Fabio Bucciarelli

A woman is comforted inside a van during the evacuation of Irpin, Ukraine in March 2022. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV by Fabio Bucciarelli.

Photojournalist Fabio Bucciarelli's images of conflict seek to go beyond simply documenting events, and highlight the emotion and raw humanity of these moments. Photographed during the early days of the invasion of Ukraine, Fabio captured a woman being comforted inside a van during the evacuation of Irpin, north of Kyiv, 5 March 2022. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 50mm, 1/400 sec, f/4 and ISO 4000. © Fabio Bucciarelli

From the heat of battle in Libya, Syria and Ukraine to the devastating impact of flooding in South Sudan and Italy, Fabio Bucciarelli's photographs document the most testing of humanity's times. The Italian's visceral images of major global news events and their humanitarian consequences have made him one of today's leading international photojournalists, published in the likes of The New York Times, la Repubblica, Die Zeit, TIME magazine, Al Jazeera and Le Monde.

Fabio describes himself as a photojournalist, rather than a conflict photographer, because he is also concerned with documenting the aftermath of war, focusing his lens on all the wounds of humanity, along with covering clashes from Gaza and Iraq to Mali and Ukraine. He has tracked refugees displaced by conflict and, increasingly, by climate change, across the Middle East, Africa, America and Europe.

"I'm trying to walk the fine line between photojournalism and reflective photography, straddling the boundary between images that provide answers and those that provoke further questions," explains Fabio. "It's crucial to present evidence of what's happening, but equally important to encourage people to contemplate the deeper meaning behind it."

When not on assignment, Fabio is based between his home city of Turin and the coastal town of Pineto, Abruzzo, in central Italy, a place close to his heart, where his father's former house filled with childhood memories offers him a "refuge" when he returns from conflict. But his life hasn't always been this way. His early years were infused with jazz piano music and mathematics, rather than photography. After studying telecommunications engineering and graduating with top honours from the Politecnico di Torino, it was while working in Barcelona, Spain, that Fabio found himself drawn towards the lens.

"I spent so much time questioning what I wanted to be and searching for my place, and then photography came along," he says. "I knew I wanted to create images that made me feel connected with the world, capable of revealing its true face to myself and others."

A black and white headshot of Canon Ambassador Fabio Bucciarelli.
Location: Turin, Italy

Specialist areas: Photojournalism, documentary photography

Favourite kit: Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Joining Barcelona's underground photography scene, Fabio learned how to use analogue equipment and develop film, bought his first Canon EOS 5D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) and attended a few photography masterclasses. "Everything was completely new to me," he says. "That year, I made the decision to leave engineering behind and pursue a career as a photographer."

A Palestinian man bends over in anguish, as black smoke billows all around him, following an attack by Israel along Gaza's eastern border. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III by Fabio Bucciarelli.

As well as capturing classic photojournalistic shots of funeral processions and violence during clashes along Gaza's eastern border with Israel in 2018, Fabio also chose to document more simplistic, striking moments, such as this Palestinian man bent over amid the smoke, his arched back a symbol of his suffering. "These kinds of images better describe to me the difficulties of living under siege," says Fabio. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM) at 1/250 sec, f/10 and ISO 125. © Fabio Bucciarelli

A male patient with Covid-19 lies in bed surrounded by masked Italian Red Cross volunteers. A painting of the Virgin Mary hangs on the wall. Taken on a Canon EOS R by Fabio Bucciarelli.

Empathy is crucial in photojournalism, according to Fabio. "Even a brief interaction should be a genuine one – friendly and respectful," he says. "This holds true even if it's just a matter of 10 minutes – whether it's a refugee escaping or someone battling Covid-19." This photo depicts Covid-19 patient Claudio Travelli resting in bed after being examined by Italian Red Cross volunteers in Bergamo, Italy, in March 2022. Fabio's work for The New York Times received the Lucie Award in New York and the Visa d'Or in Perpignan. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/160 sec, f/1.8 and ISO 1600. © Fabio Bucciarelli/The New York Times

When a massive earthquake struck Italy's Abruzzo region near his family home in 2009, Fabio returned to cover it, sending images to Italian agencies and getting his first publications. He documented the impact of the earthquake for months, and would continue to over the next decade. Thanks to this coverage, he secured a staff photographer contract with the La Presse/AP agency, where he honed his news gathering skills, covering breaking events ranging from politics to sport. But after a couple of years, he was ready to move on.

"I hadn't quit engineering to do those kinds of frames of Berlusconi or Messi," says Fabio. "It was not interesting to me, so when I had enough experience to start working as a freelancer, I quit. One newspaper in Italy decided to send me to Libya with some of the best conflict correspondents, from whom I could learn how to move in the field."

Capturing a photograph of the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was the "first turning point" of Fabio's career. Having spent several months covering the war from Benghazi to Tripoli to Sirte, it was a striking image of the fallen dictator which caught the attention of picture editors. "It was the first contact with international editors, which I then developed in Syria," he says. He went on to work for AFP covering the battle for Aleppo, as well as freelancing for leading global magazines and newspapers. Self-taught, his training continued in the field, as he got the feel of a 35mm lens in Libya and a 24mm in Syria – focal lengths he continues to use in his two-camera setup plus primes, with a Canon EOS R slung on one shoulder and a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV on the other.

A wounded young Syrian man rests against the back of a truck. In the foreground, several men are dragging another injured man into the vehicle. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D by Fabio Bucciarelli.

Shooting with a 35mm lens allows Fabio to capture images with multiple dimensions within a single frame. "It allows you to immerse yourself in the image, moving through its layers and drawing the viewer in," he explains. In the background of this photo, framed by other people, a young wounded Syrian sits at the back of a truck after an attack carried out in Aleppo in October 2012. Fabio's extensive work from Syria earned him the Robert Capa Gold Medal and a World Press Photo award in 2013. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens at 1/250 sec, f/4 and ISO 160. © Fabio Bucciarelli

After covering the Covid-19 outbreak in northern Italy – an early epicentre – for The New York Times, Fabio returned to his conflict photography roots in 2022, although his style has evolved over the years.

"My first images were screaming, they were punching you in the stomach," he says. "While I still keep doing some of those frames, my photography has changed in the way it is more about the emotion, and about asking questions, because I discovered that I also do not have the answers."

Fabio is now looking beyond the frontline, including documenting children undergoing cancer treatment in a warzone. "In the tradition of my work, the idea is to bring evidence, but it's not about conflict or mortar shelling – it's what a war leaves behind," he continues. "These days, I am interested in what happens next."

Why do you like shooting with primes over zooms?

"It's what Robert Capa said, 'If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.' For me, it's not about physical distance, but emotional distance. You cannot get emotionally close with a long lens. When you use zoom, you aren't encouraged to get closer to people, and you're not shooting at, for example, 35mm, but you can shoot at 38mm, 42mm. This doesn't help you establish empathy with the subjects you're photographing, and your eyes will never learn to see at 35mm."

You've displayed work in some amazing locations, including churches. How important is it for you to exhibit your photographs?

"The main motivation behind capturing images is to share them. When you're documenting conflicts and nobody sees your photographs, it begs the question of why you're risking your life to be there. I'm deeply committed to showcasing images, not just in newspapers and magazines, but also in exhibitions. Whether it's in museums, galleries or places easily accessible to people, including street exhibitions, I always collaborate with artistic directors to curate my exhibitions in a way that fosters interaction between the audience and my pictures."

What inspires you visually and creatively?

"Photography is the art of using light. In a way, as photographers, we are the new painters. So if I need inspiration, I look at Caravaggio, Titian, and many Italian painters of the Renaissance and Late Renaissance. I am more accustomed to looking at paintings than photography because I draw inspiration from that reality, from the use of light, and the construction of the frame. If you see Vincent van Gogh's The Potato Eaters, you'll notice a perfect composition, with different layers and an intimate atmosphere created by light. This is photography."

How do you choose when to use colour versus black and white, such as in your long-term project on the refugee crisis, The Dream?

"Working mostly for editorial platforms, the majority of my productions are in colour since they mostly publish in colour, to enhance the perception with reality. However, when I'm engaged in long-term or documentary projects, I willingly opt for black and white. I've been working on The Dream for over seven years in more than 12 countries, including Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Italy and France, among others, capturing various moments and atmospheres. On one side, I was shooting editorial assignments covering conflicts, and on the other side, I was documenting the consequences – the refugee populations that arrived in Europe. In this case, black and white helped me work on the story at another level and unify the work."

Do you seek to take iconic images or build stories across a body of work?

"More than discussing single frames, I prefer to focus on storytelling and stories. How you edit your images is incredibly important today. Think about a photographer who takes 3,000 shots and needs to select the best 15. If they aren't skilled at editing, they might end up being a subpar photographer. However, a photographer who can select the best frames can become an exceptional one. I've seen many talented photographers struggle with editing, which has led to them undermining their important stories and struggling to find publications and platforms to showcase their work. I highly recommend that the younger generation invests in honing their editing skills. I believe that how you tell the story is more crucial than capturing a single outstanding image. Sometimes, you have to 'sacrifice' your best picture to convey the essence of your story and reportage."

One thing I know

Fabio Bucciarelli

"To produce compelling stories, time is essential; it is the most valuable resource. Nowadays, it's often challenging to produce exceptional photojournalism within editorial platforms because they are frequently constrained by financial limitations or driven by political or editorial pressures, which don't allow photographers the necessary time to establish genuine empathy with their subjects. If you spend a month on a story rather than just a week, the outcome will undoubtedly be better. And if you were to devote a year to the same story, the material would be even more profound. Time is the most pivotal variable in our profession."

Facebook: fbuccia

Instagram: @fabio_bucciarelli


Fabio Bucciarelli's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Fabio Bucciarelli's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R

Fabio typically pairs his EOS R, the pioneering original full-frame mirrorless camera with a 30.3MP sensor, with his Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens, using a Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. He also uses the RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Fabio started his photographic career on the EOS 5D and has continued to upgrade through the legendary 5D series. The Canon 5D Mark III was Fabio's primary body before he upgraded to the Mark IV, giving him more pixels, AF points and greater connectivity. He usually pairs it with his Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens.


Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

The ultimate 50mm lens, delivering outstanding sharpness, with noticeably more detail, right to the edge of the frame, and unparalleled low-light performance. "When I need to shoot a portrait, I use this lens, which I always have in my pocket," says Fabio.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

This wide-angle L-series lens allows Fabio to capture vibrant, busy scenes in the field, while its fast f/1.4 aperture is perfect for hand-held shooting in low light. He got to know this focal length covering the Syrian civil war, upgrading to this lens afterwards. "At 24mm you can create different stories within the same frame," he says of the wide angle.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Offering a wide-angle view with a natural perspective, this EF prime is a staple for reportage photographers. "My eyes see at 35mm without a camera, because I've been working at 35mm for so long," says Fabio. "This helps me when I want to take a picture, because I don't need to see the angle – I already have it."


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