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Why portrait guru Claudio Napolitano is giving something back

08/08/2011 ‘My Hasselblad Masters Award was like winning a Nobel Prize. It was a life-changing moment’.

Photo: Claudio Napolitano

Claudio Napolitano’s commercial work has graced the pages of top magazines like Vogue and his clients include iconic brands like Coca Cola, Jeep and General Motors but he revealed this week that winning the Hasselblad Masters Award 2009 was like an epiphany to him.

Napolitano, whose family background is Italian, was brought up in Caracas, one of the world’s most violent and dangerous cities. He told Hasselblad News: “I spend quite a lot of my time in Florida now but I am constantly drawn back to the place where I spent my childhood – despite the fact that around fifty people a week are killed in that city.

It is vital for me to keep the connection I have always had with the Third World. Caracas houses one of the biggest slums on the planet. It’s a constant war zone. There are some strange paradoxes in that city. A wealthy and beautiful woman can walk out of a plush Louis Vuitton store and she will immediately walk past people who are living in abject poverty.

It is this irony that prompted me to produce homage to the people that live there – and also pictures like my ‘Little Prince’ image of a beautifully attired curly-haired small boy pointing down towards the city at night below him.”

But winning the Masters Award two years ago completely changed Napolitano’s outlook on life. “It was better than an Oscar. It was more like a Nobel Prize to me” he admitted. “It was then that I decided I had to start giving something back – or pay it forward, as they say.

I decided that my personal work would focus on social themes and homeless people. I donated work to one foundation that works with the homeless and that was the first step to a new project I am currently involved with in association with a big homeless association in Florida.

The award just made me think differently. That win was excellent for me as a marketing tool but now I have engaged myself to do something for people that have nothing. I was fortunate in Caracas as a child. I lived in a crystal bubble. Now I feel I have to use my talent to help others.”

Photo: Claudio Napolitano

Embracing the same spirit of generosity Napolitano has also given his trusted Hasselblad 503CW camera and all its lenses to his assistant. “I used that camera to win the Hasselblad Award”, he added “But in January this year I decided to buy an H4D-40. It’s a great camera for street shoots.

It’s light and very, very easy to use. It’s as easy as using a 35mm camera but with much higher image quality. And what really convinced me to buy it was its True Focus facility – which is just outstanding. The only problem I have now is that I must take extra bodyguards with me if I am shooting in the city slum areas with this new camera!”

To find out more about Claudio Napolitano, visit: www.claudionapolitanophoto.com