Mimmo Roscigno is a veteran with a wealth of experience few out there can match. From starting as a self-taught underwater photographer back in the mid-eighties, Mimmo now teaches photography at an Artistic Lyceum in the Italian city of Naples, where he has set up an experimental section for underwater photography and cinematography. His past experiences have given him an unparalleled insight into the art of underwater photography, and he has been sharing the tricks of the trade with students for many years – not just in class, but also through the media. He is the founder and president of the Italian Underwater Photography Society and the director of the association’s journalistic portal.
Mimmo has dived into many of the world’s oceans, from the Red Sea and the coasts of Egypt and Sudan, to the Maldives, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. Yet despite his explorations and adventures around the world, his heart has always remained with his native Mediterranean sea – the place that first opened his eyes to the wonders of the underwater world. Feeling the need to show people that world and to unravel the beauty of the Mediterranean to others, he has released several publications, including the photographic book, Into the Mirror, which is comprised entirely of images from the biologically rich Gulf of Naples.
Over the last 25 years, Mimmo has exhibited his photographs in numerous exhibitions in Italy and elsewhere. He has collected numerous placings in more than 70 national and international competitions, winning some very prestigious awards. In recent years, his interest in the macro has grown, and he has taken to photographing the tiny inhabitants of the sea such as zooplankton and phytoplankton. Several of these recent shots have been published by newspapers and specialised portals.
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
I’ve been into photography – in all its forms – since I was about 13 years old. Yet it just remained an interest and a hobby until I was lucky enough to commit to it as a full-time job. Together with my passion for the oceans, which I’ve also had since a young age, my path towards underwater photography was a natural one. I have never stopped or looked back.
Your first underwater shot?
I started off with a Kodak Instamatic in a plastic Mares housing, along with a flash cube. I started scuba diving while on the lookout for marine life to photograph. Unfortunately, these images no longer exist, and I wish I could remember them!
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
I have many images that I am very fond of. For many years, I used only medium-format cameras, such as Hasselblad in Gates and Rolleiflex housings in the original Rolleimarin cases. I am very pleased with one particular photo I took in the Red Sea with the latter setup, back in 1997, during the fifth dive of the day, which shows two octopuses mating.
Where is your favourite dive destination?
I have travelled a lot and I still continue to travel today, but my favourite place without a doubt is the one that I know best – my home, the Mediterranean Sea. It is a challenging place to dive and it is difficult to get good pictures. In my humble opinion, it is important that every underwater photographer, besides photographing the seas of the planet, is committed to documenting the area in which they live. I see photographing my home sea as a mission aimed at better understanding and protecting it.
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
The place I’d like to dip my toes in next: the waters of Canada, to the north of Vancouver. I plan to go in October to photograph this underwater world that has always intrigued me – I have read a lot about it in books and publications.
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
I don’t think of the amazing things I’ve seen underwater as “weird”. For me, it’s second nature to immerse myself in the underwater world and to soak in my surroundings.
What camera equipment are you currently using?
I use different cameras for my dives. I have a Sony Alpha 7R Mark II in a Nauticam housing with lots of accessories, and I have recently found an adapter that allows me to mount my Canon 8–15mm lens. I’ve been a Nikon user since the old days. I have Seacam housings for my Nikon D800E and D3X. For flash, I use Inon Z-240s as well as Sea & Sea strobes.
What is the highlight of your career? … And the low point?
I am not a professional photographer, but I do teach photography at a high school here in Italy. For me, underwater photography has always been about leisure and pure creativity. It is a great privilege to be able to indulge my passion, and I’m very happy to have received various prestigious awards for my work.
Any advice that you’d like to give to aspiring underwater photographers?
Shoot as much as possible. Underwater photography is a specialty that requires a great deal of commitment as well as lots of diving experience. The latter must become a natural activity – without, obviously, neglecting safety!
I never plan – I have a fatalistic attitude! I just hope to always have an exciting dive and the opportunity for amazing encounters – and to shoot images that express the emotions I had while taking them!