Nikon Imaging | Réunion | Middle East and Africa

Library of Inspiration

Breaking Through the Surface

Alessandro Vannucci can be described as the poster boy for humanity photography, an avid world traveler who claims he picked up his trade from mimicking photographers around him. He has gone on to capture thousands of human emotions, giving meaning to the phrase “a picture tells a thousand words”. Through uncovering the joys, despairs and warmth of Southeast Asia, Alessandro makes his photographs come to life.

Whilst some shots feel like stolen moments, most exude the sense that Alessandro has been welcomed into the very private, intimate spaces of his subjects.

“I always try a "soft" approach at the beginning. I keep my camera away and I try to create a good feeling between us. Then, when I think that the moment has arrived, I ask them if I can take some photos. I always try to respect who is in front of me.“

With his heavily journalistic approach, it is hard to not see the stories of each individual seeping through. His “Goodbye Eyes” series is a perfect example of this, with passengers on trains looking out, ready to begin their journey to wherever. The glare of each subject uncovers a million possible tales - all captured from the same angle, in that very moment when the train departs the station.

Alessandro has traveled far and often since ‘94, discovering the “miracle” of photography on a trip to the US. However, he only realized his true passion for the craft when in Niger: “The proverbial light went off in my head when I was following the Solar Eclipse of 2006. I was joining a group of other photographers, and I observed what they were doing, how they moved around the subject, the approach and so on...”

His love for travel fuels his creations, but it is also the eagerness to return home and begin post-production that drives him. And this may be an insight to his process: Alessandro often returns to places he has already been to, seeking new stories with different atmosphere and emotions.

One of his more memorable series, “Psa Kraom” is set in a local market near the world-famous architecture of Angkor. Dubbed the “paradise for photographers”, Alessandro has explored the area many times, but on this particular occasion “the right mood” fell into place. Exploring the market one early morning, after a blackout had left the market in pitch darkness, the sellers were forced to illuminate their stalls using only small candles. “The atmosphere became something magical... we went as a group of photographers, but actually I was the only one able to shoot, thanks to my choice of lens.”

Vannucci’s style has become intrinsically linked by the use of only one lens over the past 3 years, the NIKKOR 24mm f1.4. The lens was chosen for its natural vignette and limited depth of field - an unusual perk for such a wide-angle lens. On few occasions he uses other lenses including the NIKKOR 85mm f1.8 and the NIKKOR 50mm f1.4 - but he has made shooting with the 24mm 1.4 his signature.

“I think that technically speaking, using a 24mm f1.4 or the 50mm f1.4, almost always at the maximum aperture, can be a challenge, especially with subjects that are not posing for you. The depth of field is very short, and the focus is often not easy to catch. With the "Psa Kraom" series I also had the problem of having a very low light condition, and I had to choose the right balance between ISO sensitivity and a fast-enough shutter speed.”

In his field, capturing the hidden beauties of the world is only a fraction of the work. A quick glance at his “Anlong Pi” series reveals an interest in the darker side of human stories. “Following the workers of the Siem Reap rubbish dump, who scour amongst toxic burning waste piles, the lucky ones have shoes on their feet, but this is little protection against the chemicals clinging in the air. Among the ash piles it is haunting to see the faces of smiling children. Even in such treacherous conditions there is a glimpse of hope,” he says.

“I went there when I was ready, I tried to get as much information as possible about the place, the people and especially whether some organization was already helping them in some way. My purpose was to tell their story, to create awareness, through my photos”.

Looking across Alessandro’s body of work, the attention to detail and the commitment to telling real human stories is what makes it remarkable. The storytelling is raw and in your face, yet leaves enough mystery to capture your attention.

More of Alessandro’s work can be found at