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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”