For photographer Theo Cottle, his love of the medium began when his dad showed him a book of war photographer Don McCullin’s work. “I was fascinated at all the different situations and places he’d experienced in his life,” he recalls. Spurred on, Theo began researching photographers like Larry Clark and Eugene Richards and, today, having relocated to London from his hometown of Bristol six years ago, these early photojournalistic influences are still clear across his portfolio.
Theo’s portfolio is an impressive one, packed full of commissions for the likes of LNCC, CP Company, Asos and Adidas. But imbued in the images he makes for these commercial jobs runs an authenticity, grounded in documentary photography where his “roots lie”. Theo adds: “It’s what led me to first start taking images. I try to keep an element of truth to any shoot I do.”
This approach is largely informed by the personal projects he works on alongside his commercial work. “I think it’s so important to keep shooting personal projects, this informs and develops my style which naturally feeds into all the other commercial work I shoot,” he outlines. These projects have included a series documenting Belfast’s Eleventh Night and a series documenting dog breeders in the UK. The work which caught our eye, however, is a more recent series shot in Naples.
Titled Neapolitan Youth, the series documents local teenagers “basking in the sunshine, full of bravado” and self-styled in clothing from Too Hot Limited. “I first visited Naples a few years ago, there was an energy in the streets of Naples that I hadn’t felt anywhere else,” Theo recalls, enraptured by the football culture, its dense streets full of people and a maze of telephone wires and the pizza, of course, for which you need two hands to eat. “I fell in love with the city and knew I wanted to go back create some work there,” he continues.
Each image in the series is brimming with that very energy Theo experienced on his first visit to the city. Returning this time with his friend Glauco Canalis who assisted Theo with the shoot, the result is an honest – and beautiful – documentation of a vivacious city.
When shooting, Theo always has a plan and will often sketch down ideas to help visualises a shot. In this case, however, he worked more spontaneously with one idea: “try and capture images with the local people of Naples.” Collaborating with the young people he was taking photos of – “they essentially styled themselves and showed me around Naples whilst looking for areas to shoot” – Theo responded to the atmosphere, allowing it to shape the imagery. As a result, there’s an effervescence to the pictures, as if snapped while the group of new friends rushed around the narrow alleyways of the coastal city.
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