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The story behind Simona Ghizzoni’s portrait of Naples’ forgotten youth

Martina, a young resident of Scampia, Northern Naples, sits lost in thought on a summer day in 2017. Simona met Martina while running a photography workshop in the neighbourhood. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens. © Simona Ghizzoni

Martina, a young resident of Scampia, Northern Naples, sits lost in thought on a summer day in 2017. Canon Ambassador Simona Ghizzoni met Martina while running a youth-focused photography workshop in the neighbourhood. Here, the documentary photographer explains the story behind her portrait.

Adolescence is a turbulent time, and for young people who live in rundown neighbourhoods, the angst is magnified. In Italy, the outskirts of some of the country’s big cities are becoming poorer and poorer, and kids in those areas are living in socio-economically challenging situations. Scampia is about 40 minutes north of central Naples by train, but it looks like a different town. In the early years of the 21st century it was notorious for drug dealing and was almost a no-go zone – but things are gradually changing, says Simona.

"This picture comes from a personal project I started last summer about young people growing up in difficult areas of Italy. The first chapter, titled Il Mare Non Bagna Napoli was shown at Photoreporter Festival in Saint-Brieuc in 2017, as part of a collective project called Unrest that featured photographers from my agency, MAPS."

A close-up, black and white, partly blurred shot of some flowers, taken in Scampia, Northern Naples.
Simona ran creative workshops for children aged seven to 17 in the Scampia area of Naples, during which she asked them to photograph things they liked around their area, using her camera. This was taken by Martina on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens. © Simona Ghizzoni

"I met Martina through an organisation that runs arts and education projects in the area. I was running a photography workshop and she was one of my students. Even though many of the kids have smartphones, they were excited to try out a real camera."

I saw this look on her face that made her seem much older, lost in her own thoughts.

"At one point, I was keeping Martina company while she waited for her parents to pick her up. Nothing much was happening – she was a little bored, a little tired, and was playing with my camera. Then all of a sudden she became extremely serious. I saw this look on her face that made her seem much older, lost in her own thoughts. Scampia is a tough neighbourhood and kids there have fears and problems that are not suitable for their age. I took a couple of shots and then her mood changed – she just jumped up and started playing again.

"I almost always shoot with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It’s fast and has all the features I need, and I can shoot video interviews, too. I only used fixed lenses – 90% of the time a Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens. With the work I do, it’s important my equipment is comfortable and noninvasive, so people feel relaxed. I don’t want to have to think too much about technique – it’s about the flow and what’s happening in the moment."

To find out more about the latest camera in the 5D range, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, visit the product page.

Írta: Rachel Segal Hamilton


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