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Sublimating architecture in monochrome photography with Mario Tarantino

Under the lunar ambiance of elegant futuristic settings, Mario Tarantino, with his exquisite use of minimalism and striking black-and-white aesthetics, crafts surreal imagery that transcends ordinary boundaries and whisks us away on a mesmerizing journey. This is only natural for a seasoned globetrotter, whose wanderlust was ignited in childhood. Hailing from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, he now calls Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, his home base. Through his work, he leads us to explore the world’s sculptural architectures and majestic landscapes. With numerous awards to his name, he shares with CYME the secrets behind capturing these captivating and dreamlike visuals.

How do you choose the locations you will photograph?

As a photographer & like most people working in the visual arts we are always looking and observing our surroundings – it forms part of our day to day. Searching for and scouting locations is an integral part of my creative process. A visually interesting location makes an important contribution to creating an engaging photo. I always try to visit the location before actually photographing it. This way I can familiarise myself with it, seeing how the location is lit and when would be the best time to photograph it, is it a sunrise, sunset or full day shoot ? When travelling I don’t always have the time to visit the location, so I thoroughly plan my trips beforehand so that I can maximise my chances of getting good photos. I also do a lot of research via the internet and make use of specialised applications to gain a better understanding of when is the best time to be on location and plan my days accordingly. 

“Most of my locations are chosen because its made me feel something, or it triggered an imaginary scene in my mind’s eye, or I found it has photographic potential.”
What I try to convey with my photography is a moment of aesthetic escapism, doing my utmost to transport the viewer, even if it’s for a few seconds to another place.
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Expo 98 - © Mario Tarantino. In 2023, this photo received 7 different awards.

Why are humans almost absent from your photos?

My photographic compositions are mostly minimal focusing primarily on the chosen subject & trying to avoid visual noise and clutter. My approach to photography is purist, most of my architectural photos highlight the building, the way it’s lit, its structural & design features as well as what I found to be aesthetic. I have more or less the same approach to landscape photography. In the case I include a person in my image it will on most occasions be a silhouette illustrating human interaction with and in the surroundings, demonstrating scale, or helping with the photo’s narrative. More specifically with landscape photography I tend to keep it void of the human element, enabling the viewer to place themselves within the picture, transporting them to the location.
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Bullring - © Mario Tarantino

How do you manage to photograph these iconic architectural places completely devoid of people?

On certain occasions I was commissioned and the location was at my disposal to photograph. In other cases I will usually wait for the moment envisaged in my mind’s eye, most times with a bit of patience it presents itself – I often do this in my street shoots. Using different compositions and focusing on only a certain part of the subject is another technique that I make use of when creating a photo without any people in it. As mentioned earlier I do take the time to plan and organise my shoots so another method I use is trying to be on location outside of peak hours, either early in the morning or later on in the afternoon depending on the location. Lastly one can also use post processing techniques to remove people and crowds which is always useful to have as a backup solution but nothing beats getting it done in camera.
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Axel - © Mario Tarantino. Tokyo International Foto Awards - Second Place Winner - Architecture Category 2023.

Do you have a particular anecdote that has left an impression on you regarding one of your photos?

Over the years I have collected some anecdotes, gotte The most recent one would be on the summit of the Roque Nublo in Gran Canaria – Spain. I was up on the summit for sunset and an incredible one it was. With the setting sun the clouds began rolling in and it got dark a lot quicker than I thought it would, adding to that the sudden drop in temperature which was a little alarming. Having taken the exposures I needed I thought it was a good idea to start making my way down. So I packed up the camera and collapsed the tripod. Now those of you who have climbed Roque Nublo will be familiar with its table-like summit which is straight down on either side. The fog was getting thicker and thicker by the minute, combined with the fading light it was increasingly difficult to find the pass. I was starting to imagine having to spend the night up there and that was an idea that I was really not keen on. Finally after having looked for quite some time using my cell phone’s flashlight and telling myself to calm down I was able to find the gap in the rocks and started making my way down – to my greatest relief.
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Nublo - © Mario Tarantino

What do you find particularly appealing about black and white photography?

Personally photography has been about black and white imagery from the very beginning – it was and still is my first love.


“The removal of colourful distractions bringing the image down to its most simplistic form of shapes, light and shadow is what I find surreal and sublime.”
Another contributing factor to my love of monochrome photography are the greats who have heavily influenced my work, Sebastiao Salgado, Ansel Adams and Michel Kenna to name a few. Another aspect of black and white photography I particularly appreciate is its timeless elegance. Like in all the arts there are trends, fashionable and colourful images come and go but black & white photography never loses its appeal.

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Sublimating architecture in monochrome photography with Mario Tarantino
Arcades - © Mario Tarantino. In 2023, this photo received 6 different awards.

How did you initially come to pursue photography? Which did you discover first, photography or traveling?

Travel came first – both my parents worked for airline companies allowing us to travel quite a bit and had the opportunity to both live in and visit different parts of the world. As a family we had an Olympus camera which I found fascinating but was even more fascinated by the negatives which we would collect from the photo lab after each trip. Now it’s photography which dictates the travel itineraries and a lot more preparation goes into each trip – the great thing is then and now I am still travelling, still exploring and I am still fascinated by the RAW images on my laptop waiting to be processed.
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© Mario Tarantino. In 2023, this photo received 8 different awards.

You have received multiple awards. What role have these awards played in your career?

Like all artists we do what we do, not only for our own enjoyment but for the appreciation of a greater public – so when work is awarded it helps confirm that your sense of aesthetic is admired. Awards also contribute to an artist’s credibility receiving recognition from both the peers of the industry and the public. In my case I have benefitted from the exposure that accompanies winning awards as well as providing me with new opportunities in photography.
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Hyperbole - © Mario Tarantino. In 2023, this photo received 16 different awards.

Are there any historical black and white photographers or artists who have significantly influenced you?

My primary genre, the one to which I have the strongest pull, is architecture. I would say Lucien Herve, James Austin and the famous couple of architectural photography – Bernd & Hilla Becher, have greatly impacted the way in which I work.

Does this interview inspire you?

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Zeitz - © Mario Tarantino

What type of equipment do you most often use for your shoots?

I work with a Canon 5D Mark IV and a strong majority of my photography is shot on Wide Angle Lens – it’s my go to lens. I do work with other lenses, a Fixed 50mm, a 24-70 and at times a Tilt Shift. Each lens has its own characteristics and will contribute to creating the photo’s atmosphere or mood. In my case I enjoy using a wide angle because of the depth & perspective it brings to photos. The time of day is also an important factor to creating emotive imagery, most of my images are photographed in low light conditions, either at sunrise or sunset. Lastly I also make use of different ND Filters allowing me to use long exposure photography to create a sense of surrealism. Once the on location camera work is done the photos are edited and in this stage of the creation process the use of different post processing techniques enables me to develop the mood I wish to convey to the viewer. The final step in the creative process is the printing of the photo, all of my work is printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag. I find this slightly textured paper increases pictorial depth whilst generating striking contrasts perfectly complimenting my photos.

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Slangkop - © Mario Tarantino

What are your preferred photo editing software and why?

I work principally with Adobe Camera Raw when exporting my photos from the camera & importing them into my laptop. From there most of the post processing is done via Photoshop. I have a couple of plugins I make use of in my workflow, Niks & Imagenomic to name some. Being a total perfectionist, having control of each of the elements of the photo is important to me. I use Camera Raw or Lightroom because it’s the software I used when I took my first photo editing steps. From there Photoshop’s selection tools are great and offer targeted interventions in post processing – something I find useful. The plugins I referred to each have specific functions and are for me incredibly efficient in performing certain specific tasks such as luminosity masks, noise control and fine art workflow actions.

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Runner - © Mario Tarantino. In 2023, this photo received 8 different awards.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers looking to develop their own unique style and make a mark in the photography industry?

Today’s photographic landscape is a saturated one making it more complex for photographers to make a mark on an extremely competitive industry. The first step is to know exactly what you like photographing and what you’re passionate about. A common mistake is to go into many different genres of photography and not fully mastering any given one. We live in a society that sells you overnight success and everything needs to happen in the blink of an eye or the click of one’s fingers – growth and the perfection of technique both in camera work and post processing take time.  

“So taking the time to learn is the best investment that can be made when it comes to progressing in the photographic journey.”

Networking can also help attain growth in receiving feedback – there are numerous social media sites offering photo appreciations. One however needs to be prepared to take on feedback that at first may not always be easy to hear. Lastly the use of social media platforms can help in many different ways with wealth of imagery on offer.

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Mario Tarantino

Extend this moment with Mario Tarantino by following him on his website or on Instagram.


All images: © Mario Tarantino

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