When you’ve photographed a place before and you’re stuck for ideas, occasionally an internet search leads you to the inspiration you need—or shows you something you may never have thought of on your own. Stuck for ideas, I did a search for “multiple exposures Rome” and up popped the work of Alessio Trerotoli, a life-long resident of the city that he photographs. I was completely taken with his Urban Melodies series. Drawn to the colours and the stories, I found it poetically chaotic: the perfect combination for the city. So I sent him an email and asked if he would wander the streets with me and talk about his process, and to my surprise, he said yes. We spent a lovely afternoon sipping coffee before exploring the streets of Trastevere while talking about art, photography, and the different things that lead us to create.
Travel photographer Alessio Trerotoli shoots in the city where he was born and raised: Rome. Fascinating to tourists and travelers from all over the world, but when you live there, what keeps it photographically exciting? Alessio admits it’s challenging, but there’s also the comfort of knowing where to go. So it was initially the matter of taking it to the streets, where the people always are. “I like knowing that because I chose to walk this way instead of another way, down this street instead of a different one, that I was paying attention to what was happening around me so I could capture a scene that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. Stories that unfold on the street show the soul of the place.”
It was on a trip to Istanbul in 2012 where an exhibit of Turkish photographer Jak Baruh fascinated him with the stories told within multiple frames. So he set out to create some of his own and found a different rhythm in his work.
By combining several images of the same scene into one, he found a new melody in the photograph. He says that layering images in post-production and not in camera gives him better control to build the tiers of the story for maximum impact. “I think of this process like musical notes in a melody—each photograph could stand on its own, but when layered together, the end result is richer, deeper, and more unique. This layering allows the image to take on a different meaning and become part of the melody. And that’s why I named the series Urban Melodies.”
That Urban Melodies has cinematic overtones is no coincidence; Alessio graduated with a degree in arts and cinematography in 2009 and searches for lights, action, and atmosphere before he makes a photograph. “I look for light, lines, and an interesting prospect—something with mood. I’ve had enough practice now that I can see the possibility of the final result as I approach a scene.”
Like most art, Alessio says that superimposing photos requires creativity, fantasy, curiosity, and most importantly, a great deal of patience. “It’s like a puzzle that you’re trying to solve; the solution is the right combination, but you have to find it through trial and error as you create your final image.”
And with so much talk in photography circles about having the “right” gear and the “best” lens, Alessio admits he’s not obsessed with gear and chooses simplicity over grandiosity. His camera and lens combo of choice is a Canon 60D and 50mm lens, so he hustles with his feet rather than relying on a zoom lens (unless he absolutely has to use his 17-85mm). “I read somewhere that the best photography gear is a good pair of shoes, and I’ve adopted that as my motto.”
I asked him to describe his workflow from concept to the final image, so once he finds his scene of light, lines, and mood, he moves into action mode: “I usually take 5–6 images of a scene: one wide shot, then I move in closer and take detail shots of the right, left, and center, then I blend those together in post processing, lowering the opacity of each layer, before making final adjustments in luminosity, contrast, and tone.”
For Traffic Jam, he bypassed his usual 5–6 image standard, combining only three photographs. The set below shows the progression of the superimposition from left to right (top), and the final image on the bottom.
His multiple exposure photographs earned Alessio instant attention and offers for exhibitions quickly followed. And while Urban Melodies is his number one ongoing project, he draws cartoons to keep his dexterity sharp and continues to experiment with new ways to express his vision. He believes that the only way to continue to grow artistically is to try new things, and he's now working on a new series, Raindrop Blues, where he superimposes photographs of rain on glass over a background image. “At this point, every creative thing we think of has been done before by someone else, but that’s no reason not to try an idea. No one sees that concept exactly the way you do. And no one else’s work will ever be exactly like yours, no matter how many other people are doing it or how many times it’s been done before. What’s unique about your work is you.” Bravo, signore.
Alessio Trerotoli is a Roman-born photographer who still calls that city home. Upon graduating university in 2009, he took his camera and began traveling in Europe and America, and had his first exhibition in 2010. Since then, his work has been shown in several Italian galleries and in 2012, he published his first book, Fuori Dalla Caverna (which means "Out of the Cave"), a collection of notes and photographs of his travels, described as “a real journey on paper: a romantic and passionate journey, where Rome is a wife, Paris a lover, the world a home.” Urban Melodies came to life that same year, and since then, has been exhibited, published, and discussed in numerous photography journals and online forums. Alessio continues to wander the streets of the world, including his beloved Rome, with curiosity in his heart and a camera in his hand, looking to create photographs that tell stories in unexpected ways. To learn more about Alessio or to buy prints, visit his website, or follow him on Facebook or Instagram.