Chiara Negrello

Side profile of three fisherwomen, of varying ages, standing side by side in a small boathouse. All three are wearing warm, waterproof clothing and smiling slightly. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III by Chiara Negrello.

Fisherwomen and subjects of Italian photojournalist Chiara Negrello's Like the Tide series, Chiara Vallati, Giovanna Tessarin and Barbara Tessarin, stand side-by-side in the boathouse where they keep their fishing gear. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM) at 1/500 sec, f/5.6 and ISO 100. © Chiara Negrello

Documentary photographer and multimedia producer Chiara Negrello first picked up a camera aged 14, while in Venice, Italy with her family. Born just under an hour's train journey away from Venice in Rovigo, she had visited the city many times before. But as she recalls, "Looking through the viewfinder of a camera transformed Venice in my eyes – it seemed so much more magical".

Inspired by that initial experience, Chiara wanted to point her camera at other familiar subjects. "My instincts led me toward people's lives; I was curious about their stories," she says.

When Chiara's father was a young man, he helped to integrate Muslim families who had moved into his village, teaching them Italian and introducing them to members of the community.

"I asked my father to ask his friend Mustafa whether I could go to his house and stay with his family for a little while, to photograph their daily life; I just had a huge interest to explore and understand what was unfamiliar to me, through the camera," she recalls, describing the urge that has driven her photojournalism career.

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Chiara Negrello.

Locations: Italy; Southeast Asia

Specialist areas: Photojournalism, documentary filmmaking

Favourite kit: Canon EOS R5

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Chiara studied photography at the Liberal Academy of Fine Arts (LABA) in Florence, Italy, graduating in 2017. She spent a few years working as a freelance commercial photographer, which granted her financial independence and the freedom to pursue more documentary projects. In 2020, she was awarded a Reuters scholarship to study Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York.

The Covid-19 pandemic prevented Chiara from travelling, which meant the course had to be delivered remotely and Chiara had to find a story to tell closer to home. It was during this time that she lived with the fisherwomen of the Po Delta, producing a series entitled Like the Tide, which is her most famous work to date.

A hand wearing a clear plastic glove strokes the face of an elderly woman in a hospital bed. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 by Chiara Negrello.

Ukrainian caregiver Lyubov Mala tends to the elderly Lidia, who contracted Covid-19 in 2020 and could no longer get out of bed. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 53mm, 1/640 sec, f/4 and ISO 1600. © Chiara Negrello

Framed from the knees down, a caregiver wearing grey jogging bottoms helps an elderly woman into a bathtub. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 by Chiara Negrello.

Ukrainian caregiver Liliya Khodunay bathes an old Italian woman in Milano, Italy, in December 2022. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 67mm, 1/160 sec, f/4 and ISO 1600. © Chiara Negrello

Chiara believes consistency is key. "I adapt each story to suit my style, and not the other way around," she says, stressing the importance of expressing both herself and her subject within her work. Chiara pays careful attention to light, using the interplay between darkness and light to accentuate themes, such as the universal experience of womanhood and suffering in her Like the Tide series. Rather than pushing for a specific result, Chiara prefers to sit back and observe how natural light falls upon her subjects.

"I was a shy child, preferring to stay silent and in my place," she says, which she believes has contributed to her ability to truly observe and connect with her environment. "I thought being shy would limit my ability to connect with people. Over time, I have learnt to overcome this side of myself and now feel more confident to approach my subjects with empathy."

Through photography, Chiara is able to communicate without words, which enables her to develop relationships with subjects from all walks of life, in every corner of the world.

Do you prefer to tell a story through photos or videos?

"Some stories are best told through still imagery, and some through video. Some are even best told through sound alone, but a crucial part of my job is selecting which medium serves the story best. For example, I recently filmed the story of a Vietnamese woman who started feeding monkeys that moved to an isolated island after deforestation destroyed their natural habitat. Just with the photographs, my audience wouldn't be able to hear how she talks to the monkeys like a doting mother, or the cries they make when they hear her approaching."

What work are you most proud of?

"In 2020, I lived with a community of women in the Po Delta in northeast Italy. Most of the women in this region were formerly employed in textile mills, but after a crisis in the textile industry in the 1980s, they had to find new work. Around the same time, clams were planted in the shallow waters of the Delta, providing an opportunity for the women to find employment in the fishing industry – an industry that had previously been dominated by men. I lived with these women during the Covid-19 pandemic, and while studying remotely at ICP, which meant studying until 1am and then waking up to go fishing for clams at 4am. It was a challenging time, but I'm proud of myself for committing to the story. I named the series Like the Tide and it was published in National Geographic, among other publications. Receiving recognition for my work was great, but I'm more proud of the contribution I made to the community. By shining a light on their story, I gave the world a chance to celebrate fisherwomen, and the community itself a chance to celebrate them. A few years after the project circulated, their city gave recognition to two of the fisherwomen I photographed, for being among the first to pursue this profession."

What work has had the biggest impact on you?

"My grandmother had a live-in Ukrainian caregiver, who stayed with her until the end of her life. I started photographing her to understand the emotional aspects of this profession. Tensions meanwhile were growing, so I decided to expand the project to the whole community, and the story began to add more shades. I had three months' worth of material when the invasion started, which ended up being published in The New York Times and led to me being awarded The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation Fellowship grant to delve into it for another year. The story was very emotional and impacted me greatly, both for losing my grandmother right in the middle of the grant and for immersing myself in the grief and pain of those experiencing conflict from afar."

How do you choose your stories?

"I explore the ways in which the economy affects people's lives and how a single product can affect the lives of multiple generations. In Vietnam, I documented a story about the agricultural drones used to grow rice in the Mekong Delta. Introducing such an innovative approach to cultivating a product that is at the core of its culture embodies the country's spirit. The drone also provides new job opportunities for young generations in rural areas. I also like to document strong, independent women because they're my role models: the fisherwomen who persisted despite everyone telling them it was a man's job; the Ukrainian caregivers who continue to lovingly care for our elderly despite their families being bombed. They're the women I want to be, and taking their photographs or making films about them is my way of showing respect."

One thing I know

Chiara Negrello

"Making documentaries or shooting a series of photographs about one subject requires consistency. You have to be constant in pursuit of your story, and not expect to make big breakthroughs every day. If you work at your story every day, you'll be able to look back and see just how far you've come. The same applies to getting your work published. You will receive a lot of nos, but you have to believe in what you do and work for it daily. It is a beautiful feeling to work for stories that matter to you, but in this job sometimes it is hard not to falter if you see that others do not care as much as you do. That's the moment you have to stand up for your work and trust it more than before. The best results come when you believe in what you do and not when you do something to please the industry."

Instagram: @negrellochiara


Chiara Negrello's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Chiara Negrello's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R5

Whether you shoot photos, video or a mixture of both, the EOS R5's uncompromising performance will revolutionise your creativity. "I need a fast, silent camera that allows me to capture quick moments while remaining unobtrusive," says Chiara. "The EOS R5 is the perfect companion, and what makes it even better is how intuitive it makes switching between stills and video."


Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM

A highly versatile 24-105mm zoom lens offering photographers and filmmakers an ideal balance between performance, portability and image quality. "At the start of my career, I didn't think I'd ever use a zoom lens," says Chiara. "However, when I started approaching video, this lens became a great ally. Since I work mainly on documentary narrative, all the moments are unique and unrepeatable. A versatile lens is the best tool that makes me feel confident in telling every frame in the way I want to interpret it."

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

The successor to the lens Chiara favours is beloved by reportage photographers for its natural perspective, low-light capability and extraordinary optical performance. "I am particularly fond of shooting at 35mm since it was the first fixed lens I bought," says Chiara. "It's the lens that taught me how to understand distances, and its f1.4 aperture guarantees results even in low light."

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

An affordable, high-quality lens that's perfect for creative portraits and low-light photos. "I find it a challenge to create a frame with this lens, but it's a challenge I enjoy and know that it's improving me as a photographer," says Chiara.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

A short telephoto focal length, combined with a large maximum aperture and fast autofocus speed, make the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM an ideal optic for any photographer shooting portraiture. "I usually prefer to take horizontal photographs," says Chiara. "However, when I put my 85mm on the camera, I only shoot vertically. This lens drives me to pick out the details, the glances, the gestures. I like to think it allows me to create images that light up the little elements that would be lost and hidden in a larger frame. Those which move the viewer to a more intimate part of the story."


Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

Designed for use with the Canon EOS R system, this adapter allows EF and EF-S lenses to be used on EOS R cameras seamlessly.

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