Born in 1987, Chile. Carlo Maccheroni is an Art Director turned photographer. He presently is working on social documentary projects based on social injustice and Latin American Street Photography, covering Chile, Argentina, Perú, Uruguay and Paraguay.
In May of 2017 a muddle astonished the city of Chañaral, north of Chile, affecting thousands of inhabitants. Many lost absolutely everything they had after the mud reached them to the shoulders. Getting to work a documentary of this type in real time is very difficult for legal issues and permits by the governorates. They took out all the photographers in the sector. This made these photos unique not only by the lack of material but also by being shot in film.
The reality lived there, the things that could be seen, can leave anyone unable to sleep a couple of nights. The documentary of catastrophe does not resemble any other work that can be lived as a photographer.
“The Chañaral Disaster” is a documentary about the suffering, the struggle and the joy of women, men, children, animals and spaces that suffered the loss of absolutely everything that existed there.
Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi! My name is Carlo Maccheroni and I am 30 years old. I was born in Chile but my family comes from Italy and Palestine. So I grew up with a very high level of decibels at home.
I’m a comedy fan but I’m a lousy comedian.
I used to work as an Art Director but I decided to resign to become street photographer. And now I am working on Documentary projects based on Social Justice and catastrophes.
How did you get into photography?
This might sound weird, but my story is almost a copy of what happened to Joel Meyerowitz.
I was working as an Art Director on a big Advertising Agency and one day they asked me to help a photographer on one of our campaigns. From that day I felt in love with photography but I didn’t had a camera, so my father gave me a Holga and one medium format black and white film. I went to the streets during lunch to shoot and everything was amazing, the city was so alive. So the same day I went back to my job and quit.
In your perspective what makes a good Image?
Since I am an Art Director I should say a lot about technical stuffs, but I will not.
I believe that a good photograph is about the approach, and I base mine upon four considerations:
- The Human Presence: I love showing real people on my pictures or showing how they are not there anymore. For that, I am always looking for what they left; some cigarettes on the floor, toys, marks, whatever says that there was a human being, or an animal, why not.
- Hands off: I never guide or molest my subjects. I am not part of their stories.
- The sense of place: whatever I photograph, I try to picture as part of its surrounding, there is a lot to say when you look around. So if you ask me, I am addicted to f8.
- The sense of time: I try to place my subject having a position in time. Sometimes in the present, sometimes in the past.
You come from advertisement and fashion photography world , what made you shift to documentary photography?
That is a nice story, because it all started by quitting my job, earning zero for a few months, and looking for a photographer to teach me, what was really hard. So I found this great photographer, Gonzalo Donoso, who is the most important music photographer in Chile, and he taught how to use lights and everything for a nice portrait. And well, after coming from advertisement, the first thing you say is “Now I know how the make a good photograph, lets get into the fashion world!”.
I was making a name in fashion, shooting for some brands and having a Miss Chile as a model.
Everything was great. But one day I had an epileptic attack on the streets and woke up on a hospital without my wallet. That made me feel so vulnerable. After that I was really scared of going out. For a month and a half I couldn’t leave my house. It was horrible. So one day I took my Holga and said, I will go out and shoot what scares me, the streets.
That is how I became a street photographer. But when you spend so many years shooting streets you start making projects, caring about the city, the people, knowing them by their names. In South America you see a lot of things, so I started shooting how people live.
One day I went to this small town in Paraguay where a lot of drug dealers live. I started shooting how people live close to the narcos and sent it to NatGeo.
Since then I said “I have to shoot documentaries about Social Justice”, and that is what I do now.
Are you working with an agency or Independently?
I work independently but with an NGO called ADRA right now. For social justices documentaries I believe in this idea of being a photographer who walks alone, but, I am not a great creative mind, so I need ideas for my projects, and actually I think that helps me a lot because I don’t go and find my subject, I just face it. That is why when I am not working on documentary I do street photography to practice. For me there is no better school than the streets.
How do you choose the stories that you want to cover?
Well, when you work with social justice sometimes it is hard to find the stories because there are so many organizations working to fix the problems, but everyday you find a new that there is a new point of injustice, something is going wrong. So what I do is to find who is working on projects to fix those injustices, I talk to them, try to understand how important the project is, and if it is something that I feel attractive to document I join to their groups, study with them, so I can go visit the families and work with them.
It is not easy, there is a lot of work on that, and you have to know that you will fell things for them, you will see injustice, you will feel how vulnerable they feel. But this is the way I like to choose stories, getting close to the people.
Your work is mostly in b/w. Why your decision to shoot in b/w ?
I admire photographers who shoot color, and I am a little jealous of them because I feel like I can not work with color. I used to be a Pantone Geek when I was working on advertising, I could almost tell the pantone codes and the CMYK or RGB numbers just with one look.
But after I had this epileptic attack doctors told me not to spend time on a computer, so the only way for me to do photographs was working analogue black and white film.
This epilepsy situation changed my life and now I can not take a photograph without thinking in black and white. I feel like my brain thinks in black and white, like when you think about stories that your grandfather told you about when he was young, just like that.
It is a little freak I believe. For example, at night I imagine myself waking up the next morning, making 2 or 3 cups of coffee, those who know me understand my addiction, but all of that in my mind is black and white. I can only see myself as a monochrome guy.
What was the project or single photo launched or shaped your career?
I try not to give a big value to my photographs or projects, I am more into te experience of working on them. But on my Chañaral project there is this photograph of a man with a waving flag on his hand and a shovel on the other hand. The moment I shoot that photograph I knew there was this French Revolution aesthetic on it, with the debris around and a lot of clouds.
I think it is special because I see it like a painting and that makes me feel more “artistic”. That reminds me where I came from, this art theory world.
What challenges do you face in Documentary photography?
There is one big challenge when you work on Social Justice Documentaries, you can not use a thousand dollars camera to shoot people who haves nothing. You need to put on their shoes.
That as a photographer, but as a human, I would say that the most difficult thing is not to get too involved. You are seeing injustice and suffering everywhere.
By way of confession, every time I finish a documentary I got sick. I have terrible headaches, stomachaches, my head repeats the stories I saw, the people I talked to.
If you go to document a catastrophe you have to consider a therapy or going to church, or whatever helps you to put your feet on earth again.
What steps do you take to ensure your safety on the field if necessary?
I have try many things. It is not good to say, but nothing can guarantee your safety. Not if you are dealing with real society problems. I mean, this is not war, but sometimes there are things that you can not get over. Sometimes people, weapons, weather, volcano eruptions. In this country you can see almost anything.
In Paraguay I learned that you always have to warn the police, the NGO people or military if you are working on a very difficult project or if you can get damaged. Knowing that someone is aware that you are out there and that you have to return is the closest thing I have ever been to feeling safe.
Have you ever gotten emotionally involved during an assignment?
Absolutely. There is a picture I took of a toy of a girl who died crushed by an alder. I never met the girl, but I saw her being taken to her funeral. When I see that picture, to this day, I feel something inside.
But you have to remember that that does not really depend on you.
Which photographers inspire or have inspired you the most?
My favorite photographer of all time is Sergio Larraín, not because he is also Chilean, but his aesthetics, his passion, his delicacy, his way of understanding the street and the way of taking risks in his documentaries is something that I have not seen in any other photographer.
It is funny, because I never met him in person, but there are people who always compare me to him, because of how I talk, the way I live, how my photographs look, and I have to say, for me it is the biggest honor.
Are you developing any personal projects at the moment?If so, would you mind sharing it with us?
Outside social justice photography exhibitions and workshops, I am working on some projects, three actually.
The first one is street photography, challenging some trends and formats, something crazy and a bit funny. Another is about how children who have been separated from their families are reinserted to society. And the last one is still in plans, but it is about a very strange and extreme case of poverty in a locality of Chile, it is a surprise and I am working really hard to make it possible.
What is your biggest fear?
-To go blind.
What’s your greatest achievement?
-To have taken a picture of my grandmother just before she died.
Favorite place to shoot?
-Wherever there is a good cafeteria nearby, but Paseo Huérfanos in Santiago works for me.
First thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
-Where the hell is my coffee?
If you would like to see more of Carlo’s work you can check the links below: