Italian photojournalist Gabriele Galimberti won first prize in the “Portrait Stories” category of World Press Photo 2021 with his project The Ameriguns. In the series of photographs, taken in 2020, he captured proud and passionate gun owners and collectors across the US. The aim, says the Tuscany-born photographer, was to better understand what is at the root of the relationship that many Americans have with these controversial, lethal weapons. Speak Up met with Galimberti to find out more about his work.
Gabriele Galimberti (Italian accent): I got in touch with more than five hundred people, over six or seven months of research. And then I selected fifty of them. The selection was easy actually because I was looking for people spread out everywhere in the USA, so not only in Texas or in Arizona, because I wanted to make a large portrait of the American society and culture of guns because we tend to think that guns are concentrated only in the South, which is partially true, but it’s not the complete story. And so I made the selection, first of all, looking everywhere, and also looking for a large variety of people, old, young, families, Black, White, Latinos, Asians, rich, poor... because I understood that guns are really everywhere in the USA.
WORKING AN IMAGE
Galimberti’s images are staged yet in a way that reveals a greater truth.
Gabriele Galimberti: When I take the portrait, it’s always a work of building up the picture because I want to include many elements. Of course, it’s documentary photography because everything that I photograph and everything that I show is real. It’s never fake, it’s never modified. But yes, I have to admit that I direct the scene. So what you see in the picture, it’s really happened, but it has happened because I wanted that to happen. It’s not a natural scene, but I think that’s clear, especially in this project with guns. If you see a family with two hundred guns laid on the floor in front of the house, that’s of course something that I wanted to happen.
Gun ownership in the US is an incredibly divisive issue. The photojournalist was well aware of his responsibility to approach it with sensitivity.
Gabriele Galimberti: There were a couple of of situations where I felt like I had to pay more attention, especially about what I say, because it’s so sensitive that when I was with them, interviewing them, I needed to be really careful about not judging anything, because I really didn’t want to be there as a judge and say it’s right or it’s wrong. I was just curious to understand why Americans love guns so much.
A Recipe for Life
Born in 1977 in Tuscany, Gabriele Galimberti studied photography in Florence and then worked as a fashion photography assistant in Florence and Milan. Interested in the interchange between storytelling, documentary photography and travel photography, his solo travels to fifty-eight countries in the space of two years culminated in the photobook My Couch Is Your Couch (2015) dedicated to couch-surfing. Galimberti’s images have appeared in a variety of international publications, from magazines National Geographic and Marie Claire, to newspapers such as the UK’s Sunday Times, France’s Le Monde and Italy’s La Repubblica. A number of his projects have become books, including Toy Stories (2016), The Heavens (2015), or In Her Kitchen (2014), an intimate look at the relationship between grandmothers and cooking, inspired by his grandmother’s concerns about the food he ate when he travelled.