Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Donato DiCamillo quickly grew a fascination for life in the streets. “There was so much to see those days,” he tells Resource Magazine, “from kids playing in parks to wonderfully painted graffitied trains… You could even catch pimps and gangsters hanging out out street corners on some days. Not to say that it all was a healthy way of living, but there was so much character and soul, the streets were full of life.”
“I sometimes feel like I picked up a camera at the wrong time in life. So much more was going on many years ago. Attitudes, styles, and character all have seemed to become somewhat similar over the years.”
Unfortunately, life was not always fair for DiCamillo. He claims he had to learn to think quick and use street instincts – something that “bled into my photography later on in life” – and started getting into trouble at the age of 12. In 2006, he got arrested on federal charges and placed in prison. It was here where DiCamillo read magazines like National Geographic, LIFE and Smithsonian, which allowed him “to learn about the world outside my mind.”
“I read a lot about human behavior and psychology and acquired tools that later on helped me to navigate around the diverse personalities I came in contact with when making photographs.”
By 2012, DiCamillo was placed on house arrest and probation. Having not much else to do, he picked up a camera and started photographing things in and around his home, like insects and birds. He taught himself the basic functions of the camera by watching YouTube and reading photography blogs, and eventually turned to his first love: street photography.
“I am influenced a lot by Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Helen Levitt and Diane Arbus, but mostly William Klein and Bruce Gilden, whom I felt projected the same energy I had inside me. Their street work slapped me in the face.”
Below are some examples of DiCamillo’s captivating work. All pictures were taken over the last three years, and are used here with the artist’s permission. He calls his style “to look for the truth in people,” and when we asked him how strangers react when he asks them if he can take their picture, DiCamillo tells us that it “depends on the subject, most of the time it makes them feel special.”