Welcome back from the Giro d’Italia, Alessandro.
Thank you. Giro d’Italia number 18, it’s a lot. The first one I followed was in 1994, I skipped just a few of them, but generally is an event I wouldn’t miss under any circumstances.
What does the Giro have that other races don’t?
The Giro d’Italia means countless possibilities. It’s the landscape diversity which changes more than once within the same stage. I have covered also 4 Tour de France in my career, and the Tour as well is an outstanding experience. However, in France you have the feeling that some days the landscape remains always the same, with a boundless countryside and immense sunflower fields. In Italy everything always changes.
But the Tour de France gave you the chance to take one of the most important picture of your whole career.
That’s true. It was Lance Armstrong’s supremacy period, 2005 to be precise. Armstrong was known for never being alone during the race, he was surrounded and defended by his team mates on every occasion. That day, we had just gotten out of a city, Armstrong stopped and peed, completely alone. The physiological break is one of those moments in which there is an unwritten law forbidding to take a picture; therefore, I waited for him to get back to the bike and join the group again. I photographed him in the middle of the cornfields, on the pedals, alone. Then, the picture would be used by Sports Illustrated as cover. I did good and I was lucky.
And what about your most famous Giro’s picture?
Surely Pantani and the sponge, Pampeago Alp, 1999. I think it’s my favorite picture ever, and I remember it as if it’s yesterday. Pantani did not use to take anything from the audience, but that day was very hot, and he accepted a drenched sponge from a spectator. He rubbed his head at the very moment when I was there, with his eyes closed and his mouth open. That picture, the first digital one, became soon a sort of icon, and, even though I have never had the chance to talk to Pantani, I know he liked it, too, and his Foundation used it on several occasions.
Has a runner ever talked to you about a picture you took?
Yes, they have, especially when they stop running, then I got to meet them at expositions and events. It happened that former champions such as Paolo Bettin and Ivan Basso told me something like: “ah, did you take that picture? So nice!”. But the funkiest request didn’t come from a biker.
And from whom?
From a priest. Giro d’Italia 2013, Ischia’s team time trial. Around the corner I saw a priest on the roadside, a sort of Don Camillo, with an Italian flag in one hand, and his bike on the other. I took a blurred picture of him in the middle, crying, and the bikers crossing. Sportweek issued the picture, the priest saw it, and somehow he managed to get in touch with me. Then, this Ischia’s Don Salvatore phoned me: he thanks me, he tells that it’s his best picture ever and he asks me to send him the pic.
As a matter of fact, there is still something that only a nice picture can give back.
The photographer eye is at the same time closer and larger, it can put emphasis on the details of the spectators while they are staring at the race passage. And more, a pic is emotion, it freezes time and it lasts forever. Everything else goes too fast.
Also bikes go fast. How hard is to take the perfect picture during a cycling race?
The main problem is that either you ride your bike preempting the runners, or you chase them. If, when you stop, you hesitate too much and take a picture which is not valuable for some reasons, you don’t have a second chance, you’ve lost the momentum. Due to this, it is of utmost importance to study the Garibaldi the day before, to choose the precise spot, or to be so lucky, as I am, to know the mountains streets well.
However, the unpredictability of the race is always around the corner.
Always. Let’s think about the Giro which has just finished. During the Stelvio’s stage I kept close to Tom Dumoulin, the pink jersey, until one minute before he stopped for intestinal distress. But when it happened, there was nobody with him, there aren’t any pics of that moment, and maybe, all in all, it’s for the best.
Is it better to photograph the landscape or the runners?
A fair mix of both things: the runners in the landscape. From this standpoint, the Dolomites are the best place of all.
Does being inside the race increase or reduce the epic feelings with which cycling is perceived?
Well, I wouldn’t be able to wait for the race passage for hours anymore, as thousands of fans do along the streets. I lost this capability. However, being inside the race is like a whole other world, is vital.
In the end, do you still enjoy photographing cycling?
So much. I’d leave tomorrow morning for a new Giro d’Italia.
A selection of black and white pictures of Alessandro Trovati will be exhibited until the 18th of June at La Casa Museo Spazio Tadini in Milan. The exhibition is called “Lo sport in bianco e nero” (The sport in black and white) and it is held by Federicapaola Capecchi.