Photographer Ronnie Grammatica

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Ronnie grew up in Milan, Italy … a location that sparked his passion for photography. Later discovering a love for mountain biking, Ronnie has been able to combine these two interests, and today you’ll often find him out on the trails, capturing the best of bikes and riders in all their thrilling action!
Taking a traditional approach to his photography, Ronnie believes not only technique, but timing and the ability to tell a story through images are critical to ensure fantastic action shots …

Hi Ronnie. You have an interesting background! Tell us a bit about where you grew up, and what prompted you to move to Australia …

Hello, and thanks for featuring me in this special art issue! I’m an Italian born and trained photographer. I grew up in the fashion capital of Italy, Milan, and as a rebellious teenager in the mid-nineties, became interested in the growing graffiti and street art movement. That’s where my passion for photography started.

At the time, I didn’t understand that what I was doing was a form of art; I just wanted to capture those artworks before they were gone. In 2005 I became a full-time photographer, and work has taken me to some amazing places throughout Europe, the Caribbean and now Australia!

It was while working in the Italian Alps one winter that I met my partner. She was taking a gap year in Italy to enjoy the Italian lifestyle and follow her passion for snowboarding. I’m lucky that chairlift rides in Europe are a bit longer than here in Australia, otherwise I may never have got that phone number! Anyway, she grew up here in the Port Macquarie area and now that we have a young family of our own, we decided this is the perfect place to call home.

What aspects of photography did you study in your native Milan – and how have these studies helped you with your photography work?

My formal studies have been in studio photography, editing, and visual communication. This has given me a solid background in the technical aspects behind the production of a picture, an understanding of how to use photography as a visual language, and it has sparked in me a real interest in the history of photography.

I take a very traditional approach to my work, inspired by the masters of photography (as I see them). I think this background has melted with my passion for the outdoors and action sports to take my photography to where it is today.

When/how did you become interested in mountain bike riding?

When I was a kid, I used to love riding my bike with my brother, especially off road. Maybe mountain biking brings back those emotions of freedom and independence that I felt when I was a kid!

It wasn’t until later in life that this passion was reignited, though. It was after a long winter shooting for snowboarding magazines that I found myself in Livigno, a little ski resort in the Italian Alps, discovering a whole lot of fun without snow! Livigno is well renowned in the mountain bike business, particularly in Europe, with quite a big park and trail network. I began working with the resort, shooting bikers, and it all went from there.

What is it about this sport that you most love? Why photograph this particular sport – when there are so many others you could focus on?

Speed and adrenaline! It is so much fun to ride these bikes! But it’s also the freedom and solitude of riding in nature that can be so grounding. I think being passionate about your subject can make a big difference to the pictures (and emotions) that you capture. Ultimately, what I like most about photographing mountain biking is that it allows me to utilise elements of landscape, sport and lifestyle photography together. This really comes through in the promotional tourism work that I do – showcasing local attractions, mountain biking, and the local lifestyle simultaneously through a series of images.

What are some of the skills you need to photograph mountain bikes in action? It must be difficult, with the tricky terrain and the speed of the riders?

Technique is important, but timing is crucial. It takes a lot of experience to be able to visualise the image before all the action happens, and then to actually capture that image as the rider speeds past you. Shooting mountain biking professionally means there are no second chances to get that shot, particularly when shooting a race, nor can you stage or pose your subject. Another very important aspect of my work is telling a story through images, so I need to know what’s important for the story and what’s not.

What magazines/publications, websites etc. have you had your work published in/on?

I’ve been published in Europe and Australia in various formats, including magazines, newspapers and promotional tourism material. The magazines that are more familiar to the Australian mountain bike riders are [R]evolution, Enduro, Australian Mountain Bike, and Outer Edge.

What mountain bike groups are you involved with (locally or further afield), and how have you been able to assist them?

Since moving to the area, I’ve become involved with the Hastings Valley Mountain Bike Riders Club in Port Macquarie and the Kempsey Macleay Off Road Cyclist Club. Mountain biking is a great sport for all ages, a great way to experience the outdoors, and a great way to meet people. The clubs do a great job at fostering all of this, and I think we should support them as much as possible.

Whilst you’ll find me volunteering at the trail maintenance days (even though I’m really not that handy with the tools!), I’ve been able to help out by providing the clubs with some pictures for their promotional use, and this year I provided a photographic service for the riders at the Gravity Enduro events at the Bago winery, with all profits donated back to the club.

What’s the dream for you … Are there certain events you’d love to photograph, or places you’d like to travel to for your work?

I love travelling. It provides me with fresh inspiration and new landscapes/settings for my work. I recall how starstruck I was by the Australian landscape when I first arrived; it was so different to anything I’d experienced before. However, I don’t like to be away for too long now that I have a young family. My ultimate dream as a photographer has always been to shoot for the Pirelli calendar… You did say dream!

How can readers contact you or see more examples of your work?

Website: www.ronniegrammatica.com and I’m on social media: www.facebook.com/ronnie.grammatica/ and www.instagram.com/ronniegrammatica/

Thanks Ronnie.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

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