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Interview with featured photographer Cosimo Campagna

from ‘Buen Camino’ © Cosimo Campagna

Cosimo Capangna’s project ‘Buen Camino‘ aims to capture the essence of the challenges for the pilgrimage in Spain called ‘El Camino de Santiago’(The Way of St. James); one of Europe’s most renowned pilgrimages. Campagna’s work strives to explore the deep connection individuals forge with themselves through sacrifice and dedication. Campagna reflects on the relationship between the landscape and human experiences to inspire deeper contemplation on both. The project is a culmination of his final year of studies in photography at the University of Plymouth. We are pleased to feature ‘Buen Camino’ for Issue #125, and I was fortunate to interview Cosimo about this project and his photographic practice.


Cary Benbow (CB): What inspires your art? What kind of stories do you wish to tell?

Cosimo Campagna (CC): I began taking photos when I started traveling. Initially, I didn’t know much about how a camera worked, but I enjoyed using it to share my experiences with my parents and siblings. I wanted to show them the many places I visited and the diverse cultures I encountered. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t just the act of traveling that inspired me, but also the desire to understand, witness, and experience cultures different from my own Italian culture. With photography, I can share these experiences with people and inspire others to step out of their comfort zone. This can be liberating, as it opens the mind to new possibilities.

CB: There are so many ways to express oneself in a 21st-century world — What makes photography your choice of expression?

CC: Photography has the power to tell a story, capture a moment, and provide context and meaning. A photograph can contain a message, speak a language that transcends language barriers, and allow people from different cultures and backgrounds to understand and appreciate it. It conveys a message instantly, often more effectively than words. It enables me to capture fleeting moments and preserve memories, creating a visual record of personal and historical events.

CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

CC: In my opinion, it’s important to find something that you like, a subject matter that resonates with you and allows you to see it in a different way. This unique perspective, understood only by the photographer, can evoke an emotional response. A good photograph, for me, is one that does all of these things.

CB: How do you describe your photography to someone who’s not familiar with it? Do you lean toward describing it as documentary or visual storytelling, for example?

CC: I am a documentary photographer with compelling storytelling and detailed focus on people and places. My work is primarily classified as documentary photography with strong elements of visual storytelling. While documentary photography grounds my work in reality and truth, visual storytelling enhances it by adding depth and engagement. This combination allows me to not only document but also to communicate powerful stories that can inspire and inform.

Through my lens, I aim to capture the authenticity and essence of the moments I document, whether it’s the resilience of people in challenging situations, the beauty of natural landscapes, or the cultural richness of different communities. My approach ensures that each photograph not only presents a factual representation but also invites viewers to connect emotionally and intellectually with the subject matter.

from ‘Buen Camino’ © Cosimo Campagna

from ‘Buen Camino’ © Cosimo Campagna

from ‘Buen Camino’ © Cosimo Campagna

CB: What do you feel are the “obligations” of a documentary photographer? Or what obligation do you have to the people in your photos?

CC: As a documentary photographer, there are several key obligations that one must uphold to maintain the integrity of the work and to respect the subjects being photographed. These obligations are rooted in ethical considerations, professional standards, and a commitment to truth and empathy. By adhering to these principles, photographers can ensure that their work not only captures reality accurately but also respects and dignifies the people and stories they are portraying.

CB: For your time on the El Camino de Santiago, did you go as a participant, or as a documentarian? Or both?

CC: I was both. You can’t truly document the Camino if you are not walking it. I mean, you can, but the feeling, the moment, the blistered feet, the walking 10 hours a day under all weather conditions won’t make much sense because you are not on the way. I thought that by walking the Camino, all that I was looking for would be what I would experience. All the pain, the moments of solitude, the camaraderie, the laughter, the meetings that pilgrims have on the way are things that I wanted to experience.

CB: While your work in the ‘Buen Camino’ project is specific to a certain place and experience, do you feel your work makes a comment on a broader level as well as the personal level?

CC: In “Buen Camino,” my work focuses on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, highlighting the unique experiences and cultural context of this historic journey. Although specific to Spain and religious pilgrimages, the themes and insights explored in this project have a universal appeal. The idea of embarking on a journey and undergoing personal transformation is a universal theme that extends beyond the confines of Spain. While the Camino de Santiago is a specific pilgrimage, the underlying experiences of self-discovery, perseverance, and growth resonate with anyone facing significant life changes.

My work invites viewers to connect with the individual stories of pilgrims, fostering empathy and understanding. On a broader level, the project encourages reflection on shared human experiences and societal issues.

CB: Which artists have been most important to you? How does their work inform your own creative process?

CC: I have several favourite photographers, but at the moment, the three most relevant to me are Alys Tomlison, Alec Soth, and Siân Davey. They each have their own unique way of creating their work and differ from each other in how they approach their subjects, their methodologies, and the cameras they use. However, all of them share the quality of producing consistent work on personal projects. They create work that is consistent and meaningful to the viewer, evoking emotions and feelings that stimulate the viewer. I aspire to reach their level and create that kind of work. Additionally, they all have the ability to communicate with their subjects, direct them in front of the lens, and make them feel comfortable, something that comes with experience, which I hope someday to master.

from ‘Men at Sea’ © Cosimo Campagna

from ‘Buen Camino’ © Cosimo Campagna

from ‘Sisters of the Sea’ © Cosimo Campagna

CB: I’m curious why you left Italy to go to England and The University of Plymouth. Why did you choose that school and place?

CC: I left Italy when I was 21 years old, and at that time, the idea of attending university wasn’t really on my mind. After traveling in and out of England to explore the world, I decided to apply to three universities in January 2020. I was accepted to all three, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I chose to attend Plymouth University as it was the most practical decision, especially since I was already living in Devon.

CB: What plans do you have after finishing your degree? What work are you currently working on? Any new projects?

CC: I am considering pursuing a master’s degree, but I would like to take a break after completing 4 years of university. I am currently considering 4 or 5 different places to start a new project, but I’m not ready yet. Before heading overseas for a long-term project, I believe it’s best to start a new long-term project in the southwest of England to improve and gain more experience. At the same time, I would like to work on a project in Italy, documenting my home region.


Cosimo Campagna is an Italian photographer currently studying in England. Cosimo’s passion for photography was born out of his love for travel, and he uses this medium to capture and share the beauty of the world as he sees it. His focus is mainly on people and their interactions, and he creates portraits that aim to tell their stories. He is also deeply passionate about the sea and landscape.

About Cary Benbow

Photographer, Writer, Publisher of Wobneb Magazine

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