“I’m here to live my dream: photography and travel”

A random series of events brought Rafaella to MotoGP™ in 2003, and now she’s one of the most appreciated photographers in the sport

This time around, MotoGP™’s #WomenInMotoGP series focuses on Raffaella Gianolla, the only female photographer who goes to every event on the Championship calendar – from winter tests to each and every Grand Prix, plus many a pre-event in between. From her time studying to her subsequent professional life, Raffaella has gained experience in many different sectors because, as she says herself, “you must never stop being curious.”

Raffaella Gianolla, photographer

Raffaella’s story begins in Venice, her hometown, where she began working as an archive photographer for the university’s Institute of Architecture at the end of the 90s. It was a job she found to maintain her passion for photography, inherited from her father, whilst at the same time serving to widen her horizons when it came to architecture.

“The salary wasn’t enough to support me on its own,” she remembers, “so I began creating websites and that’s how I ended up getting in touch with some of the riders taking part in local championships, which later led me to meet some of the protagonists at world level like Gino Borsoi and Lucio Cecchinello.”

Raffaella Gianolla, photographer

Bikes weren’t a big passion for her at the time, but the chance of going to the tracks was something that immediately peaked her interest. “I started out helping Lucio with some of the passes, and sometimes I would even help his sister out in the kitchen at races!”

2003 then saw a big change occur in Raffaella’s life. “That year, Gino Borsoi asked me if I’d be interested in becoming team coordinator in the project he was putting together.” And so she did, taking on the role of Team Coordinator for Aprilia Globet Racing.

It was an interesting proposal, but it meant Raffaella had to leave the university and a permanent work contract to dive into a world where “you must continually question yourself, because in November every year it all ends and you have to secure a place in a team for the following season." Leaving stability and a safe job behind, it was heading into an unkown. But it was also an ideal opportunity for Raffaella to devote time to one of her other greatest passions as well: travel.

Raffaella Gianolla, photographer

“I had worked closed between four walls for 16 years and I needed something different. Working at the university was certainly intellectually stimulating, I was in constant contact with professors at one of the most prestigious universities in Italy, but I needed to travel and get to know the world away from the palazzi. That’s what this opportunity offered me and I took it in a heartbeat. Then I found out that the paddock is full of adrenaline and always interesting, it’s a place where I can learn something new every day. That’s why, 18 years later, I’m still here!”

After accepting the offer from Gino Borsoi, Raffaella didn’t know that another twist was waiting just around the corner to change her life once again. “In 2006, one of the sponsors of the team I worked for at the time introduced me to Mirco Lazzari, who’d been a photographer in the World Championship for years. And that’s how, in 2012, Mirco and I, along with the sponsor who had introduced us, founded Mirco Lazzari srl, the company I work for now as a photographer and where I also organise the logistics and travel for Mirco and I to get to all the events on the calendar.”

Raffaella Gianolla, photographer

And so, Raffaella made her profession her passion, that passion something that had been with her since she was little when she’d sneak away with her father’s camera to train her eye.

Now, her goal is capturing the poetry of the paddock all over the world. “Photography, for me, means conveying the emotions that teams and riders feel, and not just when they win. Every time, with my photos, I try to convey the tension, concentration, adrenaline that is felt over a weekend. Being able to convey, for example, what’s in a look shared between a mechanic and a rider is what I find most gratifying.”

Raffaella recounts, through her photos, life in pitlane during the weekend. But if she’s asked which is the most beautiful photo she’s taken, the answer leaves no room for hesitation: " One I’ve not taken yet.” The human aspect and the relationships forged with other people in the paddock are the most fascinating part of a life spent travelling to different tracks around the world. “Friendships are always created, both with the riders and with the other team members. Both as a photographer and as a team coordinator I think it is very important to be sensitive and establish relationships with them, because if they can see the respect you have for them, when they can they leave you space and that allows you to get a different photo to everyone else. You have to know them and understand them to know when it’s the right time to approach them."

Raffaella Gianolla, photographer

Raffaella's first forays into the world of motorcycling brought a few challenges because, as she says: “In the past, women were more seen as being there for the image, so building your identity and getting respected was sometimes more difficult. Now though it’s a lot easier to be respected because there are a lot of women working in many different areas." That metamorphosis is based on merit, according to Raffaella: “As a woman, especially when I started, you had to work three times harder than a man. Today it’s much less marked, but I think the change occurred because there were people within the teams and institutions who believed in the skills of the women who were part of this world. I noticed that, in the end, those who deserved it really got to where they wanted.”

As one of the #WomenInMotoGP, Raffaella’s advice for girls and women who want to become part of this world is clear and simple: “Believe in it, and keep trying. I think it’s important to understand what your strengths are and to develop them in order to approach it with specific skills that allow you to make a difference. And never believe gossip or the naysayers, just listen to what your heart says."

Raffaella Gianolla, photographer

And finally, if she could give her teenage self some advice? “I’d tell her to study languages because they’re always helpful, from both a professional point of view and a human point of view. Being able to communicate with people from other cultures opens up your horizons.”

Sound advice. So as we wait for Raffaella’s best photo – the one she says she’s yet to take – save the date for the next article celebrating the #WomenInMotoGP on the 8th of May.

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