On August 30, 2023, the anniversary Venice Film Festival begins. Thousands of guests are expected on the serene island of Lido, including directors, actors, producers, and other participants from film crews, as well as journalists, agents, and, of course, photographers. It is they who, through the lenses of their cameras, will capture the most remarkable moments of this occasion. Prior to the film festival, we had a conversation with one of them.
Stefania D’Alessandro, an accomplished entertainment photographer based in Milan, Italy, has carved her path in the world of fashion, cinema, and lifestyle photography. In 2008, Stefania’s talents led her to join Getty Images as an entertainment contributor. Since then, her lens has been focused on capturing the allure and glamor of renowned film events such as the Cannes Film Festival, and Mostra di Venezia, among others.
How did your journey in photography begin?
My journey started when I was around 18 years old. I was truly captivated by art, and one genre that specifically drew me in and allowed me to express my creativity was landscape photography. Eager to enhance my skills, I pursued formal education in photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Genoa. Alongside my studies, I actively sought opportunities to learn from well-known international photographers attending their workshops. After graduation, I embarked on my photography career as an assistant to a renowned portrait and fashion photographer and I eventually took the leap and established my own studio, specializing in the field of portraiture and still life photography.
What is your usual working routine?
Every morning, I start my day by perusing newspapers and magazines, while also taking a glance at social networks. This helps me stay up-to-date with the latest news and trends. Additionally, I receive press releases and invitations from my contacts, which further keep me in the loop. A crucial part of my work involves meeting with assignment editors. Together, we plan and organize the schedule for the week ahead. I usually go to two or three events per week. This involves discussing the events, and projects that need my attention.
How different is your routine during events like film festival?
Covering a festival brings a completely different vibe compared to a regular working day. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work for Getty Images on assignment for a prominent fashion company. My typical day in Venice during the festival unfolds as follows: Mornings kick off with capturing the excitement of press conferences, engaging talks, and photocalls. Afternoons are spent shooting cocktail events, capturing the essence of the atmosphere while ensuring the seize candid moments that reflect the energy of the festival. But the excitement doesn’t end there. Venetian nights brim with events featuring celebrities, whether it’s the evening premieres at the Palazzo della Cinema or at renowned venues like Excelsior, Danieli, and Cipriani, which transform into industry hotspots during the festival. Therefore, in the evenings, I navigate towards these occasions to capture the glamour and allure from a distinct perspective, infusing a new dimension into my coverage.
How do you manage deadlines when your daily routine becomes hectic?
Deadlines primarily apply to editorial works, while for client assignments, I usually upload my images the following day. We are often supported by a team that handles picture delivery. At Getty Images, there is a dedicated tool through which photographers can edit, upload and send images directly on the website via FTP. The photographs appear on the site within seconds and are available for clients.
How do you get ready?
Well, my job is absolutely amazing, but it can be pretty tiring too. I mean, lugging around kilos of equipment in bags is no joke. So, staying fit is a must for me. I try to take care of myself by meditating, hitting the gym, and following my passions. It’s a way for me to recharge and stay in top shape, especially during those long trips. Being prepared physically and mentally is key to rocking it as a photographer. When it comes to being prepared on location, it all begins with having the right photography gear within reach. I ensure that I carry twice the amount of equipment including two cameras, three or four lenses, two flashes, cables, and multiple memory cards. During a job, you never know what might occur, so it’s always better to be ready for any unforeseen challenges. As well, the ability to swiftly change outfits is an absolute game-changer. That’s why when I prepare my bag for a work day, I pack changes of clothes, especially black suits. By doing so, I can seamlessly blend into any setting, being elegant and at the same time practically becoming invisible, focusing on capturing shots. I always carry two pairs of shoes with me. Sometimes, I can’t help but envy my male colleagues who have a slightly more flexible dress code and can travel with less baggage than me.
Do you remember your first Venice film festival?
It was in 2006. The anticipation and excitement were palpable as I found myself amidst a sea of photographers, all dressed up for the occasion. Although my spot on the red carpet wasn’t the most ideal, I remained undeterred and determined to capture memorable portraits. The atmosphere was electric, with photographers – sometimes very aggressively – vying for a perfect shot. Scarlett Johansson was one of the stars on the red carpet that night, captivating everyone with her stunning 50’s-inspired look. It was a moment of sheer beauty and I will never forget it.
How do you survive and thrive as a female in a field that is predominantly male, considering the heavy cameras and sometimes pushy colleagues?
I consider myself a naturally shy person. However, over the years I have come to appreciate my shyness as a valuable trait. It allows me to savor and appreciate certain moments that I might otherwise miss if I would be bold and aggressive. On regular working days, such as photocalls, TV shows, and general events, I find the experience quite pleasant. My colleagues respect me, and I have formed some genuine friendships with a few of them. However, the case is completely different when it comes to festivals, where the stakes are high and the competition is fierce. During red carpet shoots, I make a conscious effort to remain focused and composed, despite the chaos that surrounds me. Rather than resorting to loud screams or trying to blend into the crowd, I have developed my own approach. I gently lower the camera from my face, aiming to establish a connection with the subject. Making eye contact can create a more intimate and engaging moment, capturing their genuine essence. I think a female sensitivity can be seen in the images she takes. There are also instances where the subject looks away, creating a different perspective. I must admit, I have a profound appreciation for such images. These unconventional shots can offer a fresh take on the red carpet experience.
How do you see photography evolving in the digital era? What are the pros and cons of these changes?
I’m all for progress and I believe social media has been a game-changer for photographers. It has opened up opportunities to showcase our work, attract clients, and stay updated on exciting events in real-time. However, there’s a downside too. Some individuals, especially those who’ve built careers on platforms like Instagram, tend to download and use photos done by professional photographers without permission or proper compensation. It’s a challenge we face in the digital age. As for the impact of AI on photography, I’m keeping an eye on its evolution. It’s a fascinating development, but I’m not ready to pass judgment just yet. I’m curious to see how it will shape the future of our craft.