Man About Town – Photographer Giacomo Brunelli
Winner of the Sony World Photography Award, Giacomo Brunelli has been photographing and hand-printing richly cinematic images of London for many years. His work is exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery and The Barbican Centre as well as across Europe, Asia, and the US.
Born in Perugia in 1977, Giacomo Brunelli was 7 years old when he first visited London with his parents and twin brother. That trip made a lasting impression on him, starting him on a journey that has seen him become one of the latest in a tradition of émigré photographers who produce something beautiful and extraordinary from the experience of standing on a London street.
Even more life-changing was the discovery of his father’s Japanese-made Miranda camera in a cabinet at home. Miranda stopped making cameras decades ago, but this simple model from the 1960s is what Brunelli has used throughout his career. And, after talking to him, the camera seems to symbolise the modesty and refreshing simplicity with which this master craftsman approaches his work.
“My equipment has always been very basic. I still use the same cheap camera from the 1960s and the fixed 50mm lens. I tried different lenses in the past (28mm and 135mm) but the 50mm suits my vision in terms of the portion of space I like to frame. I have been shooting with the same lens and film – a Kodak Tri-x 400 – since 2004. It is important not to have too many distractions when you have so many new pieces of kit coming out every day.”
In 2008, the same year as Brunelli’s first book – The Animals – was published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, he and his wife moved from Italy to Central London with their six-month-old daughter. For the past 12 years, Wimbledon has been their home.
“As walking is central to my photography (and my life in general), most mornings I like to cross Wimbledon Common and get to Richmond and Barnes, where the Thames is part of village life and highly inspiring to me.”
“For Eternal London, I would start photographing at around 9am and go until 3pm or 4pm, depending on the season, as I only use natural available light. I would head to Hyde Park or St. James’s Park and end up in Victoria or Vauxhall after around a 10-mile walk.
“As well as loving to walk along the banks of the Thames, from Vauxhall to Tower Bridge, I am constantly inspired by the historical parts of London like St. James’s Street, with its 17th Century shops, and by the green spaces of Hyde Park.”
Eternal London was commissioned by the world-renowned Photographers’ Gallery in Soho. The photographs are head-turning, intimate, expressive, London short-stories. The treacle-thick monochrome of Brunelli’s handprinted images cannot be adequately described as either documentary or painterly. Neither category does justice on its own to work that is uniquely poetic and intimate and which reflects so well the photographer’s constant, quiet, hungry presence on the streets.
“All my prints are gelatin silver and made by me in my darkroom. I don’t have many secrets to share as my technique is very basic. I use an Ilford fibre-based paper and easy-to-find chemicals for the classic black and white process. I believe in a well-exposed film being a good starting point for experimentation in the darkroom.”
These days, Giacomo’s favourite haunts are Soho, for a coffee at the Algerian Coffee Stores and food at Koya or Yauatcha, the National Gallery, especially for the Italian Renaissance section, and Mayfair and Piccadilly for contemporary art at Thaddeus Ropac, Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner and Levy Gorvy. He loves visiting London’s auction houses and contemporary rare book dealers like Peter Harrington on the Fulham Road.
Giacomo still has a photo on his wall of himself and his twin brother and his parents sitting on a bench in London Zoo on his first ever trip here, in 1977. It marks the start of a love affair that has endured and inspired a body of work that is unlike anything else out there.
Giacomo Brunelli’s prints are available from the print room at The Photographers’ Gallery in two sizes; 9”x12″ and 20”x24″ in limited editions of ten and five respectively.
His books are available at https://www.giacomobrunelli.com/