World Vegan Travel_TEXT_Tuscany Through the Lens Exploring Photography Retreats Enzo Dal Verme Ep 1

Tuscany Through the Lens: Exploring Photography Retreats | Enzo Dal Verme | Ep 127

Introducing Enzo

In this episode, we delve into the world of Enzo Dal Verme and his transformative photography retreats. Discover a unique and non-conventional approach that focuses on refining participants’ sensitivity as photographers. Whether you’re an experienced pro or a beginner, these immersive retreats offer valuable insights and personal growth.

Join us on this captivating journey of self-discovery and creative exploration. Enzo’s retreats provide a laid-back and supportive environment, allowing participants to set aside competition and enjoy the company of like-minded creatives. Expect a playground of inspiration to cultivate new skills and deepen your love for photography.

Enzo’s teachings help participants break free from old habits, see the world with fresh eyes, and effortlessly connect with subjects on a deeper level. Gain insights into yourself and enhance your interpersonal interaction skills. This intense and playful retreat uses photography as a tool to inquire into reality and unlock creativity.

Tune in to learn about Enzo Dal Verme’s transformative photography retreats and the enriching experiences participants undergo. Get ready to explore the world of self-discovery through the lens of photography!

In this episode we discuss:

  • A unique and non-conventional approach that focuses on refining participants’ sensitivity as photographers.
  • Learn about Enzo Dal Verme’s transformative photography retreats.
  • Ways to connect and interact even with difficult subjects.
  • Why a photography holiday can be a transformative experience.
  • The importance of treating yourself to 5 days in the heart of Tuscany.
  • Enzo’s introduction to the photography retreat with a vegan theme and how it aligns with his values.
  • Insights into what it was like to be a vegan in the last century, addressing challenges and changes.
  • A reflection on the experience of being a vegan for four decades and how it has evolved over time.
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Brighde: Hi Enzo. Thank you so much for joining me on The

World Vegan Travel podcast.

Enzo: Hey, thank you for inviting me. Hi.

Brighde: Fantastic. Now, I was really pleased to make a connection with you because you are doing something that’s very interesting. It’s not a specifically vegan travel experience, but the experience is vegan, and that is photography retreats in Italy, and we’re gonna talk more about where they are and what people experience later on.

But, I’d love it if you wouldn’t mind telling me a little bit about your career and what it is that you have done that allows you to run these retreats because I’m sure it requires a lot of experts skill and knowledge to do it.

Enzo: I am a photographer and I’ve been working. It’s actually 20 years, 25 years that I’m a photographer, and I’ve been working, mainly with magazines. All these glossy magazines like Vanity Fair, l’Uomo Vogue, The Time Magazine, all those magazines. And I’ve been, doing celebrities, and travels, and fashion,

and I really enjoy my job, but at a certain point, I decided I wanted to share it. And so I started teaching. And I’ve been teaching in different parts of Italy, also, not in Italy. The place where I teach now is in Tuscany, and it’s a beautiful place and it’s 12 years I teach there.

For me, what I learned in years of working with magazines and having to take pictures with very little time, maybe with very difficult subjects. What we do is not really something very technical. Like I don’t teach how to use your camera, but I teach more how to deal with what you have to do, how to deal with people with difficult people or how to deal with your own limits when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel under stress, all these things. We do a lot of things and food is vegan. Actually, it’s very funny because the first time that I was teaching on

Como Lake, and food was not vegan, but I ordered vegan food, and because I was the teacher, everyone found it incredibly interesting and so special. So everyone wanted to eat vegan because I was eating vegan. In the end, it was a big mess because people were uncomfortable because I had something special that looked fresh and really tasty.

So the next retreat I was asked to do vegan options, and they misunderstood, and they did everything totally vegan. I was really happy, but the people coming to my retreat are not vegan. So 12 years ago, I was a bit embarrassed. I thought, oh my God, some people are going to complain, and they found it so good and something special of my retreat.

And so from then on, it has always been vegan. And now it’s more openly vegan because after the retreat I sent everyone an email saying, since we’ve been eating this way during those days, we save this much water, this much forest, and that many animals, and now I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t go back to doing something mixed because, no, I would feel very uncomfortable to organize something that also serves meat. But back then, the first time it was different.

Brighde: But you’ve been vegan for quite a long time, right? So how did that all come to pass? Was it in Italy that you made this switch? Maybe somewhere else? Tell us a little bit about how that journey has been for you.

Enzo: Yeah. I was already vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time. But, at a certain point, I saw being vegetarian is okay, but I want to be vegan. And that was 40 years ago, four zero. And it was very strange. I was a very strange person. No one knew what vegan was.

I was going very often to London, and that’s where I met a lot of vegans. And I met them after I became vegan and I was very happy because I thought wait, there is someone that is like me. So it was like a big discovery. Figure out when I became vegan in Italian, in our language, there was not a word for veganism.

there was something that was maybe, but the term, the word “vegano” didn’t exist.

Brighde: Yeah. That’s so funny that you say that because there are still many languages in the world that don’t have the word for vegan, which means when you travel there, it can be really hard. It’s not in the dictionary, so you have to really explain. And it’s only recently in France because “vegetalian” used to be the word for vegan, but now it’s vegan, so everyone understands that.

But in Thailand, for example, there is no word in the Thai dictionary for vegan. There are words for eating that way, but it’s to do with religion, so it’s not quite the same. So yeah, it’s very interesting, and I think it’s changing, I think more countries, as there are more languages, are using this word and putting it in the dictionary. You wouldn’t think it’s so important, but it actually is.

Enzo: When you have a way to describe it, people can know more about it.

As in French, they had vegetarian. We used to have vegetaliano as well, but no one knew this word. No one knew what

it meant. I used to say, I am a strict vegetarian. That

means no animal dairy base.

And I said, “Okay, so you eat fish?”. They said, “No, fish is an animal. I don’t eat animals.” So at the beginning, it was really strange because people thought I was a little bit mad. And after a while, people around me started to consider me with more respect. Like, hey, this man is doing something weird, and he is really into it.

But also there is another thing that was happening that I really didn’t like, that people were starting checking my shoes, saying,” So, but you have leather shoes.” And I will say, “No, this is not leather.” “Oh, you have plastic shoes?”,” No, this is not plastic. No, this is a new material that is very breathable.”

And they were like, “Oh, you are coherent then.”

I’m like,

Brighde: Right.

Enzo: “Thank you. I really needed your blessings.” No, in fact, very often, I don’t even say I’m vegan because I have had enough and said, “What do you eat?”,” Oh, I have something. I have this.” Just recently, actually I’m saying it more often because I think it’s really urgent. It’s really, the word is a slaughterhouse. It’s horrible what’s happening, and I


it’s my responsibility. It’s each one responsibility to make the right, actions.

Brighde: Yeah. You now run these photography retreats that are vegan and non-vegans come to them. I just think that is so wonderful, and you always stay at the same place for your retreats, and I’ve looked it up, and it is an absolutely beautiful property. I’m sure staying in a beautiful space really adds to the experience.

Can you describe what this property is like? We are an audio podcast, so you have to put a nice picture in our listeners’ minds.

Enzo: It is like a hill with 4,000 olive trees on it. There are no cars. There is just a little road, but no cars, and a big, huge like park. And you have little houses all around the park where farmers used to live. And then there is another big house where there is a kitchen.

Then there is another building where they do the olive oil because of course with olive trees. And there is a botanical trail with a lot of weird plants because one of the ancestors of the owners used to travel a lot and bring plants from all over the world. There’s a swimming pool.

Wow. There are so many flowers. It’s really beautiful. And the thing that is so isolated from the world in a way, it really helps because what we do, it’s, we get together, and normally you have a lot of people that are very creative and they are pretty open, pretty happy to meet new people.

And, we have this Fantastic food because I’m really very determined to have to let everyone have a fabulous experience. In fact, lots of people come and they never heard about vegan food, or they think that vegan food is like a salad. And then after eating there, they are in love with the food.

Then they write to me and say, “You know what? I turned vegan.” I say, “Oh, good for you.” It’s not that I’m trying to preach or anything, it’s just an example. The experience that they have, it’s the food is so good. The retreat is not about food, it’s just one of the things that happened.

But the experience that they have, it’s very intense actually. And we laugh a lot. There is a lot of interaction. Yeah. And the place, it’s, every room is completely different because it’s not a hotel, it’s a historical house.

Brighde: Yeah, of course. it’s located in Tuscany, near Luca. Is that right?

Enzo: It’s near the edge. It is not far from the sea.

I teach two different things. I teach workshops. The last three days. In those cases, people don’t leave. They just stay there. There are lessons I have retreated and they last five days, and during those five days we have lessons and then we have free time and people can go out. There are woods, or you can rent a canoe and go. There are lakes. You can go and do birdwatching. You can rent bicycles and go touring with a bike. There are lots of activities that you can do and you can go to Florence, which is an hour and a half away. It’s really located in a strategic point because you can go in very many places for archaeology, history or nature. Yeah.

Brighde: Yeah, we run our trips to Tuscany. We just got back a few weeks ago from our third Tuscany trip and

everything everyone says about Tuscany is true. There’s a reason why so many people go there, why it’s so popular, because it’s just so beautiful, so interesting, and the food is amazing. Just wonderful.

I have a little bit of experience in incorporating photography into our trips. We’ve had a wildlife photographer come on our trips, and even people who weren’t interested in photography, seriously interested in photography, they really enjoyed it and they really loved the opportunity to uplevel themselves

in terms of their photography, even if all they’ve got is a phone. So I’m very curious. Who are the kinds of people that are really wanting to devote the time to learning more about photography, specifically portrait photography?

Enzo: I have all sorts of people, I have professional photographers that like to study with me, and I also have absolute beginners that know very little about photography. And one of the things that I know is that professional photographers, maybe they don’t want to come because they say, but it’s not just for professionals.

And then, absolute beginners or photography students, they say, but maybe you’re going to have a lot of professionals there. That’s very funny. So one of the things they really want to explain is that everyone is going to feel really at ease because what we do is not something technical.

What we do is something that everyone can do at his or her own pace. And that means that if you are really good with lots of lenses and technically very advanced, go for it. But if you’re really very beginner and you just know how to focus, that’s totally fine because what we do is, we work a lot on relations. It’s more about how can I shoot a portrait in a way that I feel comfortable. The subject in front of me feels very comfortable and allows me to photograph something that is not just the social mask with a big smile, but is maybe, a nuance of their state of mind, feeling, and mood, because normally what makes very interesting a photographic portrait is not the shape of a face, but is what led the viewer about the feeling of that person because maybe you recognize yourself into that expression.

Maybe you see something that you have never seen before. But it’s not just about the shape. It’s about a shape expressing the life that is in that form. The shape that is expressing how this person is feeling. That’s why portraits are so interesting because when you look at a portrait, normally you are

curious to see how this person is feeling, right? If a portrait is just a beautiful picture of a nice smile. It’s boring. We are studying a lot of those things. So more about the sensitivity of the photographer, more about the capacity to be attuned to the person in front of the photographer, and also the capacity to do all the things that you need to do all at once.

So, it’s very important to be able to focus and to have to quiet your mind. So that’s why we meditate every morning. We have a very short meditation. And again, this is very good for seasoned meditators or for people that have never been meditating because it’s not like a meditation retreat.

It’s a retreat where we also meditate, and we also have Qigong lessons. This is not something that I teach. There is another teacher that is doing that. And we do Qigong in the morning because again, it’s something that involves all your body. It’s a nice way to wake up, and it’s a way to learn how to focus and stay very present. I have it in the retreat because it helps photographers. It really helps to be able to take better pictures. But, it also helps with cooking. It also helps with driving. It helps everything. So, in fact, a lot of students are writing to me and saying that what I teach, it’s not just helping their photography, but it’s also helping them to be more present in their life.

And I understand. It is not something that I’m trying actively to do, but I understand that it happens. I just teach photography, but I understand.

Brighde: Yeah, I can imagine. For if you are photographing somebody who maybe isn’t a natural subject, and maybe feels a little bit scared or embarrassed to be photographed. It’s a real skill to help them to feel at ease and comfortable. I’m guessing,

Enzo: Yeah. You need to learn how to do it because if you are not able to put that person in a comfortable position, it’s very difficult to shoot an interesting picture. It’s very difficult that, that person is trusting you, and is allowing you to shoot something a bit intimate.

Like a little emotion, a little smile or something, which is the most interesting thing. And that’s why we work a lot on that, and students are photographing each other. So it is not that they have models, and that’s why when there is a big variety of people, older people, younger, it gets more interesting.

You have someone that is very shy, someone that is very outgoing, someone that is “Oh, yes, photograph me.” They love to be in front of a camera. And other people, they are like, “I don’t like to be photographed.” So when you have all these different people, each one has the opportunity to see how is it to photograph a shy person, how is it to photograph a very outgoing person. And then after a few days, you really have a lot of experience because you’ve been doing a lot of exercises, and then it’s a protected environment because it’s a school. You know that everyone there is open to making mistakes and you can feel shy. There is always my help and my support to show how to face certain things. And then when you go out of the retreat, there is when it becomes interesting because you’ve been learning so many things during the retreat and you can practice.

Brighde: So how many participants do you usually have on your retreats?

Enzo: This varies a lot because I’ve had retreats with 18 or 20 people, but normally we have 10 or 12 people. And occasionally I also had less. I personally prefer when the group is bigger because there is more interaction, but also a small group can be very interesting.

Brighde: Sounds lovely, and I’m very curious about what a day in life is like. You’ve mentioned that you start with meditation because I’m sure you’re doing a lot of exercises and encouraging people to try out strategies for various techniques. So I’d love to know like what a day in the life looks like when we are on one of your retreats like this?

Enzo: Yeah, when we wake up, actually we start with Qigong, and we have 20 minutes, half an hour of Qigong under the trees. It’s very beautiful. It’s very nice. You have all the flowers and the sun. And as you wake up, you go there with everyone, “Hello, good morning.” And you start doing these movements.

And then after, we have a fantastic breakfast, there are always cakes, and you know,I will make you the list.

Brighde: Italy loves to have cake for breakfast. That always makes me laugh.

Enzo: You don’t have that? No?

Brighde: To me, that is a little bit odd to have cake for breakfast. To me, that’s more of a dessert. I’ve been to Italy enough to know that is very normal there, but it always makes me smile when there are lots of different cakes and tarts on an Italian continental breakfast table.

Enzo: Yeah. And cereals, and fruit, and yogurt, soya yogurt, and all. There are so many things, and so we eat a lot, I have to say. Anyway, and after that we have meditation, it’s like 15 minutes, so 15 maximum 20 minutes of meditation. And then we talk, and then usually there is a little lecture.

Then we do exercises. And during the entire day, we have exercises that people can do on their own, in couples, sometimes triads, and they do an exercise. Then they come back through the main room and then we talk, “How did it go,” or, “It was very difficult for me,”. “Oh really? Were you the only one who has had the same experience?”

So, actually I know what I want to do. I know where I want to go, but I. It depends on how they are doing. And then I decide, maybe I skip this, and there is a need to do another thing. And sometimes explore things like composition, how to compose a picture and other times explore things more about relations, or about how to be able to complete all the many different things that you have to do when you take pictures like multitasking, and being very fast, and be very precise. And yeah. We do so many things. Sometimes in the evening, we have a lecture, and sometimes we look at the picture, that’s a selection of the picture that people have been shooting during the day. We look at them and we comment altogether. It’s not me saying good or bad, but everyone is saying what they feel about that. It’s very interesting because we normally look at the picture of the same person photographed by different photographers. And it’s amazing how each one is a different look. It’s a different angle, and so it’s amazing how the same person can look completely different. And of course, if someone really doesn’t want to be photographed, that’s fine. It’s not like you need to. But, many people are saying that having the experience of being photographed is really helping them. Then two photos of others because they know how it feels.

Brighde: Interesting. And I’m guessing your retreats are taught in English. Your website is in English, so that tells me that you are looking to find English speakers to come on your retreats, so they don’t need to worry about speaking Italian to join you. Is that right?

Enzo: Not at all. Right. I have some retreats in Italian and some retreats in English.

Brighde: I see. Something else I’m curious about. I’m imagining that with all of these different activities, with the Qigong, and the meditation, and this kind of learning environment, the participants and you must become quite friendly and close over the period of your time together. Do you find that the people generally develop closer relationships and does that continue on after the retreat?

Enzo: There are students that met at my retreat, like 12 years ago, and they are still very good friends and we’re still in touch, and we were in contact on Facebook, for instance. And I see that what they write to each other, with the sort of complicity and intimacy they have, they, maybe one is living in the north of Italy, one is living in the south, or one is living in England, one is living in the Netherlands. And they meet, “Oh, we have to go to Paris to see that exhibition,” or whatever, it’s really nice to see how, at the retreat, very nice friendships are developing.

Brighde: I always say that when you bring good people that are like-minded together in a space where they can just relax and feel comfortable, and take away a lot of the stresses of life, it just brings out the best of people, and gives people the time and the space to connect on a deeper level than even you would with a work colleague that you see every single day.

It’s really something very special. That’s what I’ve experienced on our tours for sure.

Enzo: Right. But you know, you have people that are, sometimes very, different. One from the other.

Brighde: It’s, amazing how a teenager can develop a friendship with someone 60 years old, or a professional something can develop a friendship with someone that is in a totally different position. I think the beauty of this is that everyone comes for a passion and also for the desire of me, like-minded people. And sometimes they’re really not like-minded. Sometimes they’re really the opposite, but they enjoy diversity also. They enjoy meeting each other. I really invite people to cooperate a lot.

Enzo: The entire retreat is based on cooperation and it’s not something mandatory. It’s not that you must, but it’s something that I invite people to be more, to help each other. And normally when you study photography, very often you are invited to be very competitive. Let’s see who is able to do this. He’s the best. She’s the best. And this is something I never, ever do because I really want to have a very relaxed atmosphere and people to, as you said, give their best and to forget about the stress. In fact, there are people that return to my retreats many times, like

15 times, 16 times, and, sometimes I offer retreat therapy. They have different themes, and so it is not that I always do the same retreat, but, it’s nice for me to see the people. I say again, are you joining again? Are you signing up again? We become friends also with my students because it’s nice to explore creativity in different ways.


Brighde: I absolutely love that. I really love that very much. Something definitely we’ve experienced on our group tours as well as these incredible connections, and it’s interesting that you talk about photography being so competitive. I’m not a photographer in any serious way at all, but our wonderful wildlife photographer, Jennifer Hadley, that joins us on our trips. She’s a female wildlife photographer, and she has shared with me that it can be very, very competitive and it’s often a very male-dominated field. And as a result, the collaboration, and cooperation that, you know, would be very nice, just doesn’t happen in photography. So I’m really pleased that you are trying to nurture that, and definitely, something that I think is rather unique in the photography space from what I can tell.

Enzo: Yeah, indeed. Because I experienced this competition in my everyday life, with other photographers. I have lots of photographers without friends, but, when you talk about work, the environment is very competitive, and it’s kind of difficult to stay out of that. But, yeah, I’ve been in the business long enough also to do what I have to do, and that’s it. So yeah, I started teaching because I thought, yeah, it would be nice to share what I never learned from someone else, but I had to learn on my own.

I thought, okay, let’s see how it is. Let’s see if I like it or not. And now I have to say that they really enjoy sharing what’s important. For me, things that other people are not sharing and it makes me feel very happy. Actually, teaching makes me feel very happy for a number of reasons. And one is that, I see friendships that are starting in my retreats. And also I see, maybe sometimes I receive emails from people that have been to my retreat years ago. They write to me about how important it was for them and how much their life has changed because of the retreat.

For most people, it’s quite a turning point and this makes me very happy. It’s really, it’s a really nice thing to know that I put together something that is, that has such an impact on the life of people. Because if I can add something, one of the things that I love about my photography is that I can have an impact on a situation or on other people’s life or maybe a very small difference. But making a difference for me is important. I am very grateful to people that are inspiring me, so I’m very happy if I can inspire someone else. And I have to say that some, for instance, when I work for magazines and they want me to, I don’t know, do something about, what’s cool in New York now, or, what is the last trend in or, and I have to go and find out things. I very often try to find out what’s cool and, oh, there is a vegan restaurant that is really cool, or there is an activity that is very good for the environment.

And then I point out those things. You know, this is cool. Is not, doing something that is so fancy and funny, but in the end, there are bad consequences for the environment, for instance. And so this is the way I use my position of privilege to influence, not really to influence, but to make other people aware of certain possibilities.

So I am subversive in a way.

Brighde: I love it. I love it.

Enzo, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast. I’m sure anyone who is listening to this podcast, whether they are a photographer or maybe they know a photographer, maybe they can forward this episode to a friend that is a photographer who might be interested in a photography portrait workshop retreat in Tuscany that is also vegan.

Maybe you can tell us a little bit about where people can go to find out more information, learn about the incredible villa that you stay in, and how can people book and that kind of thing.

Enzo: Sure. There’s a website dedicated just to my retreats and it’s called photography dash retreats plural dot com, photography-retreats.com. And there you find lots of pictures and lots of information about how the retreat is held.

There is an early bird offer until August 11th. So if you are willing to come, you can save quite a lot of money if you book in advance. If you have any doubt or if you want to know more, you can always write an email and either me or an assistant will answer your email,

and make sure that you know everything you need to know. But even on the website, you will find lots of information, and lots of images so you can have an idea about what you’re going to do.

Brighde: And I believe you even have a digital download for learning more about portrait photography. Is that correct?

Enzo: There is the possibility to download a free guide about portrait photography that I wrote. There is much information in that. It’s quite complete. It gives you an idea about my approach and also about what some of my students say. You can find my work and their work.

Many tips in the guide. So you can start, knowing a little bit about my approach and it’s free.

Brighde: Why not? Thank you so much for taking the time to be on The World Vegan Travel podcast. I so appreciate it. And I’m going to come and knock on your door or hit you up for a coffee when we are next in Milan, which will be next year. I’ll be thrilled to meet you in real life.

That would be so lovely.

Enzo: Oh, that would be wonderful. Yes, I’ll wait for you. No problem. Let me know in advance and then I’ll organize something for you.

Brighde: Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you.

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