built up some lens pairs for outings. A 16 and 35, or a 23 and 50, just enough to make swapping glass worth the effort. Problem is that I have lenses outside those ranges and can talk myself out of anything before I leave the house.

        Like you said, I seem more productive with one camera and one lens so that is my normal mode.

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