The light makes his life

Mario Troiani feels that people outside Israel who have never lived here have a complete misconception of what life in Israel is all about.

The carousel at the Tel Aviv Port; one of Troiani’s photographic works. (photo credit: MARIO TROIANI)
The carousel at the Tel Aviv Port; one of Troiani’s photographic works.
(photo credit: MARIO TROIANI)
In his exhibition “The Sound of Tel Aviv,” which opened at the Tel Aviv Felicja Blumental Music Center on July 16 and will run for six months, new immigrant photographer Mario Troiani gives his take on what Tel Aviv means to him.
With 27 photos taken over the last year since he made aliya from his home in Umbria, he shows a very personal view of the nonstop city.
“I fell in love with the light,” says Troiani, who has worked all over the world as a travel photographer. “It’s something I don’t think that Israeli-born photographers can appreciate as much as an import like me – the incredible nature of the light here.”
In addition to being an Italian immigrant, Troiani is not Jewish; so how did he get here? Perhaps the most important reason for his move to Israel is his wife, Ilana, who made aliya several years ago. Also from Italy, she first came here working as a horse veterinarian, but gave it up in favor of a business career in import and export. The couple have been together for 18 years, living first in Milan and then moving to the Umbrian countryside.
When he was 13, Mario found a camera which his father had given to his mother when they first met.
“She never used it so I took it and started to take black and white pictures and developed them in the bathroom,” he recalls.
His first pictures were still-life studies, very artistic but without a human element.
Photography became his passion, and as a young man he studied the subject and began to travel, his work appearing in several prestigious Italian magazines.
“I became a photo reporter and worked all over the world, sending photos back from India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and other hotspots around the world.”
Later he worked in the cinema industry, doing restoration and digitalization of great classic movies of the Italian realist cinema from La Dolce Vita onwards.
“I took the work of some of the great directors – Fellini and Antonioni among others – and reviewed all the material, deciding which were the best subjects for restoration,” he recalls. “My company was the first in Italy to do this.”
Ten years ago, he and Ilana decided to leave Milan for good – “it’s an old city and there are no young energies there,” and began visiting Israel every year, spending time with her family here.
They decided to look for an apartment and put down some roots, and three years ago Ilana became a citizen. Mario made aliya a few years later and found all the officials involved in the process friendly and helpful.
His photos of Tel Aviv began with a Facebook page called “Italian in Tel Aviv” and in no time he had 15,000 followers.
Tel Aviv became his canvas.
“It’s a small city – you can walk or cycle around and something is always happening, 24/7,” he says. “And it’s safer than Milan.”
He feels that people outside Israel who have never lived here have a complete misconception of what life in Israel is all about.
“People who don’t know the country at all think that it is a dangerous place to live, but I want to show that it is full of normal people living normal lives,” he says. “It’s a very democratic place and you can be who you want – take the position of gays in this country for instance.”
He feels very at home here.
“The Italian mentality is very close to the Jewish,” says Troiani. “Love of family, tradition, food, our hot blood – we have all these things in common.”
He found the Israeli habit of everyone wanting to know everyone else’s business a little invasive at first.
“In Milan, you don’t even know your neighbor,” he says. But he accepts it all, knowing that this is the Israeli cultural experience.
He is particularly fascinated by the diversity of the Israeli people, each ethnic group with its own language and culture, and this is something he has tried to capture in his photos.
“I like to photograph street musicians – it’s a recurring theme in my pictures – and I try to capture how they transmit their culture and language through their music,” he says. “A Russian plays quite differently from a Frenchman or an American. The music comes from the soul.”
Hence the title “The Sound of Tel Aviv” which, although totally visual, tries to convey the different sounds too.
“I don’t want to photograph anything negative,” says Mario. “Why would I show sadness and suffering?” So he captures a single blossom fallen onto a cobbled street, or a collection of seashells swept into a heap by the tide.
“Of course I know there are bad things here as anywhere, but I choose not to photograph them,” he says.
He also tries to convey the openness of the city.
“In this place you can be yourself, you can be free.”