Sunday 30 June 2013

Inspiration Sunday with Mario Cacciottolo

I looks like I might have accidentally started a theme here! Today we have Mario, who is travelling the world with a rather unique project, read on....

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.... 

I’m Mario Cacciottolo. Born in England, raised in Malta to a Maltese father and English mother. I was always fonder of my Maltese side to be honest. I like the heat of the sun, the smell of the ocean and the general acceptance that it’s ok to wave your hands around when you talk. I’ve found England a bit cold by comparison – I’ve lived there since 1985 – but I remain a fan of Blighty, but that opinion does intensify when I’m not in it. 

I’m a journalist for the BBC News website but am currently on a sabbatical break for a year, so am free to wander the earth and take photographs for my website Someone Once Told Me.

I love, in no particular order: the sun, technology, Asterix, Manchester United, my mum, my girlfriend, panna cotta, Sherlock Holmes, The Police (the band, to be clear) and staying up late to watch movies when there’s no reason to get up the next day.
I try not to hate – ultimately it’s a self-destructive emotion – but I dislike: cucumbers, Liverpool FC, smoking, bad manners, getting up early and being cold.

2. Where do you get your inspiration from? 

I like quirky moments in life, so I try to capture those. This can be from someone having a great story to tell, about something interesting or odd, which happened to them. Or I can be walking down the street and see a great shadowy shape being cast down by someone sat on a bench.
Ultimately I’ve watched a lot of films in my time, and I think that years of gawping at cinematography has left an impression on my brain as to what looks good, often without really knowing why. Sometimes I plan out carefully how to take a photo, but other times I just follow my instincts.

3. Tell us about your Someone Once Told Me project....

Someone Once Told Me (SOTM) is a website which captures the serious, silly, profound and profane things that people have heard in their lives. 

It sees people write down the most memorable thing they’ve ever been told and pose with that sign for a black and white photograph. They also tell the story behind the phrase – who said it to them and the impact it had. Did it change their life? And of all the things they’ve ever been told, why choose this? 

Every day, since 8 September 2007, a different photograph and story has appeared on SOTM’s home page – meaning more than 2,000 people have taken part so far. All the images can be found in the site’s gallery.

While the site features images submitted from many different countries, I’ve mostly run it from London, along with images taken during my holidays abroad. 

I’m now travelling around the world for almost a year, looking for 1,000 SOTM subjects in about 23 countries. I left in early June and will be back in the UK in May next year.
I’m also promoting the SOTM iPhone app – its profits go to Operation Smile, which operates on children with cleft palates in poorer countries around the globe.

4. What led you to start this project.... 

I’d changed my life by coming to London, with no job, no money, fairly desperate to improve my life. I was unhappy and had been most of my life – I’ve struggled a little with depression at various times. 
I got into photography – hadn’t a clue about it, but loved doing it. Then, one day, someone paid me a compliment, and – long story short – it got me to thinking about the things we were told that we carry around with us, both hopeful and hateful. And while I don’t believe, as the saying goes, that everyone’s got a book in them, I do believe that everyone has a story to some degree. And I decided that, using the SOTM format, I wanted to find out as many stories from as many people as possible. I’ve no idea why this all popped in my head, but it did and it wouldn’t leave me.

5. What does an average day look like for you?

At the moment I’m travelling around the world, so there’s no such thing as an average day for me. I’m travelling with my girlfriend, Kate McCulley, a professional travel blogger who runs adventurouskate.

I’m taking SOTM photos of people that I bump into along the way, setting up meetups and tapping into Couchsurfing groups – anything to get to meet people in the places that I visit. But I am also keen on experiencing the world, so I’m doing a bit of sightseeing while I travel too. I’m aiming for a nice mix of the two.

6. What is the one thing about your job that makes your heart sing?

When people tell me their SOTM, have their picture taken holding that sign, and then say: “I’ve never told that to anyone before.” It’s happened a number of times. If I’d asked them to tell me something personal about themselves in this way, I’m pretty sure I’d have got smacked round the chops a few times. But ask people to write down something and to pose for a photo that’ll go on the internet – no problem. So far I’ve got more than 2,100 people to do this (that number includes a couple of dogs and cats. And a teddy bear. Long story with the last one…)

7. Share a secret with us that has never been shared online before ...

I grew up on an island 19 miles by 7.5 miles, but I’m a terrible swimmer and scared of deep water (baths are ok though).

Follow Mario...

I’ve been in several parts of Europe already. In future I’ll be visiting and looking for SOTM volunteers in: 

South Africa (Port Elizabeth, Cape Town)
UAE (Dubai)
Bangladesh (Dhaka, Chittagong)
Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
Philippines (Manila)
China (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing)
South Korea
Japan (Tokyo)
Australia (Sydney, Melbourne)
Canada (Vancouver)
USA (cross-country tour)

Remember that if I’m not coming near you, then you can still submit your own SOTM through the Your SOTM page on the website

Find Mario...

About Mario...
Mario is of Maltese and British heritage, and was raised on the Mediterranean island of Malta. After moving to England in his early teens, he later attended university as a mature student, studying English. As a trainee newspaper reporter he initially wrote about ladies reaching their 100th birthday and cats stuck up trees. Then his career took several unexpected turns. He travelled to Israel and the West Bank to report on suicide bombers, went to London to report on a groundbreaking terror trial, and also visited Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami to report on the aid effort.

In 2006 Mario moved to London and became a reporter for the BBC News website. Subsequently he has been hugged by an Indian ‘living saint’, learned how to be a knight for a day, interviewed world-famous musicians and conducted extensive research into the work of Nazi hunters, travelling to Jerusalem and Paris to meet several in the process. 
Shortly after he arrived in London, Mario thought of the concept of Someone Once Told Me. He is now travelling the world for almost one year, looking for 1,000 more people to tell him something memorable that they were once told.

All images property of Mario Cacciottolo except for Inspiration Sunday Banner

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