"I would compare myself to a barracuda, attacking the instant something shiny comes along," says Piero Percoco, whose Instagram account has proved a smash hit
Percoco has never studied photography – “I was never able to afford it,” he says – but he sometimes bought photobooks and, inspired by photographers such as Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, started taking shots with his phone seven years ago.
Percoco now has 45.2k followers on Instagram and published his first book last year – Prism Interiors, which was edited by the respected American photographer and publisher Jason Fulford, and published with Skinnerboox. Its success spurred him on to make a new book, The Rainbow is Underestimated – named after his Instagram handle @therainbow_is_underestimated – which is also being published by Skinnerbox and is now available for pre-order.
BJP: How is your new book, The Rainbow is Underestimated, different to your first book, Prism Interiors? Who edited the images?
Piero Percoco: The Rainbow is Underestimated is my second book with Skinnerboox. After the success of Prism Interiors, which was edited by Jason Fulford, we decided to work on a more exhaustive series of images. The Rainbow is Underestimated is a visual training novel that comes after a long period of editing the images I produced over the last five years in my neighbourhood, around my town (Sannicandro) and more generally around Puglia, southern Italy.
We have tried to build a sequence that reflects my daily routine, not combining the images in classic double spreads, but sequencing single pictures like a flow of connections, visual and semantic references. It is a small journey into my imagination. To answer the question, yes, we did it ourselves – me and Milo [Montelli] from Skinnerboox.
BJP: Are all of your photographs taken on a smartphone?
PP: A lot of the time I find myself taking pictures with my iPhone 6S, but I also often use a Ricoh GR, and sometimes I also take out my Hasselblad. I never try to put a limit on the medium, but rather on what I am trying to achieve.
BJP: How do you edit your photographs?
PP: Sometimes I use the basic instruments offered on Instagram itself, not the filters but the editing controls. On my Mac I have always used Lightroom.
BJP: Who, or what, are your inspirations?
PP: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my past life. I’m always convinced that my “need for photography” comes essentially from my turbulent past. But of course I have been influenced by masters of colour photography, like Stephen Shore. His work has been a great inspiration from when I first started.
BJP: Are your photographs set up or found by chance? What’s your process when you go out shooting?
PP: All of my pictures are casual, so there is no setting up at all. I still live at home with my family, quite a unique family too, so often some peculiar situations arise between the inanimate objects – like the shopping bags, half eaten watermelons, dentures in glasses, and mops. All the pictures are part of my day-to-day life. I would compare myself to a barracuda, attacking the instant something shiny comes along.
BJP: When did you start your Instagram account, and how has it changed since you started?
PP: When I started my Instagram account in 2013, I was very sceptical. I started by posting pictures that I took with my iPhone, without thinking, without any expectations. I was doing it for pure fun and therefore photographing whatever attracted me – people, objects, things. At a certain point, I believe it was the end of 2014, the Instagram staff contacted me to tell me they wanted to include me in their suggested user program. From there my followers started increasing a lot.
BJP: Did you expect it to gain the following that it has?
PP: No, on the contrary, I always felt out of place. But I know for sure that I always remained myself.
BJP: What do you think about Instagram – have you seen any changes on the platform and the photography used on it?
PP: I believe Instagram is today is a great platform on which to publish pictures, and it is fundamentally free. In all honesty I have not even been able to afford a good website. So I use Instagram it as if it was a website to some extent, like a vitrine that is open to everybody. But some people don’t take me seriously because it’s Instagram and not a high-end website.
The platform has changed a lot, and it is continuing to do so. I love changes like the stories function, I love looking at them. Through Instagram, following the right profiles and pages, you can see how the world is evolving and what twists photography is taking.
BJP: What kind of commissioned projects do you work on?
PP: Sometimes sporadic collaborations with brands happen, for example with Belvedere Vodka or Technogym. Last year I collaborated with Vogue Italia during fashion week in Milan, photographing with a Huawei phone, and I’ve also collaborated with C41 Magazine, which I am very happy about. But commissions are quite rare. Sometimes I happen to sell my photographs to private collectors, but almost always outside of Italy. Sometimes it’s hard, but I remain positive.
BJP: Are there any collaborative projects you would like to work on in the future?
PP: I would love to travel to far away places, different places, I am sure that in such situations I can get the best out of myself and my photography.