My story.

From the Bronx to Bocconi

I was born in New York City, in Manhattan. My relatives lived in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, which all means New York City. When you’re born in a city of these dimensions, you quickly learn how to deal with the chaos around you. First, you lean to deal with anyone you meet, from the fellow at the hot dog stand on the corner to the addict who falls on you in the subway, from the Art Director of The New York Times or Fortune Magazine to the worker eating a sandwich beside you at an 8th Avenue jewish luncheonette. New York is an intense city and when I was growing up, it was also a violent one. You always had to instinctively decide, in the fraction of a second, if someone was friendly or not so friendly towards you. In New York, it’s called being street smart.

My father, and my father’s father,  were fish vendors. In reality, my grandfather, Giuseppe Carmine Rozzo, was a shepherd, who lived in the Irpinia mountains in a little town called Mugnano del Cardinale at the end of the 1800s. But when he emigrated to America, in the beginning of the 1900s, his brother and cousins were already working in the Fulton Fish Market in Manhattan, and since my grandfather spoke only his local dialect (he never learned either Italian or English), he followed them in their activities. My father as well, who wanted to be a musician, ended up following his father into the fish business. 

I got my bachelor’s degree in fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1970. I was a hippy. I was against the Vietnam War. I was living with my girl-friend and we wanted to get away from the US. We wanted to get away from the never-ending consumerism surrounding us, get away from a senseless war and I wanted to get away from a city too competitive for my insecurities. So we ran away… to Italy. 

Both my girl-friend and I wanted to live in the country, so through friends we ended up finding an abandoned work shed that we bought in the mountains above the city of Carrara. The shed was in the middle of a tiny vineyard with only a dirt path leading to it, no electricity and no water. The closest town was about a kilometre and a half away, a medieval conglomeration of buildings where people constantly stared at us as if we were from outer space, mumbling and imagining who knows what about this young hippy couple. One can only immagine what they thought. 

That period, surely a bit crazy on our part, lasted less than two years. As a couple, we fell apart, she returned to America and I couldn’t resist living alone in the middle of the woods either. So I came to Milano where I knew no one and had no idea who to be or what to do. I found work as an assistant to three fashion photographers in the middle of the 70s. 

I loved fashion photography but I wasn’t really too keen on the world that surrounded it. So after various attempts, I ended up opening a small photography studio with two Italian friends. We found our first clients through friends of my partners. One of those clients was a very small company near Lecco: a tiny company that built cranes.That job was the beginning of more than thirty years dedicated to working for companies large and small. From that first family owned factory, I quickly found clients on an international level: Fiat, IBM Italia, Magneti Marelli, Dow Chemical, Pirelli, Italtel, Alitalia and others. 

After years of intense work, exciting years of travelling, working and learning, I was called to work for Fortune Magazine and Business Week, but personal questions were about to change my life’s direction. 

I found myself teaching, sharing my experience and enthusiasm with younger photographers and, eventually, with management which I surprisingly found unprepared in dealing with images. I was called by IBM International to Paris and, then, Bruxelles to hold lessons on how to use imagery and how to deal with image-makers. Then I was asked by the then Sovrintendente alle Belle Arti di Milano, Carlo Bertelli, to create a program on contemporary photography for the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.  I then became Director of the Department of Photography at the Instituto Europeo di Design in Milano for almost 10 years, which was followed by my obtaining the Chair of Photography at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Bergamo, under the direction of Mario Cresci. After years of study, I was eventually asked to give some lessons on semiotics at Bocconi University in Milan where I eventually became an Academic Fellow in 2004. 

During this period, I had opened my own corporate communications studio in Milan, I won some awards and was proud of our studio, but I soon realised that I was spending all my time dealing with people and no longer actually creating images or ideas. So I decided to close the studio. 

Since then, almost 20 years have past: years of enormous change, socially, technologically, politically and personally. These changes have been, for me, a constant stimulus. Every challenge, every change, has forced me to understand more, to learn new methods and technologies and to explore new ideas. 

Today, I’ve arrived at a point in which I can share the benefit of these experiences. I’ve understood the delicate mechanisms behind innovative processes, I’ve understood the role of leadership and, above all, the importance of story and storytelling in motivating others. I dedicate my energies so that any company, large or small, can become more international, making the value of what it does appreciated on a continually evolving international stage. 

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