Artists I like: Dino Serrao

When I started my journey on the web many years ago my first locations to find new artists were forums, then Myspace, then Facebook. Today it is Instagram and this is also where the following artist caught my attention. I like the way he shows not only the portraits he takes but also the story of how he gets there and how the people he portrays react to it. So I asked him if I could interview him and he said yes. 🙂 So here are his answers:

Please introduce yourself:

My name is Dino Serrao, 35 years old. I come from Badolato a small town (Calabria region) in the south of Italy. I’m a street portraits photographer, a social media content creator and a people person that loves to inspire others.

What is your definition of art?

Art for me is an extension of our soul. What we feel inside our heart, like love, emotions, anger, feelings, thought imaginations and creativity merge in what is called art. Could be through painting, photography, music and so on. It should have a purpose as long as it leaves some value to inspire and impact others, not just to gain money or success (this comes along afterwards as a consequence). I always say, we are here to create an impact and not just an impression.

Half of a woman's face with blond hair and blue eyes next to half of a dog's face

What made you start street portrait photography and how did you actually start with it?

When I was young I used to observe people in their moment of life, on a quest, at the post office, on the train, in some discussions on the street, they were happy for something, or just absent minded and so on. All of them were strangers that somehow were experiencing the same feelings we all have but for different reasons or motives, so I started to admire those moments and those people’s expressions and I wanted to make them valuable. So I took my very first compact camera and started to take pics of them and learn and fail and learn again and improve slowly, slowly. Until one day I started this project of recording people’s reaction when I approached them to ask If I could take pics of them and show them the final results. That was a great click and confirmation of what my purpose was from now on.

What is the purpose of your artwork?

I wanted to inspire people to not take themselves and small moments of life for granted. Any moment of our life is precious and that’s what makes us unique pieces of art in this world. So I started to think, why should we focus only on stereotypes of beauty? Why do we think our life and ourselves not being worth it but that actor, politician, model, singer and VIPs? It’s time I show the world that the ordinary can be and actually is extraordinary.

Old men with white hair and long white beard that he is scratching with a tatooed hand

How do you chose the locations you work at?

Locations are pretty random actually. I prepare my gear and call my friend and cameraman and we just pick a random place in the city we are or any suburb, we start our walk around and we observe people. It’s a pretty normal walk to enjoy the day with the difference that if we get the chance we want to make someone else’s day as well a better day for him or her.

How do you chose the people you photograph?

As the location so the subject. It’s all about inspiration on the spot or intuition. Usually I start looking for someone that stands out of the crowd, maybe I’ve watched a movie or tv series and I think I’d like to find a random person in that way, similar to that character or with that kind of style and vibes, but then anything can happen and the creativity redirects somewhere else. Maybe I saw a beautiful moment, a gesture or something that attracts me to go and ask that person. (I promise I feel guilty to answer this coz usually people expect from artists a great answer but truth is that I don’t really plan the shoot and I don’t really know how it is going to be, and once the shoot is done, sometimes I am surprised myself about the great photos. The thing is I just saw something and I try to make it happen as similar as possible from my head to my heart to my camera.)

How many of them say yes and how many say no? How do you usually convince them?

Surprisingly very few say no, out of 5 people 1 say no. Maybe it’s me that attracts as a magnet the right ones or maybe im just lucky, I can’t say. All over the world it is strange when a stranger approaches you. People think they are not worthy, not beautiful, they are scared they can’t pose etc… Some of them wonder what I see in them because probably their self-esteem was dragged down in their experience, some are just shy but when I say directly to them “I think you are cool” everything changes in their mind and they give me the chance, and I always assure them if they are not happy with the final result I delete immediately the footage and pics form the camera, so they start to think “why not?”. They understand there is nothing I want to gain from them but I just wanna give to them, that’s all!

What is your favourite of your own photos and why?

Wow, not really easy to choose, lets say that So far my favorite is Wayne, the Asian and with long grey hair and white beard, I like that momento coz this man at first looked frail and confused but in the pics I see power and confidence in his eyes. However I love many of my portraits as all of them have an incredible impact and story behind.

Asian man with long dark hair and beard, starting to get grey

And which one is your favourite story behind one of your photos?

One of the greatest ones so far is Indiana, the curly blonde hair and blue eyes. She is a rare human being on earth. She is one of the last 17 World Citizens left. As she was born on a boat in no national waters, she got the privilege to get a World Citizen Passport that allows her to live in any country of the planet with no limits.

One day I went by chance in a small café and I noticed her making coffee at the bar. Pretty serious, looked like she was indifferent to everything and everyone. I suddenly though “damn she is gorgeous” I gotta take pics of her, so I asked her and the answer was “forget about it, young man, I never allowed and won’t allow to take pics of me”. It was a challenge now, I must take pics of her at any cost. So I started to go to that cafe every week to see her, talk to her, getting in confidence with her until one day she said: “ok you can, but don’t show them to me”.

middle aged woman with short curly and blond colored hair and blue eyes

What have you learned during your travels for this project (concerning people, photography or otherwise)?

I can’t really give a complete answer as I didn’t travel really a lot yet. This year should be the year of many travels for me. But for the few experience I had I can say that I find something in common wherever I go in whoever I meet. The majority of the people need at least once someone, external to their routine and family, to say to them some positive words. Even just a simple “you are doing a great job” to a waitress or “you look really nice with this coat” to a stranger. We should say more often pleasant words to each other, it completely changes the day for anyone.

Have you photographed in Germany yet or do you plan to do so?

Oh, Germany! I can’t wait to get experience there. Berlin and other cities in Germany have been always in my mind. I know form friends that live there or lived there that you can find incredible characters over there, and im also fascinated by the German architecture. Definitely, soon “ll be there, but I will need to stay at least 2/3 weeks.

Does GDPR make it difficult to pursue your project?

Not really so far in my I experience. I use a release form anyway to make sure people accept my terms and conditions and give me the rights to use their portraits.

Man with a blue and an brown eye wearing a headscarf hiding his mouth and lower nose

Are there any artists – photographers or other – you are inspired by (please provide link if possible)?

There are many I admire and sometimes get inspiration from, one of them is the artist Alex Grey. But I found in all these years that the first motive or engine that gave me inspiration in art was my father. He didn’t really pursue the path of the artist but when he was young he was a painter and we still have his artworks at home. I started to appreciate what he did coz his particular skill was to hide some messages and portraits inside the paintings. What I mean by that is optical illusions where you see an abstract city at first but if you look properly and you eliminate some part of the paint you will start to see another picture hidden behind. He used this method to communicate his principles and thoughts against a corrupted system in a time where it was forbidden to talk about those things. Simply love it.

Is there always someone with you to do a documentation of you working and is it always the same person(s)?

Yes there is always someone that records my journey but not always the same person. A friend of mine now is pretty often with me, but when he is busy someone else joins me. It’s a great experience for them as well coz they really care about the message we are spreading. It needs to be fun and enjoyable, otherwise it becomes like a job and that’s not the case, this is a mission.

Where can others find you on the web?

For now they can find me on my social media but on my website not so much yet as it is still a work in progress. They can purchase some of my presets and tutorial but no artworks yet on my website. But everyone can follow my journey on my social media.

All photos: Dino Serrao

Thank you so much for this interview, Dino!
I wish you a safe journey and lots of success with your mission.
I hope we can meet when you come to Germany. 🙂

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