It was 2014 when New Yorker Donato Di Camillo could finally roam the city he knew and loved, camera in tow, documenting the unfamiliar faces and eccentric individuals that passed him by. This pastime, however, had long been kept from him.
Di Camillo first became interested in photography eight years prior, while serving time in prison for a federal crime. Locked behind bars, Di Camillo obsessively pored over the glossy pages of National Geographic, Time, and Smithsonian magazines, enchanted by the images of the outside world beyond his reach.
“It allowed me time to learn about the world outside my mind. I read a lot about human behavior and psychology and realized that I had already acquired most of this knowledge unknowingly on the streets. These tools I acquired taught me to navigate around the diverse characteristics and personalities which came in handy when making photographs later on.”
Di Camillo has a long history of stealing, first arrested when he was 12 years old. In 2006, Di Camillo was arrested in connection with members of the Colombo crime family and initially faced a max sentence of 20 years in prison. He was sentenced to 36 months at the Petersburg, Virginia medium security prison, but was placed on house arrest for two years before he could start serving his sentence. He was released in June 2011. Di Camillo spent three additional years on house arrest and probation. During this time, he learned about the mechanics behind images that had gotten him through his prison sentence, studying up via YouTube tutorials and photography blogs. The budding photographer made the most of the 120-foot parameter he was allowed to occupy, capturing whatever insects, birds and plants came his way.
His true interest, however, was street photography ― off-the-cuff images of the city he knew and loved, following in the footsteps of William Klein, Diane Arbus, and more specifically Bruce Gilden.
Di Camillo has become a photographer committed to capturing people on the fringes of society, those that often remain unseen or, even worse, deliberately ignored. The sharp and colorful images linger on every single sloppy detail, translating the ugly beauty of being a human being into intoxicating images.