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Alessia Bruchi Fotografo Palio di Siena
Alessia Bruchi Fotografo Palio di Siena


The Colors, the Shivers and the Sweat of the Shutter on the Tuff

The Palio and what surrounds it is a world conjugated, by nature, at the masculine. It is made of an epic and impetuous aesthetics, of visceral and hot blooded passions which often result into expression of power, pride and a sense of belonging to a community. This may be the proof of a never forgotten ancient reminiscence of proud and invincible warriors. This complexity could be defined as a “masculine way of belonging to Siena”, a way of being which does not accept any compromise. Because in the Palio, as in life, if you come second, you are a looser.

The same thing happens when you are a Palio photographer. This is an almost-only-for-men world which is slightly sceptical towards the incisiveness of a feminine lens. In this world, a woman may be considered “not tough enough” to tell the growing epic of the three days preceding the Palio. A very long day charged with anxiety and emotions which starts, for the photographers, at six o’clock in the morning with the “Mass of the jockey” in an almost empty Piazza del Campo, it continues with the “provaccia” (the last trial) and the historical parade under the early afternoon sun, the race and finally the rejoicing of the winning Contrada. Perhaps the most demanding and physically wearing moment of the whole endless 96 hours of the Palio.

Actually, at the end of the race there is no justification, no time to change the lens nor to set again the camera, because when you are there, in the middle, you risk to be run over by people. At the end of the race, you must indisputably be ready. You have to be a sort of “battering ram in the Square” which means that you’ve got to have that typically masculine strength to keep your feet on the ground, trying not to be run over by people by waving together with the impetuous river of the winning people. When the fire-cracker bursts, the winners pour into the track running towards the horse and the Judges bleacher, two steps far from you, and continuing their way towards the church of Provenzano or towards the Dome. I assure you that it is not easy for a woman.

Nevertheless, to me this is the most beautiful challenge and it is a shiver which runs down my spine all the times. Pure adrenaline. The passion, the impetuousness, the emotions engraved on people’s faces ; the tears, the joy, the sweat and the smell of life, everything in a few shutters. They become unique as a result of this clear clash between the masculine impetuousness of the Palio and my well-rounded sensitivity shown through a feminine lens. And all this is probably more intimate and subtle than a masculine perspective. Excited shutters, often faulty, but dense and hot blooded. Laborious shutters, but unrepeatable ; shutters that, once at home, make me feel proud of the job I took : portraits and tales of the Palio which hold the spirit of Siena.


Just like some types of photography which by their nature find their best expression in black and white, I believe that Palio photography can only be in colour, because color is the very essence of the Palio, the most important element , without which much of its meaning would be lost. The Palio itself is color, the color of the districts, the golden color of the tuff that covers the ring in Piazza del Campo with its best dress, the color of the strongest and most all-encompassing emotions. My Palio photography therefore tends to be in colour, with sharp contrasts, strong colors and recurring backlighting, which give the photo a further degree of drama and spectacularity. A type of photography in which I take care of the composition of the spaces and the harmony of the forms in an almost obsessive way, in which on the contrary post-production is reduced to a minimum, since these are shots already full of meaning and saturated with emotions, which have no certainly need special effects.


I have been photographing Palio for many years, but the question is always the same: what is the Palio lens? There is probably no "right" answer to this question, but only different points of view, more or less spot on with respect to what you want to emphasize and what you want to emphasize. Following the Palio from a photojournalistic and reportage point of view, however, the choice is quite clear: a telephoto to capture details and particulars, a wide angle to tell the unity of an event that would not exist without the participation of the people.
Shooting as an accredited photographer, therefore from a privileged position such as that from the tuff, both as regards the Mossa, the curve of San Martino and the various "shirts" (the spaces close to the fences inside the square), the must is the timeless 70-200 2.8, which ensures the incisiveness of the subject in focus and behind a very soft and pleasant blur, both with optimal light but also in a low light situation. The only drawback of the tele is that from the position of the Move, close enough to the canape, the 70-200 does not allow you to frame the entire width but only a portion of the move, so either you frame the run-up, or you frame the heads of the starters. Still on the subject of lenses, since my photography of the palio is generally very choral and focused on the community of the event, in the moments in which the people become the protagonists, I make extensive use of wide-angle lenses with high luminosity, from 14-24mm f/2.8 , 17-35mm f/2.8 up to the less stringent but very versatile 24-70mm, always f/2.8.
As for the camera body, I have been using the flagship Nikon D5 for years, a certainly heavy but decidedly high-performance and robust SLR, capable of ensuring excellent performance in terms of ISO, MAF and shutter speed, but also of withstanding the stroke of extreme situations such as those of a "jubilation" of the victorious contrada in the Piazza.
Although the Palio di Siena is a very demanding event to follow photographically and consequently requires to be as light as possible, preferably working with a single camera body alternating the two lenses, I sometimes find it limiting to use only the D5 and sometimes, during the Trials , I also go out with a second camera body, on which I mount the wide angle lens, which allows me to quickly shoot the exits from the squares of the various peoples with very wide shots, preferably from below, creating very particular shots.As far as post-production is concerned, in good light and provided you use good optics, generally my Photography of the Palio really needs very few interventions, both thanks to the bright colors of the districts and the tuff, and thanks to the "landscape context" that is already spectacular in itself. Obviously this does not apply to all those situations of very strong contrasts between lights and shadows, such as for example during the Historical Procession, when in the Moved position you find yourself in front of the shadowed figures with a background completely in the sun, which makes the wide-angle shot practically impossible even in Raw.






Born in Siena on November 1977, photojournalist, graduated in Communication and holding a Master in Marketing. Passionate contradaiola. She is deeply involved in photo feature photography, she cooperates at present with several local and national news headlines as a photojournalist. She also works at the FOTOSTUDIO SIENA, a lovely photo studio in Siena.









“Il Palio è tre minuti con il cuore in gola, quattro giorni senza fiato, una vita da respirare a pieni polmoni.”