Samui Wining & Dining
What is Your Fantasy?

2Spending a day with Fantasy at Work photographer Claudio Cerquetti

Can you imagine this? You’re living on a lovely tropical island. Your days are filled with doing things that you love to do. You can more-or-less please yourself where you go and what you do. And you also get paid for it! It sounds like everybody’s dream, doesn’t it? But, in the case of Claudio Cerquetti, this is one fantasy that’s become a reality.

Of course, the job-description above is simplifying things a bit, because I missed out all the hard work and long hours that Claudio puts in – but when it’s a labour of love, then it’s just spinning out the enjoyment that much longer!

Claudio is a photographer. And, over the last few years, he’s earned the reputation of being the man with a camera on Samui. “There’s never been anything else in my life,” he said, almost shyly. “I got my first real camera when I was about 12 or 13, and I’ve never stopped taking photographs. It’s my whole life, and I love every moment of it.”

Which makes it all sound very simple. You just trot happily around with your mega-million pixel digital camera and shoot off some pictures. But when you realise that he opened his first photography business at the age of 18, and since that time he’s written 24 books on the subject, and is currently working on his 25th, then your perception changes a bit. There’s a passion and an intensity about him – a single-minded dedication, too. He’s travelled the world on assignments for the Italian magazine Fotografare – everywhere from Iceland to the Amazon. So, I wondered, what brought Claudio to Samui?

“Well, it was because of Japan,” he smiled, mysteriously. “I was holding regular seminars and workshops in Tokyo – I went there 15 times in about two years. Every time I returned to Rome, via Bangkok, I took a week’s holiday on Samui. It started to feel like my second home. Then, one day, I simply decided to make the break, and come here for good!”

Claudio’s work is wide-ranging, and covers just about every situation where photographs are needed – usually for advertising and publicity purposes, like brochures, pamphlets, posters and websites. His clients are as equally diverse, ranging through property developers, hotels and resorts, restaurants, shops, tour companies, and bars and pubs. And, of course, spas – of which Samui has more than a few.

But, I asked him, isn’t there a problem today? I mean, just about everyone has a digital camera that’s capable of taking very high quality photos. Don’t people now feel that they can do their own publicity shots? Claudio smiled. “When a resort or spa manager is looking through, say, Samui Spa Guide, and he sees some of the exquisite photographs that illustrate the top spas, then he really wants that sort of quality himself. And he knows that he can’t produce this with his pocket camera!”

“The problem with spas,” Claudio continued, “is that most of the treatment rooms are small. You need to change to a wide-angle lens to fit it all in. And then you can get ugly distortions, unless you keep making small changes of angle or position. I use up to eight or ten photo-lights, too. Spa lighting is always low and subtle – often too low! I have to keep the same atmosphere in the photo, by slowly adding one light, then another and another, to the existing room lighting, so that I’m gradually increasing it without changing its ambience. It’s a long process to get right – it usually takes around two hours to photograph one room.”

Two hours! Doesn’t that rather disrupt the smooth-running of the spa? “Well, not really. I always discuss with the manager what I plan to do, in detail, beforehand, and they’re prepared for it. Of course, it’s not realistic to close the whole spa for a day, so I usually do one or two aspects in one session, and then come back again the next day to continue. Spas are such wonderful places. In every corner, on every table, in each area there’s a little patch of carefully created beauty – a flower arrangement or a water feature. It’s a joy to try to catch the essence of this ‘on film’, so to speak!”

Claudio has had lots of experience at this. He’s aware of the tranquil nature of the spa experience and knows how to work without upsetting things. He knows that spas are busiest in the afternoons, so he’ll arrange his visits for the quieter, morning periods. He’ll arrange his own models, so that unwilling guests don’t need to lie there for hours at a time. And, what’s more – this is his favourite subject! “Spas are so calm and they’re such delightful places to be,” he enthused. “It’s so nice to be able to work in this relaxed atmosphere, with no interruptions and with such gentle and happy people around. There’s all the time in the world to lose myself in it!”

Which, indeed, he does, not finishing ‘work’ until around 7:00 pm most times he photographs spas. Oh. Did I say ‘finishing’? Well, it’s a couple of hour’s break, anyway, for something to eat, and maybe watch a video, back home. And then it’s back on the job again. There’re three or four memory-sticks to deal with, from the digital SLR, all full of high-resolution images. They’ll take a couple of hours to upload onto his big, powerful Macintosh computer, before he can review them all. Then, at around 1:00 am, he finally calls it a day. Bedtime.

Claudio Cerquetti is a lucky man. He does what he loves, and he loves what he does. Maybe he should think about renaming his company. Because, in Claudio’s case, it’s more like– ‘A Work Fantasy’!


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