Interview with Rico X.
BIFA 2021 Winner, 1st Place, Non-Professional Nature category, “Who Left The Bloody Lights On”
Q: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you discover your love for photography?
Hmmmm the cliché, “who are you, how did you get here, tell me about you etc…” question, Rico hates this question, there is who you think you are, the “you” people think you are and what you really are, and who really cares when you are dead and gone?!?!
We just a dude who always took pictures from a young age, then one day started taking pics with “intent” but “hobby intent” and like all serious hobbies, we call them hobbies as they don’t make enough to pay the bills or in my case keep the drinks cabinet full, it got out of control and here we are, traveling the world in our spare time and when downroute with work shooting the world we see.
But in the case of this honor, from the cockpit.
Q: What was your last work and how did the initial spark of inspiration come about?
I actually have multiple projects ongoing (many not complete), inspiration, hmm that comes just from thinking hmmm could that be a good idea, yes, no, no, maybe, hmmm that would be difficult, but to hell with it, let’s give it a try, I go out there, give it a crack, come home and see how Rico threw it down.
Also bar this “niche” series I shot which has got me here talking about myself, I have many series on the ground “unpublished” which are spontaneous, as I like to just book trips to random countries, hire a car or a driver and just drive and what I see I stop, jump out get to know the people and shoot, I find that to be more authentic.
I probably need to publish more on my website, hmmm one day.
Q: You were awarded Non-Professional Nature Photographer of the Year 2021 for your piercingly honest work, Who Left the Bloody Lights On? Can you tell us more about the technical side of this project and how it came to be? Why did you choose this particular subject?
So yeh, the “highly challenging” process of shooting the world’s cities, towns and villages at night from the cockpit of my Boeing B777 doing 600mph, six miles above the ground looking out of small small windows with avionics reflections everywhere, hoping there is no turbulence all while having to handhold longer than normal exposure times, while also trying to focus on the ground 6 miles below, while trying to find periods of low low workload, HARD as….!!!
….It is actually easier than you think, the biggest issue is the weather, sometimes it takes months to shoot a city, because of weather aka clouds, “PUFF” nothing by pitch black below, also we don’t fly over the same city all the time or it could take months to fly the same route again, despite all of that we have a great collection of over 100 cities/towns from around the world now and growing.
Q: Is Nature your main genre, or do you enjoy creating in other genres as well?
Rico shoots it all except “traditional landscape” really, we also have an ongoing toxic love hate relationship with “posed” portraits. Love the candid and authentic “everyday” style of shooting.
We would say we are a better documentary/street photographer than a nature photographer (we have won some honors and awards for those as well, so yeah, we’ll see)
Q: What does winning this award mean to you?
Rico will be honest as always, it is stressful, because winning the “first one” is easy I guess, the issue will be maintaining the same standard now going forward, everybody can do one great project. To use the cliche phrase “form is temporary, class is permanent” says most it all really, BUT which one RIco is, who knows, we’ll see, it is early days in my photography career.
Also with this, it can and probably WILL bring self doubt, questioning one’s work from this day going forth, probably will put me in situations where I underwhelm or overdo it trying to achieve the same results, but i guess that is the nature of the beast.
Q: What would be your dream project in photography if there would be no budget limits and you could travel anywhere, photograph anything/anyone?
Visit and shoot every country in Africa and the Caribbean. It is time that my people’s story (yes I am a black man) is told by a black man and the narrative is that of a black man, show the world the positive happy side of my people and their culture and everyday lives, it is not all Bob Marely, war/geoncide, “dodgy” corrupt leaders, “staged” tourist trap traditional dress with bones in their noses, famine and coup d’etat’s believe it or not.
“WE” HAVE offered a lot to the old and modern world through education and culture.
Q: What is the one piece of advice that you received in the past about photography that you follow to this day?
Rico for the love of god, stop with the vignetting in post processing!!!
So yeah we stopped doing that 3 years ago. Thanks to those people, they were my friends (photographers and non-photographers), who have the balls and non-balls (my female friends) to be brutally honest with me, which I loved because I am the brutally honest type, I call a spade a spade, no sugar coating.
Q: Are you working on something new right now? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
See above, lol.
Ok joking aside, we spent 2021 traveling the covid world (outside of work) Ghana, Bosnia, Ivory Coast, Montenegro, Croatia, Ivory Coast, Greece, Zanzibar shooting “real life” and “real life stories” from local palm oil production in Ghana in its most basic form to a famous Greek potter/ceramicist in Santorini, to the fisherman of Africa, the large scale local production of the famous West African staple food that is “Attieke” (like couscous, but not, made from cassava/yuca) in a village on a lagoon/lake that feeds the busy Ivorian city of Abjiban and it’s surrounding towns and villages. Watch this space, we may release some of this stuff on my website in 2022.
P.s. oh yeah, also we have this ongoing project in Africa’s largest slum (hate the word “slum”) so let’s rephrase that, Africans largest impoverished community of close to 1 million people, probably finish that towards the end of 2022.