Iconic shots of Italy's most storied destinations from photographer Kevin Sandlow

The Venice canals, the Coliseum, the Vatican–Italy is full of sights that you might pass off as cliche if they weren’t so damn beautiful, and so full of history. They’re the kind of places we’re all familiar with in a sense, but that you have to see for yourself to really know. For photographers, these landmarks offer the opportunity to capture that timeless beauty through their own lens, finding a tone and telling a story that relates their own unique experience. Fortunately, Kevin Sandlow, also known as Kayven found himself in a position to do just that. Choosing to document his time in Italy with a Canon 7D and an Olympus OM-1, Kevin’s classic black and white shots help further relate just how dope Italy really is. With stints in Milan, Florence, Venice and Rome, among others, Kevin was able to capture his surroundings gorgeously, and even learned a few things along the way. We asked Kevin to fill us in on the insight he picked up in his time abroad, for our most recent Q&A.

Has your perception of the U.S., or California specifically, changed since you’ve returned?

I love America, but we could learn a thing or two from the Italians.

I’ve realized that Americans work too much. At first I thought the Italians were just lazy, but then I realized they have little bit of a better concept of balancing work and enjoying life. Rome completely shuts down from 2 to 5pm every day for siesta. 90% of the shops are closed and everyone goes home, eats some lunch, takes a nap, or does whatever the fuck they want for three hours. Hustling is great, but balance is crucial… I think the Italians have it down pretty well.

I also noticed how green Italy is. The entire country has put the kibosh on using plastic bags. Recycling is the norm there. There are separate bins for plastic, glass, and trash in nearly every shop and square. In Milan, they ban driving nearly all day on Sundays to reduce smog levels. I love L.A., but its dirty as fuck and I wish people would pick up after themselves. I know there are some green cities in America like Seattle and Portland, we need to get all the major cities on the same tip.

Also, standing in front of a 2000 year old statue at the Vatican makes you realize how young America truly is.

What were you doing when you had the most fun in Italy?

My first night in Venice was a long one, but definitely one of the best times i had during my trip. Huy, my fellow traveler, and I hit up Piazza Santa Margherita to drink with other kids from the hostels. I met travelers from so many different spots in the world, lots of drunken debate on world sports, politics, and culture. I started meeting so many people I realized i should be photographing everyone and came up with the idea to get a collection of 35mm portraits going.

Once the night was over and two large slices of pizza had been consumed, it was time to take the waterbus back to our hostel on the other island. What should have been a 10 minute walk to the water bus turned into 70 minute drunken stumble through Venice after taking a wrong turn. Venice is a quiet, winding maze at night, getting lost in it at 3am was pretty neat.

Another good moment was in Florence, where we happened to have a friend of a friend of a friend. Our second night there was spent at her birthday party which took place on her terrace right on the river. We were always looking for some good local shit during the night… that was local.

From what you’ve observed, how do peoples’ interactions in Italy compare to those in the U.S?

Italians are super welcoming and social. Just very friendly in general, I didn’t find many assholes out there. It seems like a lot of Americans like their space and get upset if someone bothers them and invades their bubble.

What are some of your favorite shots from this collection?

One of my favorites ended up being the close up of the man on the gondola. This guy was in the zone and cruising through the canals in Venice. I snapped a bunch as he was getting closer. He finally noticed me on the bridge, looked up, and smiled.

My other favorite is the shot of the police in the van. Not sure if this is the norm in Rome, but for some reason there were a shitload of police and military out that day. I walked up to this dude and said, “Hey, can I take your picture” as I was looking through the viewfinder. He told me “no” and waved me away, and I snapped a few anyways. I walk back ten minutes later, and he’s standing there posing and taking a picture with some chick. Italians love women. A lot.

Did you learn anything cool while you were there?

I learned how crucial a good public transportation system is. Hopping on the train from city to city and hitting up the metro were super convenient.

Oh, and you learn pretty quick to watch your pockets when the gypsies come around.

Learn anything about yourself?

Yeah, I learned how out of shape I am. I don’t walk much in L.A. Walking 15-18 hours a day will quickly take its toll on you.

If you could tell a fellow traveler to do one thing while in Italy, what would it be?

The Path of the Gods in Positano. It’s about a three-and-a-half hour hike and has some of the craziest views I’ve ever seen. Just remember to bring your camera. I had no idea if the hike was going to be intense (it ended up not being that bad) so I just brought the iPhone. Pretty bummed I left the SLR behind.

And eat as much as you can. Research what the specialty of each city is and ask where the good spots are.

“mi scusi, dove buona bistecca?”

Keep up with more of Kevin’s photographs and exploits on his personal site.

Max Gibson

Max Gibson aka Dispo Max is a journalist, web curator and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Wine & Bowties, an Oakland-based art and culture publication with the focus of celebrating creativity. Today Max resides in Oakland after living in LA. Max loves hoop, dispos and good jokes.