Marking the launch of Reflections from the Past, a photographic exploration through crystal-clear waters and into the heart of the Tirino Valley, Italy, professional photographer David Salvatori has crafted unique images that are testament to the stunning and mysterious underwater landscapes he has visited.
Starting underwater photography in earnest in 2008, Salvatori was a big name just three years later, competing in some of the most important national and international photo competitions – and winning high praise, along with awards.
Through his keen eye for a great photo, he has brought to light pressing conservation issues, and in doing so has travelled to some of the most far-flung places on Earth. In 2015, he was selected as a member of the Ocean Artists Society in recognition of his awareness-raising activities on behalf of some of the world’s most endangered species.
UW360 Editor, Oliver Jarvis, spoke to the esteemed photographer about his career and images:
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
Water symbolises my personal dividing line between my first and second life. It was the conduit for introspection that led me to renew and become aware of the true and balancing essence of my soul when, at the age of 36, the passion for diving exploded inside of me – the romantic, utopian dreamer of my youth came alive again.
Taking underwater photographs immediately revealed to me, a lover of the visual arts, a suitable way to show my new balance; photography and diving was first and foremost a catharsis and affirmation, and then became the tool to profess my infinite love for the sea and the creatures that inhabit it.
Your first underwater shot?
A picture of a couple of angelfishes, on December 31, 2007, during a New Year’s Eve cruise in the Red Sea. It was awful.
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
My most memorable shot is a dynamic shot of a female sperm whale, together with her calf, and my wife Cristina freediving between them. We had to train for more than six months, working on our freediving in a swimming pool, to be mentally and physically ready for this encounter.
Where is your favourite dive destination?
I have been lucky enough to visit many destinations in the world. For warm and colourful waters, I would say Raja Ampat; for cold waters, British Columbia, without any doubt.
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
The South Pole—it’s about the money, but not only… It’s about being mentally and physically prepared to dive cold water and rough seas.
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
What camera equipment are you currently using?
Nikon D800E in Seacam housing.
Congratulations on the launch of Reflections from the Past. What does the book mean to you?
It means a lot to me, as this gave me the possibility to speak about my experience with water, a balance of my first 10 years of diving. Diving allowed me to achieve a positive thought, and the communion with water was the road to rescue, the map to discovery of what is true and real in life.
What do you believe sets your new book apart from similar books on underwater photography?
Because it is not simply a collection of pictures; it’s a sort of personal journey to tell a story about a life experience with water. The pictures of the places visited in the book are symbolic representations of the stages of this journey. Anybody curious about diving, or looking for a better mental approach to life, should read this.
Why Capo D’Acqua Lake as a project? What is so amazing about the area?
Capo D’Acqua and surrounding areas were perfect to tell my story with the water. This magical place, rich in history and charm, was the ideal place to begin my photographic journey. The crystal-clear waters of this lake are the perfect means to seek out and discover yourself, a place where peace and tranquility give the opportunity for the spirit to grow. The Capo D’Acqua dive site is often considered one of the top dive sites in the world.
What was the most difficult part of putting this book together?
Well, this was my first book, so I thought that taking the pictures was most of the work. Actually, I was wrong and all the work that comes after taking the shot, like post-processing, graphic design, CMYK print preparation, writing, takes a lot of time and patience.
But maybe finding the common narrative line linking together the physical journey and the spiritual one was the most challenging part.
Is there an overall message, or lesson, you wish your readers to take with them after reading this book?
Yes, definitely: Life is a journey, too short to waste. All of us need to train awareness, chase happiness, practise love.
What is the highlight of your career?
Every time I go underwater I feel so rewarded. It’s actually not a career in the strict sense of the term. I am an amateur and I am not paying my bills with photography. I’ve had many rewards and recognition, but I am always looking ahead and hope to be healthy and wealthy enough in the coming years to achieve greater results.
And the low point?
Definitely when I quit competitions in 2012, and I finally realised that I was taking underwater photography as another reason to be stressed in my life.
What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?
Respect the Nature and the sea. Be curious. A great photographer is always an expert in marine biology. Practise a lot – you cannot be Doubilet in one day! Enjoy it and don’t get too hung up on your results – maybe you won’t ever be the new Doubilet! But most of all, never give up. A failed shot is only a good excuse to get back in the water!
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
Many! My life won’t be long enough to get every shot I have in my mind. Anyway, humpback whales is on the wish list.