For dreamy tones and somber hues we turn to the work of @vitellozzo_brado. Massimiliano, the man behind the account, is a fun-loving Italian who happens to excel at creating with deep contrast and communicating emotion through the absence of light. We have quite enjoyed following the journey of his artistry while admiring his Mextures work as he often shares his formulas. We spent some time with him recently and now we’re inviting you to join in. Read along!
I am… a lot of my followers have dreamt about this moment… who’s the man behind Vitellozzo… it’s time to drop the mask, I presume. My name is Massimiliano Acerra. For the curious, “Vitellozzo” is the name of a character from an Italian cult movie directed by Massimo Troisi and Roberto Benigni. I’m from Rome, Italy.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL?
I graduated in surveying, but I knew soon after that graphics would be my path. So after a few professional training courses and a lot of DIY, I started working as graphic designer and I’m still doing it. When you’ve been editing photos for two decades, there comes a time for some fun… and it’s called Mextures.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD?
The italian cuisine is full of temptations and choosing a comfort food is really hard, but if I had to I’d say “pasta and beans” (in winter) and “supplì”, one of Rome’s best street foods, a fried rice ball with tomato sauce and mozzarella (for every occasion).
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
My spirit animal is definitely the sloth. Slowness, that’s the key to happiness.
WHAT TWO CELEBRITIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE YOUR PARENTS?
My choices would be Tim Burton and Scarlett Johansson. It would be great listening to his frightening bedtimes stories and then being pampered by ‘Her’ sweet voice while falling asleep.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR INSTAGRAM ALONE?
Like everyone else, I’m a music lover. It doesn’t sound very interesting, but if you're careful, just flowing through my feed, you can hear sounds, words and vibes from an imaginary playlist inspired by the pictures. Indeed, most of my post captions come from music I’m listening to when I play with my phone.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU’VE NEVER DONE BUT WOULD LIKE TO TRY?
I love hiking but I've never been rock climbing. I'll try it, some day.
(My wife will be thrilled to hear this. She's been pushing me to do it for years.)
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY/DESIGN?
About my background, I grew up in the early nineties (today I'm 43). The web was just a little creature, so if you wanted to discover things you had to buy books, magazines, records, movies. Well, not so different from today, but it was a little more expensive.
The spark that started the fire in those years began when I bought a collection of 'Ray Gun', an alternative music magazine designed by David Carson. With his deconstructed and grungy style, he changed my approach to graphic design.
At the same time my passion for photography grew bigger and bigger. Some of my favourite artist were (in random order): Anton Corbijn, Nan Goldin, Wim Wenders, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Luigi Ghirri, Letizia Battaglia. They are different in sensibility and aesthetic, but that's the mess I've been keeping inside all of these long years!
Today, I have to admit, thanks to the 'beloved' social media there are countless talented artists yet to be discovered, endless paths to take. What I like is pretty much the same today as it was then: music, movies, graphic design, figurative and visual arts… and, oh yes, I'm a TV series addict.
HAS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYED A ROLE IN YOUR WORK?
I wouldn't call myself a social animal. Indeed, I've never really been interested in Facebook. But today I consider Instagram a driving force for my creative process. As it often happens, it all started playfully, when I was looking for a new pastime on my way to work. I had a ton of pictures on the cloud, mostly messed up or simply forgotten, that I didn't know exactly what to do with.
Some days you have to spend a lot of time on public transport, so I started spending mine editing some photos on my iPhone and posting them, waiting for a sign. Nobody told me that it would be highly addictive. But on Instagram I got inspired by many users and communities.
One of the many was the Mextures Collective, where I learned to use other’s pictures and Mextures formulas. That's when I totally discovered new ways to play with photography.
IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU TRY TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH YOUR WORK?
I don't think I have a particular message to deliver but my modest purpose is just delight and amazement. I love to experiment with different editing styles and sometimes I like to push it to the limits. For example, creating the darkest, spooky mood out of a sunny landscape or creating a supernatural scene with a little touch of magic. As I said, I just share my pictures for fun and I hope that anyone who sees my work will do the same. My mission: not taking myself too seriously. Would you do that with a name like Vitellozzo?
HOW DO YOU GENERALLY APPROACH YOUR EDITING PROCESS AND HOW DO YOU USE MEXTURES IN THAT PROCESS?
I usually take my pictures with an iPhone 5s and some 10% with a Sony Alpha 6000. My smartphone is always in my pocket ready to capture the unexpected, anytime and everywhere I am, whether a particular light or an intriguing subject. It's because of all of this freedom and ease of shooting that sometimes you have to compromise. Indeed, I frequently have rough images with a few minor flaws. So most of the time, the first step in the editing process is with PicsArt app. There are a couple of filters that I love to use to make the images clear and sharp.
Then I open the image in Mextures. That's where the going gets tough. Here begins the strongest and funniest part of editing. I can basically sum up my editing process in two different approaches: the first is definitely aggressive, when I want to apply some gloomy or dirty aspect to my pics; the other is softer, when I just want a gentle touch for my shots. Lots of grunge textures, emulsions, grit and grain to get deep damages. An avalanche of Landscape Enhancements, Atmospheric and Vintage Gradients for a perfect mood. Sometimes an Anomaly texture is just the icing on the cake. Some of my favorite and most used film presets are Punch, UV, Superia and P-Cross Process.
After that I import the result in VSCO to put the finishing touch on the hues. The last step, a few adjustments in Instagram, especially on the fade.
I have one rule: never say finished. Every edit is always unpredictable 'til it is posted!
CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF YOUR FORMULAS?
The chef's choice!
NIGHT FALLS - QVYHRUM - When a name says it all... It just lets darkness descend over your sunniest landscape.
FEEL THE PAIN - QNQFJYC - Ten layers to obtain a cold, dirt, grungy mood. Adjust the saturation to get more vibrant colors.
UNDERTONE - VWAKXRR - Strong desaturation at low temperature, the high contrast is well balanced by the fade.
TIPSY KINK - AITLGQS - A radiance boost with anomalous texture and light leak.
GUILTY - TLFFQBV - Subtle, grungy texture with mid-level saturation, recommended for floral still life.
FOR YOU, WHAT IS IT ABOUT MEXTURES THAT MAKES IT A VITAL PIECE OF YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
I must confess that my work wouldn't be the same if I hadn't discovered Mextures. The limitless combinations of layers, textures and overlays match the endless editing possibilities to explore. When I open the app and choose a photo from my gallery, I really don't know how it will be at the end of my workflow. But, surely what I can get is a distinctive character and enhanced atmosphere for my photos. No other apps can offer similar creative potentials.
PICK TWO OF YOUR FAVORITE PIECES THAT YOU'VE CREATED: WHAT IS IT ABOUT THEM THAT MAKES THEM STAND OUT TO YOU?
I’ve been giving the same care and absolute love to all of my creatures, kind of like a parent’s’ love. Making a choice is quite difficult, but one of my favorite is 'just like honey’, probably the most appreciated ever in terms of likes, once it had been reposted on @vzcomacro. A pretty daisies shot taken during a spring day on the mountain in the Apennines of Central Italy. I love it for the focus on flowers, its dark green palette and the faded white of the petals, obtained with an editing process through PicsArt and Mextures.
Another great piece of mine I'm proud of, comes from the woods series and is captioned ‘the ghosts that haunt were in there with me’. It's a wide-angle view of trees taken from the bottom to the top, where the soft vignetting extends over the brown soil and the light foliage, focusing on the groovy roots. The blend of light and shadow make the image strongly somber but somehow not quite hopeless.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?
I could say that the most important thing for me is driving my impulse to create, or learning from others to develop my professional skills as photographer, or motivating people to find their own way to creativity, or expressing emotions and feelings otherwise unexpressed, or leaving my mark on this world, or feeding my narcissism, or just feeling that thrill called 'like', or world peace. Why not? Yes, I could say that. It's for all or none of these reasons that I'll keep going around with a camera and a smartphone in my backpack for as long as possible.
IF YOU COULD STEAL CREDIT FOR ONE INSTAGRAM FEED, WHOSE WOULD IT BE?
I'd probably vote for a choice evenly divided between @airpixels and @kpunkka. Two titans of the photography world! I love both of their work. Tobias is sort of a King of Heaven with his otherworldly views over unknown lands, just like I may consider Konsta a modern St. Francis of Assisi. His ability to speak to all creatures is undisputed.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MOST INSPIRED YOUR WORK?
There are so many people that inspire me every day, but not necessarily in the way I edit my work. I'm often fascinated by a particular use of light and tones, or a weird subject, or an unusual composition that I could probably never replicate with my gear and my technique, but I'm sure that some of the things I see every day go deep and stay there waiting to come out.
I'd just like to mention that I was first introduced to Mextures when I found @521gemini, @merderich, @littlesquarelives and @mr.dr.tinka. Nikki, Mar, Patricia and Kristina through the hubs of @sombrescapes, @m3xtures, @fa_fadeaway and @fiftyshades_of_darkness have shown me the 'dark' at the end of the tunnel and for that I'm eternally grateful!
On the other hand, my path to enlightenment led me to great communities like @rsa_mextures and @the_moody_way, where I met Charla, Sneha and Kevin (@charla_yvonne, @snehabhadri, @takes_picture) and Susie and Kev (@soulfulwanderings, @eppytaff), all excellent artists with distinctive character and sensibilities.
My work on flowers led me to discover some great hubs, one of these is certainly @filthyflora, where I learnt how a decaying flora could be so dramatic and amazing at the same time. And speaking of the miracles of nature, I must talk about @_dark_k_, @pfeffergruen and @hurlburley. Kaori, Katharina and Anna always show a wondrous vision of dreamy and mysterious nature.
The one I consider the mentor from the very beginning is @bip3de. Stefano has been a wise and trusted fellow traveler during my whole journey, though he always considers my flowers good for the cemetery.
Some other friends I absolutely have to mention are @eleathar and @gabrilong. Francesco and Gabriele, besides being so talented and imaginative, two of the most hard-working instagrammers I have ever followed. They have been supporting me since my early work. Thanks guys!
My very special thanks and respect goes to my family and all my friends/followers for all their constant support.
See much more of @vitellozzo_brado’s work here!