Italian Blog Collettivo Interviewed me about my work and my book Care of Ward 81
Click the link below to read the review in both italian and english, or you can skip to read the english version below.
1) You are above all a fashion and advertising photographer, but on September 11 2001 you decided to document the terrorist attacks on the twin towers . Can you describe this experience?
I was booked to shoot for Victoria”s Secret that day, the shoot was consequently canceled so I wanted to document what was happening. Here in Manhattan we were all very confused at first. No one knew what was going on and it all happened so fast. Keep in mind smartphones were yet to be common place so in the early moments of 9-11 you only heard what was going on by receiving a cell phone call from someone who saw the news channels. I decided to take my Contax g2 and my Sony 3 chip video processor. I walked around and tried to find an angle to take in what was happening but also not get too closet o the towers as people were nervous and trying to get away from the site. I was able to find a high vantage point over the west side railyards and just took it in. After I processed for a few moments I began to document. In that time frame I captured the collapse of the North Tower. I was so shocked at what I just witnessed I left the scene in a haze and started to walk back to my office never realizing that I had not turned off my video camera. What I ended up recording in that walk was the sound of mass hysteria, people screaming in fear, anger and heartbreak. When I reached my office my producer looked at the footage and immediately called my agent who put us in touch with CBS Television. Within minutes I was live in the CBS news room watching Dan Rather report the tragic events of that morning. I was so moved by his conviction. When I was in the newsroom word had come in that 10,000 people had been killed at the World Trade Centers and Dan Rather said “I will not bring that to the American people until we have confirmation” (fox news had erroneously reported that minutes later). While this was going on the FBI and the news editors looked over my footage and requested it… they took everything and I only recently received one strip of film back and a copy of a short video clip. They informed me that the images and footage could be very helpful in determining if there was a bomb in the towers. When the North Tower came down they saw an explosion and thought perhaps an explosion had collapsed the building as it seemed unfathomable that it could have collapsed any other way. By now everyone knows the many details of why the building came down but on that morning, in that moment, the FBI, the White House and everyday Americans had no idea what was really happening. I went home and watched the news. To my amazement I saw some of the footage I just had left in the CBS newsroom only minutes earlier. This was a life changing experience in many ways. I left the city for a month after 9-11 before I could mentally deal with coming back the city and like many others grappled with the meaning of life.
2)Your personal project “Care of Ward 81″, about women’s ward of Oregon State
Mental Hospital seems different from your daily work. How would you handle this jump between several photographic styles?
Commercial work is commerce. I enjoy shooting commercial work but is completely different from the Fine Art world. When I am hired for a commercial assignment I process the storyline the magazine provides me and create an image based on that storyline, or I think about the demographics an Advertiser is trying to reach and create the photograph that will hit those marks. With Fine Art you only do what you feel and consequently create images based on that feeling or message that you and only you want to convey. Technically speaking I use many different light sources, cameras and lenses to create the mood or concept I am trying to convey. I do not have one specific photographic style. I love many things so I photograph what I love, for example I love women of all kinds so I shoot fitness and beauty, I love the design and packaging of products so I shoot still life, I love clothes so I will shoot conceptual fashion and I love what art means to people so I take on serious art projects and book projects. I have asked myself many times in my career, “Why should I just photograph Still Life then within the still life genre shoot just food because the commercial world says that you need to shoot just food to be hired for a food assignment? That’s not creative, that’s pandering. The most creative people can see beyond that and those are the people I am interested in shooting assignments for. Many people have said that this diminishes ones specific photographic style. I have always been confused by this. I create images I dont take pictures. If some Art Buyers, Photo Editors and Art Directors need to see the exact picture they are hiring you for than they are not qualified to decide ones photographic style. Just because a commercial artist shoots in one genre only does not mean they are more creative or better at the genre than another creative person. It means the commercial artist in many cases is one dimensional. Commercial photographers are not unionized and have specific standards and techinical codes to follow for example like a homebuilder who ha sto conform. Great commercial photographers are architects and architects create. That said, I have worked with many great art director’s, art buyer’s and photo editor’s who can see beyond a specific genre and I credit them for my longevity. They trust me and I love them for that.
3) Do you feel more realized working on commission or on your personal project?
I do not feel more realized working on either. I have said many times that “photography is a reason to meet the people we meet”. I have worked with many creative people in my career and feel very fortunate to have worked with those creatives. I am in the creative world to surround myself with people that inspire me regardless of the project.
4) How is started your passion for photography? Are there artists who have inspired you?
My passion for the photographic arts began when a very special friend who was involved in the arts told me that I had a strong vision and i should pursue a creative career… I was then fortunate that my father allowed me to get an education and pursue the creative arts. My father has been my beacon throughout life. Many artist have inspired me such as irving Penn, The Becher’s, Sally Mann, Helmut Newton, Ed Ruscha, and Cindy Sherman to name a few but I have been most influenced by contemporary art, movies and popular culture.
5) In Italy we often talk about the crisis of photojournalism,due to new media and digital technology. What is your thought about that? Your field face the same problems?
Yes there are many challenges due to new media. It has for the most part taken away the craft of creating an image or story due to the fact that most media is viewed on smart devices with lower resolution on bright spectacular looking screens. Many clients no longer need to hire an “A” or “B” group photographer to shoot an assignment when there are tens of thousands of “C” and “D” group photographers whose work is adequate and still looks nice on electronic devices. My family and friends are great examples, they take great pictures with their Iphones, then they hand me their Iphone and ask me to shoot an image of them with their friends. They look at the picture and say: “You are supposed to be a professional photographer, my pictures are better”. My response is always the same: “I don’t take pictures I create Images, you take pictures with the iphone you don’t create images.” I am convinced that once the world is completely saturated with “pictures” that the advertising world will want to elevate itself again and eventually need the great photographic artists to create images for their brands
6) Do you think there are particular differences between the american and italian photography? If so,what specifically?
Well that is a difficult question because I am a NYC photographer and that is a market of its own. The best assignment photographers in the world come here (of course photojournalismhappens everywhere in the world so this is does not really apply to journalists). There are many great Italian photographers who shoot in NYC and in Italy. Lucio Gelsi and Paolo Roversi to name a few. I am sure if you asked these photographers they would consider NYC a country by itself even though it is attached to America.