On getting into photography
My journey into photography has been a long one. I'm from Venice, and I pursued arts in school before moving to Rome at 18 to study interior design and architecture. Parallel to my studies, I explored dance at an academy. But all of it ultimately led me to fashion. Around 2008, when social media became more more of a thing, I began experimenting with photography. Initially, it was just for fun, capturing moments with friends, but soon, I worked with bloggers and contributed to the Dolce & Gabbana magazine. Despite being a fashion brand, their magazine focused more on lifestyle, particularly design and architecture—all connected to the brand's heritage.
Post-graduation, I considered a career in PR, but fate led me to New York, where I assisted more established photographers. This then took me to Asia, which is where my focus shifted to documentary-style photography. I started in India and finished in China—it was a time in my life that significantly impacted me. I could fully immerse myself in different cultures and new storytelling formats.
Returning from Asia, I dabbled in PR, collaborating with firms for design-focused events like Design Miami, Art Basel, and even an agency in London. But I soon realised office life wasn't for me. Incidentally, during this period, I partnered with the Milan-based design studio Palomba Serafini, photographing their projects. Seeing my work published was a pivotal moment because it was when I recognised photography might actually be my true calling.
My break in the hotel industry occurred when a Milanese PR agency offered me a project with an Italian hotel. They called me while I was in London and expressed their admiration for how I told stories through photos. This venture opened many doors to editorial work and travel writing, allowing me to blend my passion for photography with my background in design and architecture, particularly as these hotels were all so design-focused. Design has become a crucial factor in deciding what types of places I want to photograph.
Today, I'm based in Italy, but my work takes me everywhere.
On the creative process and fostering individuality
Growing up, I was always open to anything creative, job-wise. The creative space is ever-changing, and exploring various creative fields has been incredibly rewarding. Despite the apparent diversity of the jobs I've done, I've always found a common thread, and the skills and insights are easily transferable.
I believe when you consider yourself a creative person, you have to remain adaptable. Nothing is ever fixed. And while it's important to embrace new trends, you must strive to maintain a unique, consistent, and timeless approach. This requires a strong sense of self and character, which can be a really hard thing to discover, but it's essential. Otherwise, you just end up following the crowd, and it's not necessarily your work anymore.
Social media, in my view, is like a double-edged sword. It has so much power, but you need to know how to use it and not misuse it. I understand that it's convenient to scroll through a phone, but there's a catch. Thanks to algorithms, we often fall into echo chambers, seeing the same things again and again. But I don't want to see what Instagram thinks I might like—I want it to show me what I don't like. How else am I supposed to open my mind and absorb different perspectives. After all, I believe a large part of creativity is the ability to have your mind changed.
As I scroll, I also notice all these new hotels popping up everywhere. But a lot of them are falling for the same gimmicks, lacking individuality. The difference between a project crafted with genuine passion and one that's merely a trend-following replica is very obvious. There's clearly saturation in the industry, which extends to photography as well.
On maintaining mystery as a photographer
I think I'm only really able to maintain mystery when I'm working on a personal project. When working for hotels, it's essential to understand that they have a clear vision, and they approach you because they appreciate your photography style. However, I've noticed that the best pictures are often the most natural or candid ones, rather than those that are pre-planned. I achieve the best results when wandering around with my small camera, capturing random shots. But, when I'm directed on what to shoot, the outcome is never quite the same.
In general, people seem to like my work because it possesses a certain rawness—it's not overly polished. I aim to strike a balance between my creativity and the commercial requirements, knowing where I can push the boundaries and where I should hold back. A significant part of this involves understanding human nature. It's so important to be attuned to your surroundings, the local culture, the people, and their desires. Sometimes it's challenging because you're only in a location for a short time, needing to quickly grasp the concept or the lighting. There's a a lot of information to absorb, which can be overwhelming.
On the most interesting place he’s visited thus far.
One place I loved is Socotra, situated between Yemen and Somalia. It's such a unique destination because many of the plants and animals found there are exclusive to the island. The Socotri people are culturally distinct from the Yemeni, yet Yemeni culture has a significant influence on the island. For me, visiting places that are vastly different from what I’m accustomed to is fascinating, and that forms my primary reason for travel. However, it's challenging because, as I mentioned before, social media has a way of laying everything on a plate. You see that people are everywhere. In my experience working with travel editors, I've noticed they always seek the newest, coolest, off-grid locations. We all do, I'm no different. But this is how we're eventually going to destroy the world! We're overexposing areas that probably shouldn't be exposed.
On embracing a new form of luxury
The concept of luxury has significantly changed. I was reading an article the other day about how, in the next twenty years or so, many luxury brands will lose a lot of their credibility because they're based on exclusivity and surging rates—which isn't true luxury. The only brands that will survive are those that remain consistent with their concept and story, building trust among their clients.
In today's world, people are far more interested in stories and experiences. Who cares anymore about paying sky-high prices when there's no real experience or unique offering? You'd get bored! I believe hotels should focus on storytelling rather than just boasting about amenities in their branding and marketing. We all appreciate nice amenities, but what else are you offering? It's far more captivating when you talk about the experience and how you'll feel, rather than just the size of the bed or the thread count of the bedsheets.
In some sense, don't just talk about your product. Sell your brand and concept. This approach has been prevalent in fashion for some time, and I'd like to see it more in hospitality. There are already some hotels adopting this approach.
In April, I had the opportunity to visit Mozambique and stayed at two amazing properties. The first was Kisawa Sanctuary, an exclusive and beautifully designed retreat owned by Nina Flohr, an art collector. The second was Sussurro, a place I discovered on social media. Initially, I wasn't sure if it was just a concept or an actual boutique hotel, which piqued my curiosity. Interestingly, their Instagram profile focuses less on showcasing their food or the hotel itself but more on the overall mood of being there. This is a brilliant strategy. Revealing too much online can diminish the sense of wonder and exploration, and I appreciate when hotels maintain mystery, encouraging people to visit and discover the place firsthand.
Another boutique hotel brand that resonates with me is Coqui Coqui in Mexico. I know the owners and visited their properties a long time ago. They originally started by making perfumes and were not intended to open hotels. They see themselves as more about creating a concept. They began in Tulum and have expanded to include leather products, but everything they do is connected to the location.
When considering this new form of luxury I was talking about, I think of a simple B&B on the small Aeolian island of Alicudi, which gained massive attention after a visitor's photos went viral. People went crazy over this place. While the lady was staying there, she took really beautiful photos, though the house itself is very simple. When I finally saw it in person last year, I thought, 'Wow, after all this travelling and all these luxury destinations, this is really what I need and where I want to be right now'. I started posting iPhone photos, and I, too, noticed how popular they were and how others were engaging with it. I think people felt they could relate to that simplicity—it can foster personal connection and authenticity.
There's also the 700,000 Heures (700,000 Hours) project. It's a nomadic hotel concept crafting unique experiences in diverse locales, focusing on cultural engagement. Again, it's not about opulence; it’s about feeling at home and at peace with yourself.
On pursuing other creative roles
Of course, I would love to explore different roads, and I've done so in the past. But sometimes I think, 'Oh my God, I need more than one life to do all these things.' Pursuing what I like is already consuming a lot of energy and time. So, for now, I think I'm sticking to what I'm doing.
However, my aim is to move beyond just hotels and design, which I adore. I want to delve into printing and fine art. That's what I intend to focus on more, rather than just travelling and visiting different hotels. While that's always interesting to me, I aspire to go beyond that. Ultimately, my goal is to be represented by galleries. That's the direction I'm moving forward in. That's where I see myself going. I wouldn't dare to tell you more.
Photos by Enrico Costantini