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Efrem Raimondi

Picture-Perfect Portraiture
Versatility, Image Quality, Control Built Into H3DII-39

”The H3DII takes me beyond the digital/not digital question, so I can fully concentrate on the creative process.”
Efrem Raimondi

Long Jumper Andrew Howe for First magazine, February 2008, Rome, Italy, with the H3DII-39, f/3.5 50mm lens, and ring flash.

Swimmer Filippo Magnini for First magazine, March 2008, Rome, Italy, with the H3DII-39, f/2.8 80mm, and ring flash.

Fencer Aldo Montano for First magazine, March 2008, Rome, Italy, with the H3DII-39, f/2.8 80mm, and ring flash.

Efrem Raimondi (www.efremraimondi.it), based in Milan, is one of Italy’s foremost portrait photographers. A professional photographer since 1983, he serves a diverse clientele of commercial, advertising, and publication companies, as well as fine art collectors. Sought after for his versatility, as well as his creativity, Raimondi has a broad portfolio that includes the World Health Organization’s Stop TB ad campaign, the Italian Parkinson Disease Association campaign, and publicity portraiture of headliners from the music, design, art, movies, sports, and political arenas. His honors include a Special Award from the AFIP/Art Directors Club Italiano. Whether he’s on editorial assignments for Stern, GQ America and Italia, Men’s Health Italia, Italian Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Grazia, Nova, Capital, Max, and Interni, commercial shoots for Dainese, Cassina, Prada, Trussardi, IBM, and EMI, or producing fine art prints for collectors, Raimondi captures his energetic signature images with the  H3DII-39.

I grew up in a family where art was a familiar topic. Caravaggio's use of light was a formative discussion for me. My first master was my father, Luigi Raimondi; then, Richard Avedon and his influence; then Luigi Ghirri, another “poet of silence” whose photography has nothing to do with portraiture. I had attended the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Milan for two years, before realizing that making pictures was probably the best way for me to express ideas. So, in 1979, I began shooting - no schools, no workshops. I'm self-taught and it hasn't been simple. I love photographs and authors who use their medium to convey a vision of the world.

Language is everything to me, no matter the subject. My idea of language is having a voice, people recognizing who is speaking as soon as they hear that voice. So when people recognize my photos before reading my name in the caption, I realize that I have my own language, my own voice.

I started using the H3DII-39 in October 2007, when I was given the opportunity to test it. Before that, I had used almost every film format, from Leica to large format, and even disposables, but had never tried a Hasselblad. My first digital camera was a Ricoh compact, which I still use. Now I find the H3DII-39 a very versatile system and use it for every assignment except my “on the road” images.

For me, the main obstacle to shooting digital was the flatness of the files because I love depth and volume. A further problem was the small size of the digital file, which forces you to make bad interpolations. In short, the obstacle was the quality gap between film and digital files. The H3DII-39 has been a true discovery for me. The amount of information in a Hasselblad file is bigger than that of any file scanned from film. My images have superior resolution, color quality - in black-and-white, as well - and are noise-free. I started using Phocus software very recently, and find it fast, user-friendly, and excellent at eliminating moiré. I was already very satisfied with FlexColor, but this new software is even more helpful at speeding up production.

The H3DII has made a big difference on photo shoots. As soon as an image appears on the monitor, I immediately notice the client’s satisfaction. When my software assistant focuses on details, it's amazing. Everybody can see the difference, from the professional on the set, who has specialized knowledge, to the shooting subject, and her or his entourage.

One of the most extensive portrait assignments I have shot with the H3DII is the project I did for First magazine in Milan and Rome, in February and March 2008. It featured outstanding Italian athletes who were selected to represent Italy in the Bejing Olympics. These pictures relate their “Olympic victory dream.” You can dream with your eyes closed, when you are sleeping, or when you have an intimate vision that's only yours. The competition is still to come—you are lost to the world, imagining. In the case of boxer Clemente Russo, you feel as if you are already there, and the challenge begins with my lens pointing at you. I am your opponent.

The H3DII optimized the whole process, from capture to production and post-production, giving me better control of every step of the shoot. Some of these images were selected for an exhibition named “Golden Dream,” presented at Pitti Uomo in Florence, in June 2008, edited by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. For that outdoor installation at the Villa Vittoria Gardens, the files were printed on 280x200cm PVC sheets. Their quality and performance were really impressive. During the opening, a Mondadori top manager asked me about the camera I had been using.

I am currently working on a new book project, Self. The H3DII has taken me beyond the digital/not digital question, so I can fully concentrate on the creative process.

Text: Alice B. Miller