Colourful Italy in black and white

Colourful Italy in black and white
Image: BOY'S CLUB, black and white photograph. Photo: Mark Tedeschi

Award-winning Australian photographer, barrister and former NSW Senior Crown Prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, will launch his new book, Decoding The Image, at the State Library of NSW this Tuesday. 

The book is a collection of photographs taken by Tedeschi when he was Northern Italy recently. It features everyday people frozen in scenes of daily life.
“The project that I undertook in Italy was to try and capture as many different emotions, gestures and states of human beings that I could find,” explains Tedeschi. 

PHOTOGRAPHER, black and white photograph. Photo: Mark Tedeschi

Each image is accompanied by a short piece of text — written in English and  Italian — that describes some aspect of the photograph: how and why it was taken or something about the place it was taken or a personal reflection or experience Tedeschi had in taking the photo. 

He has also given each photo a short title summing up the sentiment in it, however, Tedeschi emphatically points out that these are his own feelings and should in no way preclude the viewer from having their own response. 

HAGGLING, black and white photograph. Photo: Mark Tedeschi

“It’s me decoding the images with my background, my history, my interpretation, acknowledging that other people might decode those images quite differently,” he says. 

In fact, he’s quite happy for people to disagree with his interpretation; it means they are observing and contemplating the photographs with intention. 

“I think people are so used to looking at an image for a split second [because of social media] that they’re reluctant to spend more than a split second analysing a photograph.”

LUST, black and white photograph. Photo: Mark Tedeschi

Tedeschi chose Italy as his canvas because he found the locals there are much less resistant to having their photo taken

“In Italy, people exhibit their emotions more in public areas than they do here in Australia.” He had very few objections from subjects, or even interrogations about what he was doing. That said, he always tried to be quick and stealthy when photographing. “I shoot first and answer questions later.”

He also has Italian heritage; his father was born in Turin, coming to Australia just prior to World War II. Tedeschi’s mother, however, was German and only English was spoken at home. 

LOOKING FOR LOVE black and white photograph. Photo: Mark Tedeschi

“So I didn’t speak Italian until I went there for the first time in my early twenties.” He then spent 6 months at a language school. “I learnt Italian and fell in love with Italy and I’ve been back many many times.”

The photos in Decoding The Image are all in black and white, a style Tedeschi is particularly drawn to. He spent his first 20 years as a photographer using only black and white film. 

A portrait of Mark Tedeschi, AM QC, in the State Library of NSW’s Shakespeare Room. Image: supplied

“I think colour is such an overwhelming sensation that it completely dominates your interpretation of an image and you miss things like shade, shadows and shades of dark and light, whereas in black and white you’re much more aware of the shapes, much more aware of shadows, much more aware of the contrast between light and dark. So I think, in a sense, by taking away that overwhelming sensation of colour, you actually end up seeing more in a black and white photograph.”

Tedeschi has had solo exhibitions and been included in group exhibitions around the world. His photographs hang in galleries, museums and public buildings as well as in private collections. He has published articles on photography, law, and horticulture and written four books on true crime. His passion, however, is photography. 


“I think photography is a very valid form of artistic expression and what I’m hoping to show with the images is just how expressive it can be.”

Decoding The Image by Mark Tedeschi

Book launch on December 12, 6pm – 8pm

State Library of NSW, Macquarie Street, Sydney

With Dr John Vallance (former State Librarian)

book available from book retailers and online

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