Interview With Valentina Benigni from France

Interview With Yosh Hase from Singapore
February 2, 2024
Interview With Stuart Reed Martin from United States
February 2, 2024

Valentina Benigni | New York Photography Awards

Valentina Benigni

Valentina Benigni started photography at age five and turned it into a profession in 2020. She has exhibited fine art photos, particularly of flamenco, and has self-published a book with a selection of her best images.

1Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?

Hi, my name is Valentina Benigni. I started photography with silver cameras at 5yo, turning it into a profession just in 2020. As a fine art photographer, I exhibit my limited-edition photos, especially flamenco. In 2022, I self-published a fine art book with a selection of them.

My photographic approach takes on the literal meaning of the word "photography": writing with light. I love light and being able to tell stories with it. The camera is a magical tool that allows you to tell unique stories that can take the viewer's mind to unknown places of the soul.

I see fine art photography as the translation of the captured moment into the language of emotions. Dance photography has deep roots in me: it has been practiced for almost 20 years. Today I dance through my eyes, capturing the emotions danced on live shows.

2Where did you study photography?

I am self-taught: I learned mostly by testing and playing with the camera, but also by reading books and doing workshops with important photographers that allowed me to learn new perspectives, and learn and find my photographic style and language.

3Do you remember your first shot? What was it?

I don't remember my first shot, but I remember why I started: I liked the idea of capturing unrepeatable instants and spontaneous emotions that could live forever. Over time, it also became a way to express my emotions, using creativity during the shooting: framing, long pose, black and white contrast, geometry… All were used to convey more than just a static shot and tell a story.

4What equipment do you use?
I have always used Canon, I love the underlying logic and quality. I currently use the Canon R6 with several R-series lenses. My favorite? The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM, a gem!
5What do you hope to achieve?
I dream that I can capture emotions around the world and make them eternal in my photographs. And then I dream that these photographs will travel around the world, leaving traces of emotions everywhere. Art can touch intimate chords in strangers, to make connections and open doors and reflections in people we don't know. I dream that photography can have this magical power and leave footprints of light.
6What compliment inspired/touched you the most?

I always feel an intense emotion when people move in front of my photos with tears in their eyes. Unknown people thanked me because my photography had given them a strong emotion and touched intimate chords.

7What inspires your unique storytelling?

I think of photography as painting with light. I like to capture movement and make the photo come alive. It's not just a static photo of a dancer on stage. It's like you're right there in the performance, hearing the music, seeing the movements, feeling the emotions.

Through dance and photography, my goal is to help people recognize and feel their emotions. Accepting your vulnerability is a key to being true to yourself and living a fulfilling life. Vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength. It's about staying connected to yourself and living without barriers.

8What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
I'm a huge fan of emotion, intensity, and movement. I like to think of it as emotion in motion. Movement for me is like a way to express all of the unpredictable parts of life, evolution, adapting, and balance. Light is a big thing for me because it represents energy, hope, strength, passion, faith, and inspiration. But I also really love shadows because they give us contrast, intensity, and depth. I'm a big fan of genuine emotions, impromptu moments, and intense situations. My photos show stories mixed where light, movement, shadow, and emotion all interact to create a one-of-a-kind, lasting moment.
9Congratulations! As the winner of the New York Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?

This is my first time entering such an important international competition, and getting 2nd place and 3 honorable mentions is an incredible and unexpected thrill! I am honored to receive these important recognitions, which inspire me to continue and give me even more strength and energy to believe in my work and passion.

10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 New York Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

This series is part of a larger project of limited-edition fine art photographs taken during live flamenco performances between 2020 and 2023 in France and Spain. The aim is to represent the universal language of emotions through flamenco dance in a two-step process between light and emotion.

Dance is a powerful way of channeling and releasing emotions, able to express them unfiltered and transmit them even to those unfamiliar with dance.

An artistic approach that, through dance and photography, aims to sensitize people to recognize their own emotions, accept their vulnerability, give it space, and live it without barriers.

Vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness, is an essential tool for staying connected to yourself and living a fulfilling life.

Flamenco, a World Heritage-listed traditional dance, was born in the popular environment and expresses itself through improvisation, the spontaneous expression of emotions with intensity, authenticity, and strength, without fear of showing its own vulnerability. Instead, it becomes the only way to express one's own feelings and emotions. In a world that encourages us to wear masks to be accepted, to filter our emotions and conform, the goal is to reconnect with ourselves, to look at our emotions in the eye, to accept our vulnerability, and to make it our strength.

11How has winning an award developed your career?

So far, I have not yet reaped the benefits of these awards, but they certainly help my notoriety and credibility, as well as give more value to my photographs.

12Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.
Vivian Maier, Letizia Battaglia, Graziano Perotti. 3 Different approaches, but in all of them there is spontaneity, important storytelling, and intense emotion laced with mystery that allows the viewer to get excited and at the same time travel with the imagination.
13What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?

A few years ago, I had the good fortune and honor to take a workshop with a very inspiring photographer. Although I had been taking photographs for many years, I had never shown them to anyone. In his workshop it was mandatory and I was afraid of it. He told me, "There is something brilliant about your view of the world, but you are still too afraid of other people's gaze because you think you have to conform to be accepted. Trust your instinct and follow it. Your uniqueness is just waiting for you to allow it to blossom."

14What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?

I would tell him/her to keep their passion strong and never give up on their dreams. Sure, listen to other people's opinions, but never stop doing what feels right to them, because this job is tough, complex, and full of obstacles. The key to success is to stay passionate and push through these obstacles.

15What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

My passion for photography and a positive approach to life, both drive me every day. Defeats and disappointments also come, fatigue and difficulties are not lacking, but perhaps the key is to never forget why I started and to take every event that happens (good or bad) with gratitude as an opportunity to learn and evolve.

16How do you stay in that space of being receptive to new information and knowledge?
I subscribe to many newsletters and look for news online, to stay as informed as possible and always take a new opportunity to learn and seize opportunities that I may not have thought existed until then.
17Anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Thank you so much to the judges who gave me these 5 awards! Thank you for your sensitivity and for adding even more energy to my future projects!

Winning Entry

Emotions to the beat of flamenco | 2023

I've put together a few photographs from a much larger project, in which I want to represent different human emotions through photographs taken during live flamenco ...
(Read more at New York Photography Awards)

Valentina Benigni

Valentina Benigni started photography at age five and turned it into a profession in 2020. She has exhibited fine art photos, particularly of flamenco, and has self-published a book with a selection of her best images.

Read more about this article from Yosh Hase from Singapore, Gold Winner from the 2023 New York Photography Awards!