Paolo Baraldi tells us about "his off-road world" and his work. Baraldi is very active as a photographer and journalist. With his images, from all over the world, he tells us about the most beautiful off-road competitions. But let's find out, with some questions, what his experience is. www.paolobaraldi.com
"Photography, off-road and travel are my lifestyle" - Paolo Baraldi
Photography is your job, when you met this visual art?
I was very young, it was 1987 and I was 20 years old. Thanks to the father of one of my friends, I approached this world and took my first steps in photography. I liked it! I attended schools and above all I devoured the books and exhibitions of the great photographers who made the history of this art. Then the meeting was fatal, during a workshop, as we call it now, with Gianni Geron who introduced me to the world of black and white, research and experimentation. A consequence of this period was my first exhibitions and the publication of a book in Sesto Calende. The urban landscape was my main subject. Just in Sesto I got in touch with the artists of Cesare da Sesto and thanks to Giona Rossetti I met Giac Casale, the father of the singer Rossana Casale. Giac, one of Milan's most respected advertising photographers, took me under his wing and gave me all his knowledge. At that time I also worked with the great Settimio Benedusi, taking my first steps in fashion, and with the eclectic Joe Oppedisano. From here the step towards the profession was natural.
How did you get your meeting with offroad?
Let's say it was random. I have always liked the big 4x4s and American pickups but in those days I couldn't afford them. Thanks to the Lomazzo Fuoristrada I approach this world and take my first steps on dirt roads. From that moment I never stopped doing offroad and until 2000 I also competed in the italian races.
Photography and offroad, when did you combine the two?
Well let's say that "the union" took place very naturally. At the time of the Lomazzo Fuoristrada I was photographer for fashion and for advertising and during my free time I took pictures during the offroad journey. Fatale was the meeting with an editor of a 4x4 magazine who asked me for material for an article; from that moment I can say that photography and offroad have "married" and my life as an offroad photojournalist has begun.
Tell us something more about your work ...
What can I say? That I love it and that I can not live without it. When I'm traveling around the world photographing events and competitions I feel in my natural habitat. If I could, I would spend the whole year on the (off)road and I must consider myself lucky because my family has always supported me. Thanks Paola, Stefano and Davide.
How is your typical day?
There are really two, and my typical days are very different. If I'm in Italy, I spend most of my time in the office editing photographs, writing articles, creating technical articles externally and taking care of OFFROAD Lifestyle. When I’m in "mission" everything changes. Wake up early to be on the path before the competitors. I spend my whole day photographing and then returning to the base in the evening to prepare the images for the publication. Here, even if really strenuous because often times are impossible, this is what I really love to do.
What was your first international competition?
This is why I have to thank fate. As when I took my first steps into the world of photography, even in this case I had the good fortune to meet the right and important people. It was in fact the colleague, now a friend, Damiano d'Ambrosio who introduced me to Mr. Luis J. A. Wee. Yes my first international race was the Rainforest Challenge.
And after Rainforest Challenge?
The experience in Malaysia has changed me a lot, I realized that outside the Italian borders there was a whole world to discover and to tell. I went back to the Rainforest Challenge over and over again and followed many Global Series races for Luis: China, Sri Lanka etc. Then, by self-financing, I started following other competitions like the Breslau and the King of the Hammers in California.
How did you go from photojournalist for magazines to official photographer of the most important international events?
I specify that even today, in addition to following these competitions for OFFROAD Lifestyle, I continue to collaborate with printed magazines in Italy and in Europe. Returning to the question, I honestly do not know how this step happened. It was natural. I think because year after year the organizers, whom I thank, have known me better, they have seen how I work and they have appreciated my photographs. It was a mutual esteem which naturally led to a collaboration.
What would you recommend to those who want to take up this profession?
First of all you need to have a lot of passion and deeply love this kind of profession. If they want to get rich, this is not the job for them. Then, and this is really important, always look for quality, be original, be professional and have your own style. Learn photographic technique and forget it when you have assimilated it. Photographing must be a natural gesture, a lifestyle. What makes the difference is your way of looking at the world.
You who have worked in many countries, do you find differences with Italy?
Unfortunately yes, I'm sorry to say that but they are huge. I find that outside Italy there is much more respect for this profession and that quality and not price is the discriminating factor in choosing a photographer from an organizer or magazine. Surely America is the country where all this is most evident. From long time, they have understood how important is communication and quality communication. That's why I'm very honored that persons like Emily Miller, Rebelle Rally, Dave Cole, King of the Hammers, and Nicole Pitell Vaughan, Total Chaos Fab, wanted me on their staff. In Europe, characters very close to this mentality are surely Richard Crossland of Ultra4 Europe, Alex Kovatchev of the Breslau Series and Jurgen Funke of Europa Truck Trial.
Has the advent of internet and then of social media changed the world of communication?
I'd be crazy to deny it. Yes, of course everything has changed and everything has become much faster. I don't know if you remember the "fake news" of the War of the Worlds by Orson Wells staged on American radio just as it was taking its first steps? Everyone said, without going into the actual problem of the false news, that the radio would have killed the newspapers. So it was not like this was not with television and so it will not be with the internet. I believe that we only need to adapt and update ourselves. What I mean: the web and social media exist and I don't deny that they have changed and influenced communication. Now a lot of news burns out within a few hours and that's why print media should increasingly become a deepening of quality. The ideal? Bringing the two realities together under one head. I conclude with a critique of one that today is the main news carrier: facebook. One of his defects is certainly the loss of quality both in the texts and in the photographs and videos. I mean that they devour an infinite number of messages with "like" and "share" often put almost automatically without stopping to think about quality. Today, social media is undoubtedly the main means of conveying information, but how many really knows how to use it correctly? How many know the real difference between a personal profile, a group and a page and consequently how to use them?
And last but not least, why do you use black and white in your photographs?
Yes it's true, I love black and white! It is not true that black and white is an archaic or primordial photography style. For me it is photography! Eliminating the colors you go to the soul of a person or an image. All distractions are eliminated and only the emotions are concentrated. I love black and white in portraits, it allows me to enter into the personal and emotional aura of the subject. To do this, however, black and white is not enough, a good portrait is obtained only if a relationship of complicity and trust is established with the person you want to photograph. If I can, I would like to make another small consideration.
The topics we have covered in this interview deserve a much more in-depth discussion that I would like to do with offroaders, colleagues and editors and why not, make my experience and my ideas available to try to do something new as I try to do with OFFROAD Lifestyle which I consider an excellent platform to experience communication in the offroad world.
Thanks to those who read my interview ... I hope you enjoyed it or at least that it was a source of reflection and thanks to those who support me.