At an age when children’s most used vocabulary is "give me," Rossi was sharing and giving away his candies and toys to children who had none. As he has grown, so has his philanthropy, using his success in Hollywood to help others. KETCH ROSSi TREE of LiFE™ and its sister nonprofit organization KETCH ROSSi HUMANiTAS™ have the alleviation of poverty-related human suffering as a primary focus.
DPP: Whether shooting stills or motion, you’re always telling stories with the cameras in your hand. Where does this come from?
Ketch Ketch Rossi: When I was about 10 years old, my mother drove my little sister and me to Rome to see her husband, my stepfather, who was working there. He was a specialized butler, in charge of the villas of this very wealthy Roman royalty. I was in the front seat because I was always prone to carsickness. It was during this trip that she drove on a street where they were photographing and filming Sophia Loren. All those lights—the cameras, the flashes going off—all this going on right before my eyes had a profound effect on me. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. As we passed by, I turned around to look on, but my mother grabbed my little head and turned it to face the front, as she knew if I continued looking back I would have gotten carsick. So I looked in the rearview mirror, and bam! It was as if I were looking at a movie. That was the moment when I knew exactly what I wanted to be.
DPP: How did you turn this revelation into reality?
Ketch Rossi: That same year during summer, my parents moved the family to a very small town on the island of Sardinia, which was my birthplace. We had no electricity during the seven years that I ended up living there, so I would entertain myself by taking photos and making movies. But it was with my mind. I had no camera. I would always have a small mirror in my pocket, and I would look at the world around me with it. This allowed me to take a small piece of that big unknown world, which was beautiful, but at times a bit frightening, as well. I was always making imaginary movies, or snapping a photo, freezing a moment through that mirror. So at the first moment that I could afford a camera, I bought one. It was after I left home and got a job in a restaurant kitchen washing pots and peeling potatoes.
DPP: After all those years practicing in your mind’s eye, how were your early forays with an actual camera in hand?
Ketch Rossi: Because buying film rolls and developing them was expensive for me, and the money I was spending was very hard-earned cash, I treasured every shot, framing and taking each photograph, and depressing the shutter only after making sure that everything was the way I wanted it. Also, because I had no extra money to buy flashes and had to depend on available light, at times I found myself waiting for hours for the sun to move so that the light hit that certain spot in a certain way. Being forced to do this was a great learning aid, giving me an appreciation and an understanding of light in the capturing of an image.