In celebration of Valentines Day, our “Florentine Meetings – People of Florence” column features the romantic story of the photographers Dovilė Bružaitė and Matteo Baldini.
Love unites them personally and professionally. Together, they form the MeDisProject, devoted to photographing portraits of the most meaningful moments in life.
In this revealing interview, we have the opportunity to learn about their work and their love story.
First, to set the stage, it was 2009 when they met by chance in the cradle of the Renaissance and all thanks to a photograph.
They were in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, a late afternoon in August. Matteo was taking some photos of passers-by.
In one of these the love of his life, Dovilė, will be immortalized, but they will discover this only over time, exchanging contacts and starting to know each other, and then, to love each other.
On their website they tell this story in detail.
Love is at the core of their union, a feeling that they express through the photos that celebrate moments to remember.
Memories are captured with care with the colorful, romantic backdrop of Florence and Tuscany.
We asked the MeDisProject duo a few questions, to find out more about their world and their life in Florence.
Dovilė and Matteo, how would you describe yourselves? If you were a photograph what would it represent?
D: My name is Dovilė and I come from Lithuania, where I was born and raised. I am a mother, a wife and for now a photographer. If I were a photograph, I think of an old photo like those of my grandparents in their happiest moments. A classic photo of our family that will one day intrigue our grandchildren.
M: My name is Matteo, I’m from Piacenza and I just turned 40. I am Umberto’s father and Dovilė’s husband. Today, to live I take pictures, tomorrow who knows. If I had to describe myself with a photograph, I like the idea of a group photo that contains, as in Fellini’s 8 and 1/2 final, or Tim Burton’s Big Fish, all the important people in my life, present and passed. Kind of a great family photo.
How would you describe yourself as a photographer and how would you describe your work?
D + M: We think our work has changed over the years and is continuing to change, especially due to the pandemic. We have been photojournalists, still life photographers for e-commerce, weddings and families. Now we do portraits with phone cameras, via the internet, and last year we shot a photographic diary that became an exhibition in September. Photography is simply a means of expressing oneself in a direct and understandable way to everyone. The values we carry with us are respect for the subjects portrayed, the simplicity of the image and the desire to leave important memories to our subjects. We like to think that the photos we take have more value for others than for us as authors.
How and when did you discover photography? How did you start?
D: The first contact with photography was at the beginning of my adolescence. I was 11 or 12 and I asked my parents if they could get me a camera because I wanted to take a class. Film cameras were still used, and I was fascinated by the atmosphere that surrounded me: the dark room, the sense of expectation. Even before meeting Matteo and moving to Italy, I dreamed of leaving my job and becoming a professional photographer. I started one step at a time, first in a historical studio in Florence that needed a hand for the archive. Then came the first weddings and the work of a photojournalist.
M: My father was passionate, and his analog camera was the first one I shot with as a kid. The first jobs as a photographer came around the age of 25. I had studied art and decoration, but never photography. When I decided that was what I wanted to try to do, I asked Florentine friends to refer me to some professional photographers I could go to shop with. I was lucky enough to find more than one, in different fields. Even though I still had to do other jobs to earn a living, I had so many experiences that made me understand which direction to go. When I met D. the path was already drawn, and since then we have supported each other.
What are your sources of inspiration?
D: I have always been curious about the biographies of photographers. Being shy, I went in search of those similar to me, who somehow managed to express themselves at the same time without distorting themselves. For example Izis Bidermanas still inspires me a lot. I love seeing Fellini’s old films and Emmanuel Lubeszki’s direction of photography.
M: Different: I proceed, from time to time, by association with stories that have struck me. It can be a film, a poem or the work of other photographers. I am fascinated by those who manage to make a personal experience universal.
How was the interest in people and their stories born?
D: From the desire to fight the fear of getting closer to others. Photographing people is a way to investigate the world, and to test myself.
M: For me too it was a way of fighting my shyness towards others. Those who agree to be photographed basically want to share a piece of themselves, seek understanding, empathy.
How do you manage to put your subjects at ease and make them appear so spontaneous?
D + M: You should ask them this. When we can, we try to get to know people even before photographing them. We think it’s a question of trust and respect: to be at ease, a subject has to trust the photographer, and sometimes it takes time. What we can do is give them time, and calm them down. If someone doesn’t want to be photographed, we don’t insist. In the end they are not spontaneous, they simply are.
How does love emerge from a photograph? A look? A gesture…?
D + M: Photography is a direct language, which reaches the sensibility of the beholder without mediation. If the subjects love each other, it is easy for the photo to convey this. We photograph ordinary people: if a feeling is false, it is usually perceived. There are situations where this transpires, and unfortunately not much can be done about it. After all, our aim is not to tell about love at all costs, sometimes we simply document what happens. Other times people pretend more or less unconsciously, because they have expectations, or want to appear a certain way. If there is a need, sometimes we can ask a couple or a family where their love comes from. We can evoke memories, emotions. If it works, the feeling appears and the photo simply reproduces it.
What does love mean to you?
D: Being myself with my loved one. Feel the worry if you are late, never go to sleep in discord. Our son Umberto.
M: Umberto just born, still blue in the delivery room. Where she whispers my name in his ear. I believe there are so many types of love, but I can’t describe them, only evoke them.
Do you consider Florence a romantic city? Why did you choose it as a city to live in, both of you coming from different places?
D: I visited Florence for the first time in 2009, it was the journey in which I met Matteo. With my best friend we stopped on the route between Milan and Rome, and I remember that the city struck me immediately. Somehow I felt that I could live here. You have to be careful what you want: not even a year passed, and I had already moved!
M: In Florence we met, got married and our first child was born here. For me it will always be a special place, even if I often feel like a stranger here.
What are your favorite spots in Florence? Can you reveal some off the beaten path places?
D: I love walking in the fields on the hills around our house, or in the back streets where nature begins, far from the center. Since Umberto has been around, I like to go to the playgrounds of Piazza Tasso or the Gardens of the Royal Stables. There you can meet the Florentine families.
M: I have always liked via dell’Erta Canina. The horticultural garden, on which the kitchen of our first house was opened. The viuzzo of San Felice a Ema, near where we live now. I like to walk through the narrow streets between the walls and the olive trees, on the hills around the center, dreaming of living in one of those houses.
How would you describe Florence to those who don’t live here?
D: It seems to me that each neighborhood constitutes a small island, a city within a city. After living here for a while, you realize that you will not be welcomed with open arms as you imagined as a tourist. The first step, however, is up to you – and maybe that’s right.
M: It seems to me that there are many faces of Florence: that of tourists, that of Florentines, that of expatriates, and many others, each one seems to have its life isolated from the others. I’ve lived there for almost twenty years, and in the end I know little more than when I arrived.
What do you consider valuable in life?
D: My family here in Italy, but also the connection with my land and my culture.
M: to be able to manage your time, to be able to dedicate it to those you love. And the jewels, of course!
Matteo and Dovilė made a portrait of our friends and clients Anita and Francesco, for the series Portrait In A Time Of Distance, a remote photographic project.
We thank MeDisProject and we invite you to explore their world by following them on social networks and visiting their site. Perhaps you will want to be their next subject!
Dovilė Bružaitė e Matteo Baldini • MeDisProject