“I want to use art as a tool to have people show themselves at their best. To use the way they’re dressed and their poses as works of art,” Massa tells The Local.
The 21-year-old set up Humans of Rome last spring and has been posting photographs of the city’s weird and wonderful people ever since.
Massa was inspired by Humans of New York, the street photography website set up by Brandon Stanton in 2010.
“I wanted to do something similar, because I know there are a lot of special people in Rome. I wanted to test myself,” Massa says over a beer, camera resting on the table.
The photographer, originally from the suburb Ostia Antica, says he still gets nervous approaching people.
“About half the people I ask say no, but the other half discover something beautiful about themselves.”
While street portraits are relatively new for Massa, he has been taking photos since he was a child and gradually moved from shooting nature to people.
Since launching Humans of Rome he has held two exhibitions and travelled all over the city.
“I try to make it as random as possible because I want to create a very real portrayal of people. Sometimes I stay in one place to feel what’s happening around me,” he says.
He takes in the suburbs to find the true Rome, although has found that many Romans have forgotten their streets.
“I hoped Romans would live in the city a bit more and not just go from A to B. They don’t consider the street as a place to stay, except for the elderly.
“The old are willing to learn about what you’re doing, they always have great advice and they are great talkers,” Massa says.
His interactions in Rome have helped bring focus to the project.
“When I started I didn’t have an aim, I just wanted to show how interesting people are. Now I find there is a lot more to see and understand through these photographs,” he says.
The breadth of photographs presents a far more diverse portrait of Rome than the image conjured up by guidebooks and found on postcards.
Massa’s hope is that his work will also help people “reconsider the way we interact with strangers”, in Rome and elsewhere.