To Hell and Back - Giacomo Fortunato

When he is not taking photos, our guest today, Giacomo Fortunato, who grew up between Rhode Island and Sicily, could be biking around Brooklyn, perfecting a ragu sauce, searching for the best Negroni, building a jungle gym for his very fat cat, and shredding some metal on the Flying V guitar he built when he was in high school. But in the winter, he usually takes a pause on his work as a freelance photographer, to immerse himself in his personal projects.

That’s how this rad collection was born, when Giacomo attended 70000 Tons of Metal, the annual heavy metal music festival that takes place at a cruise ship, where metal fans from all over the world enjoy over 60 bands while going to the Caribbean.

“To Hell and Back, captures the decadence and camaraderie musicians and metalheads share at sea. As a lifelong metal fan, I photograph the energy, liberation and soul that permeate this visceral movement”.


Every winter you take on a personal project so, what do you do in the meantime?

I live and work in New York City. I shoot editorial and commissioned assignments all the time. However, due to the unpredictable nature of freelancing, I work on personal projects whenever there is a lull in the year. I can always count on working on a personal project in the beginning of the year when the photo industry is typically slower than usual.


We know heavy metal is one of your passions, so it’s obvious why you wanted it to be part of a project, but this specific way of doing it has a high contrast, mixing this style with a caribbean cruise. Why did you choose this theme for your metal project?

I attended the cruise as both a spectator and a photographer, intrigued by the premise of metal on a cruise ship. It seemed like a funny juxtaposition of 3,000 people wearing black in the Caribbean sun listening to what some might consider the least relaxing music ever. 

I knew this project would fit my photographic style well. Not only because of my adoration for metal, but because I have a highly adaptable personality and an endless curiosity for the unknown. I enter diverse subcultures with the intent of capturing a snapshot of that particular world. There is always a rawness and raucousness to what I shoot.


Why did you decide to focus on the fans more than in the bands? Which feeling did you want to transmit with these shots?

This project changed directions from what I initially intended. What drew me to this project initially was my fascination with this festival on a cruise ship with the ship as an integral part of the series. I obtained a press pass, which allowed me to photograph the bands in the pit. I shot a band or two, but mainly it got me a front row seat to check out a few great acts. I ended up being far more intrigued by the fans, because their reaction to the music was just as energetic as the music itself. Trying to encapsulate this unsurpassable energy through images is as tough as it is thrilling. 


It seems like a lot of fun there! Tell us your funniest story!

We drank, we sang, we partied in jacuzzis until 5 am, watching bands perform on the pool deck of the ship. Bands played from 10am to sunrise the next day, every day. It is hard to pin down a specific story or event. 


What gear did you use of these images and how was your workflow?

I rarely bring more equipment than I need to use, especially if it impedes my mobility. This allows me to not be over cumbered when around large groups. My days on board were extremely long, so being as light as possible was essential. I just carried my camera (Canon 5D MK II) with a flash.


What did you learn as a photographer with this trip? And as a metal lover?

Apparently I can survive with 2 - 3 hours of sleep a night for several days.


Which photograph is your favorite from this collection and why?

That’s a pretty tricky question. There are many striking images, however, I like each photo the same. Each image means something to me for its own reason and when I look at them, they remind me of what I was feeling at that time.


Your projects are so vivid and dynamic, could you tell us a bit about what you are planning for your next one?

I plan to continue working on the theme of Heavy Metal and am interested in checking out certain metal festivals in Europe down the line.


Photographer: Giacomo Fortunato  |  Website  |  Instagram