Meet Roberto Pazzi, a self-taught portrait and travel photographer based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Roberto is not afraid to go after his dreams, in fact, he embraces any fear that is holding him back. With the one goal in mind – his happiness, the photographer has been able to build a life based on his passions. In the interview below Roberto shares his journey with us. Enjoy!
Please tell me about yourself. Where are you from? Did you always have an interest in photography? Is photography something that you do full time?
I was born in Milan, Italy in 1973, and I’m a self-taught travel photographer based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain where I decided to relocate myself almost three years ago. I’m graduated in engineering, and I love to travel. From an early age, I discovered myself as a backpacker, but only in 2013, I started to explore my great love for photography. In 2015 I decided to make my passions (travel and photography) my lifestyle, so after many years working as Sales Manager, in the same year, I decided to quit my job and change my life. You may find further information about me here.
You do a lot of street portrait photography. Do you have a favorite photograph/ a story to share of somebody who you photographed?
In general, I don’t have a favorite portrait photograph as every picture of mine to me doesn’t represent just a story but a lot of emotions, smells, people, rumors, memories, voices, wet eyes, smiles surrounding every single moment of them. Those moments are unique and not comparable one with the others.
Since I like to travel and I like portrait photography, I’m used to approaching a lot of people all around the world. That allows me to collect a lot of stories from my subjects. They are stories of lives, almost always characterized by a lot of humility.
I remember, for example, the generosity of a street food vendor who was roasting and selling peanuts in a small town in the Rajasthan region of India. This man was so happy with the time we spent talking together and his improvised role as a photographic model who, by gratitude, wanted at all costs to give me a bag of his peanuts even knowing that the whole sustenance of his family (wife and two children) depended only on his humble work.
What has been the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
I like to say that the happiest moment in my life is the one that is yet to come. I summarize my philosophy of life-based on passion, optimism, and simplicity. Concerning my past, my happiest moment has been for sure the day I have decided to change my life.
After many years spent carrying on a life I had to live, I decided to change it. I followed my dreams and what I really wanted to do. This was a result of ten years long plan of dedication and sacrifices, completely focused on my final goal: my happiness.
My saddest moment? I believe I am a lucky person since I have not had the opportunity to experience moments of irrepressible pain.
My saddest moment can be identified by a few months during which I sadly learned that my educational and behavioral values on which I based my life were not, in reality, common rules for the rest of the world surrounding me (business, personal relationship, friendships, etc…).
I learned too late and too quickly that the values of trust, respect, and meritocracy were all too often replaced by self-interest, selfishness, and nepotism.
My beautiful world that until then I thought as real, imploded and turned out to be just a silly utopian bubble. I found myself alone and unarmed questioning me and my whole life model. But, like all the sad moments of life, it was also an important turning point and personal growth.
Did you have any struggles/ setbacks in your life, and if you did how did you overcome it?
I had and, like everyone, I still have my battles to face. But battles help us grow, and they taught me a lot. My own approach to battles has changed over the years. I was facing my first battles in a “first blood” style of fight, according to the most romantic heroic ideals. Then the experience showed me that right the heroes are who “fill the pits” while the politicians have all the benefits. So I learned to apply a more “political” logic to my fights by exploiting the situations of crisis and contrast, making of them opportunities.
With the increasing of my age and experience, my approach has changed again and now the approach to my battles is to try to defeat the opponent without even fighting.
What has been the biggest lesson in life that you have learned so far?
Be true, be real, be simply myself. Not for others but just for me. Moreover, I learned that the simple things are also the most important ones.
What are most afraid of right now?
What scares me most is losing my independence and the freedom to choose how to spend my time.
What are your current goals and why you want to achieve them?
My current goals are to be able to carry on living off my passions of travels and photography. I want to achieve it because it’s the way to my happiness.
If you could give a piece of advice to a room full strangers, what would you say?
Be yourself and above all be honest with yourself. Ask yourself intimately if you are really happy. Unless it’s a full “YES,” identify what and who makes you feel really good. Focus on your passions and on the simple little everyday things that daily make you feel good. Those are in the end also the most important ones. Create a long-term project to achieve your goal of happiness and let your passion be the fuel that runs your engine.
Living without projects is like navigating without a compass. Break down your project into smaller, feasible daily projects and try to be every day a bit better than the day before by completing your little project of the day.
Be the captain of your life and avoid losing your way to achieving only a better image of yourself in others. Make of freedom your lifestyle. Freedom from the judgment of others, freedom from the fixed work, freedom from false social relations and freedom from your fears and “comfort zone.”
Try “to be” instead of “to have.” What you own actually owns you, forcing you to waste your time and your freedom to maintain it.
Do not waste your life carrying on activities you actually don’t like, to collect money for buying things you don’t want, to please people you don’t really like.
What do you like the most about travel/portrait photography? Does your photography aim to send a message and if it does, can you share what it is?
I mostly like to meet different cultures and people, know about their stories, their lives trying them to bring those stories to the world as much as possible with my photographies, through the eyes, the smiles, the wrinkles of my subjects. I like to see every single face like a book of the life of someone where every wrinkle is telling a story of that book. I don’t have any message to send with my photography. I’m just carrying on what I love to do. Anyway, I think that a message could rise by my works thanks to the people I meet and photograph: simplicity and sustainability.
Most of my photos represent places or scene of life of people living so far away from our lifestyle, too often characterized by an intensive exploitation of resources. I consider them as an example our society should follow to give priority to sustainability in its technology improvement.
As a photographer did you have any struggles, and if you did how did you overcome it? Did anybody ever doubted you or even discouraged you from pursuing this career?
I didn’t have any struggles, so far. That’s not thanks to me of course. I guess it could be because I only recently started with this activity. Anyway, photography isn’t for me something I could consider as a work. I chose to change my life in order to be able to dedicate 100% of my time and energies to that big passion (that’s because I generally avoid accepting works involving shots of marriages, events, studios and so on). I try to do today only what I really want and like to do, instead of what I have to do. I try to keep photography as a passion instead of real work.
What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer? Would it be the same as advice you would give to a room full of strangers?
Yes, it is the same advice I gave earlier.
More in specific, I would suggest to them don’t lose money looking for the newest technology, but to practice a lot instead. The first thing to understand is what you like more in photography. It is a very huge field to explore. Once you understand what you like, you should identify your own style to communicate what you want in your works. To be able to do it, you need to study a lot (avoid classes, internet is a very complete library that can provide you everything you need), to practice a lot (photograph again and again every day everything and everyone…) and train your eye by looking at the works of other photographers, look for inspirations.
Create a long-term project to achieve your goal of happiness and let your passion be the fuel that runs your engine.
Break down your project into smaller, feasible daily projects and try to be every day a bit better than the day before by completing your little project of the day (e.g. that technique, that photo, your website, etc…) Last but not least, as much as possible try to spend time to perform photography you really like instead to follow what are bringing you money (it would be perfect if they are the same things…).