Settling down into a low-set armchair, Lorenzo Vitturi waves a waitress over to our table.
“The coffee here is like nothing you’ve ever tasted – you absolutely must try it. It’s a tradition.”
His enthusiasm is infectious. An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but this Italian abroad seems most at ease in a Dalston coffee house.
Not that Vitturi is a stranger to east London. The photographer has lived in Dalston for more than seven years, and has developed a close bond with the area.
“I’m lucky because I’ve got a job that means I can work and be in this place at the same time”, he admits. “I don’t have to commute every day to an office. I can stay and live in the area, and to me being part of that area is something that’s really important.”
A Dalston Anatomy
“It was a great honour”, he says, “and one that I hope to build upon over the coming months.”
The album – which narrowly missed out on first prize in Paris – comprises a series of still-lifes and portraits taken from Dalston’s Ridley Road Market.
“I thought that the market was a really interesting subject, especially because it’s started to change quite a lot – not only the market, but Dalston and the wider market area. Since I arrived, I could see really a radical change, and so I wanted to use photography to research it in a different way.
“There’s a process of gentrification. It’s something that’s happening in all our cities – not only in London, but also in Italy. It’s sad, but I think it’s really an important process to research and photograph.”
Vitturi has seen it all before. Having lived in Venice until he was 18, he moved to Rome in 2003 to study photography and design at Istituto Europeo di Design.
“I was living in this really popular neighbourhood, and then in three or four years it just changed completely. It was a sort of total – how do you say? – swap of people. For me that’s the negative side of this process.”
Now a confessed “latter-day-Londoner”, Vitturi appreciates the irony here.
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A nomadic existence
Nevertheless, Vitturi’s nomadic existence furnished him with a unique perspective on the local topography.
“As an outsider, you’re more prepared to see the special side of the place. But still, at the same time, to do this book in the way that it came out, I went to the market nearly every day for one year. It became an obsession. After a while I knew the market metre after metre. I guess now I’m half outsider, half intimate friend.”
Although comfortable in London, the Italian has not forgotten his Venetian roots.
“To me, Venice was really important. Every day you’re living there you are learning something visually. There’s this continuous artistic input, because every corner of this city tells you something.
“[It] looks like a city that has been built to be seen. Venice is one of the most photographed cities in the world, and that’s something that I find really intriguing – these things that are made to be photographed.”
Today, London captures his imagination. “It’s a melting pot”, he says. “Every time that you are on the bus, on the tube, you’re always surrounded by at least 25 different nationalities. It gives me a feeling of being at the centre of the world.”