New York City-based photographer’s Donato Di Camillo is a self-taught professional photographer known for his gritty portraits from the heart of New York City. But what makes his career stand out is that he taught himself how to handle a camera in a rather unusual place – while serving his sentence in prison.

Not surprisingly, Di Camillo avoids associating himself with his past mistakes, so he shares very few details about his imprisonment except for the fact that he spent countless hours reading all the books about photography he could get his hands on. Which is actually fine, because his past ordeals could only take something away from his almost shockingly realistic take on life in the less glamorous parts of the New York City.

As a child, I witnessed a lot of traumatic things,” Di Camillo says, “I saw my first friend die at the age of nine, right by my feet,” (the boy was killed by a passing car as they played outside). Back in the 1978s and 1980s, Brooklyn was a rather unforgiving place the artist explains, he “had to learn to think quick and use street instincts.

The artist’s photo series is about “people on the fringes of society,” the same description he uses for himself aswell. His upbringing has inspired him to do street photography, and as he simply explains, that’s “something that I felt I needed to do.

More info: instagram | tumblr (h/t: demilkedfutureshoot)

‘His name is Rosario. He was born in Sicily. At a very young age, he was abandoned by his caregivers after his parents died tragically in a car accident. He said the scar tissue in his eye was from a fight he had in an orphanage he occupied as a child. These days, he lives the best he can working odd jobs for local small businesses.’

’91-years-young teacher of life still exercises every day, harder than most.’

‘He was joking with his friends about his teeth when I encountered him. When I asked him if he was worried about his teeth, he replied “ain’t they pretty though?”’

‘Self-proclaimed subcultures exist on the fringes of Coney Island. Travelers and train jumpers find means to maintain life against society’s rules.’

‘United States Army Veteran just barely has enough income to keep a roof over his head.’

‘As I was shooting the streets of Brooklyn, I met a woman in a government food line to collect some can goods for her home because of money issues. I spoke to her, and she explained she had two mentally ill boys at home and that one as starting to smoke crack “It’s been a struggle for me, my husband stabbed me six times. He tried to kill me. The government sent him back to Italy. I collect welfare, but it’s just not enough.”’