Here’s the random joy of being an editor and how it paid off for me and you. It’s all about my responding to a press release and agreeing to look at a new book a while back. The next thing I knew, photographer Stefania Pifferi bearing Colors of Naples arrived in my office and just lit up the day.
Small in stature, big in personality—in passion for her work and all that surrounds her—she handed over the book with a smile. As I paged through, silent at first, she seemed upset. “You haven’t said anything,” she said. “You don’t like it?” “To the contrary,” I replied. “I’m so moved by what I’ve seen, I just need to keep going.” You’ll see a good sampling of what I experienced in “Proud of Naples’ Beauty?” on p. 106 in this issue.
And I’d like to tell you more about Stefania, who moved here from Italy about a year ago. I wasn’t exaggerating about the passion. Once, on an assignment in a small village in Brazil, she spotted a mother with a child. The youngster had a big tumor on her throat. “I was in tears over this,” Stefania remembers, “because there was no doctor to treat her and a very real threat to her life.
“The man running my client’s philanthropy operation in Brazil promised me he would get the child to a big city and get her medical treatment. He did. And it saved her life. She’s now fine and living a normal life.”
Now about Colors of Naples. It was Stefania’s first project shooting landscapes. She’d built her considerable reputation photographing people and products. “Unlike people,” she says, “the landscape is flat. No sound, no smells. To get around the flat problem, for example, I flew over Cape Romano 15 times before I got the right shadows and the right angle. I wore out the pilot. I did the book over two months, July and August, and it shows what I most like about Naples.” (See more photos from Colors of Naples here.)
Stefania’s got great memories from photographing for business clients all over the world—so many of them informed by the passion she brings to her work and the people she encounters. She traveled by herself, even into such dangerous places as the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. “I was scared,” she says, “but very goal-oriented. I’m tough and just kept moving forward. In some places, you know, they’ll kill you just for your camera.” That said, in the favelas, she was welcomed and treated like family. She remembers getting shots of three kids playing together, each in a different mood, with a different personality. “I’m a storyteller,” she says, “not with words but through my pictures.”
In India, she recalls, “kids love to be photographed. And the adults wanted to be photographed with me to show they had met a foreigner. They stood in long lines waiting for this, often with their kids as well. It broke my heart to see the poverty in India. I’d be in a car with my driver and they’d be knocking on the window, begging for food.”
In China, Stefania says she came across a German businessman at a five-star hotel. With some emotion, she recalls that he had lost his daughter and now carries her teddy bear every place he goes. In Israel, she loved that it had everything—mountains, desert and seas—and was such a wonderful mix of cultures and religions. “One of my favorite shots there,” she says, “was of Muslim men playing chess, while the Muslim women were shopping.”
And, of course, she cherishes her time in Brazil, where she had met that mother and the daughter with the tumor. She says that, “in support of my client’s philanthropic efforts there, I went with some nuns into the villages to bring people water and educational (resources). I shot a close-up of a man who looked older than he was. You can see in his eyes that he had not had an easy life, and you can tell from his skin that a lot of it was spent outside. He was shy, smiling ever so slightly and honored to have his picture taken.”
Stefania was born in Lake Como, Italy, went to Fordham University in New York City after high school to learn English, and studied photography in Milan and at the International Center for Photography in New York. Her father is a famous book publisher and landscape photographer. She did work for him for a time but left, she says, “because I thought I could make more money elsewhere and wanted to make my reputation on my own and not on his coattails.”
So here she is, now our treasure. She’s got prospects for three more books, and you can bet on seeing her photos in Gulfshore Life as well. With her eye and heart, she’ll surely bring our people and landscapes alive.