I am interested in learning more about your creative journey. How have you transitioned from being an aspiring photographer to doing it on a more steady basis and showing your work in galleries?
I’ve always loved photography since way back in the days of film. I never took it for more than a hobby and there was a huge stretch of time, years, when I didn’t even pick up a camera. About 4 or 5 years ago my daughter came back from a trip to Berlin and really opened my eyes to the world of art that is found on the streets. Something just clicked inside and I picked up the camera with renewed purpose and enthusiasm and seriously started paying attention to my photography. Shortly after I started shooting street art I lost my full time job. At that time it was the worst thing that ever happened to me and yet the best thing that ever happened to me, if that makes sense. Who doesn’t want to make a living doing that which they love? While I can’t say that I’m at that point, having the time to pursue it with 100% focus has certainly made a difference and opened up some possibilities I might not have had otherwise. Showing in the galleries I have is a huge honor and a humbling experience.
I recently saw your mindblowing series “In A Split Second” at Midoma Gallery in NYC. How did this amazing opportunity arise?
Thanks so much for the kind words about “In a Split Second.” Marianna and Michael, the owners of Midoma, are a great couple and real supporters of the arts. I had been told they were looking for artists for their 2017 calendar so I submitted a few of my images and they liked them enough to call me in and look at a larger portfolio of my work. Based on that they gave me the show which just recently closed. I had envisioned a series of images and collaborations and was working on them for the project when I suffered a serious life threatening illness about 6 weeks before the show. At the time, I honestly thought that there was no way I would be able to pull it off but thanks to the support I received from Midoma and the extraordinary help and encouragement of my dear friend CityKitty I was able to get it together. I couldn’t physically shoot the series of new photographs I was planning for the show and instead worked with images I had on hand. I normally finish many of my images with resin coatings but this time, and out of necessity, I decided to go big and work with canvas and metal as well. In the end I came up with the largest pieces I have done to date and I was very pleased with the outcome and the show. My good friend Fumero even stopped by one night and we had just crushed out a beautiful collaboration on a canvas piece. “In a Split Second” has several meanings to me. It describes photography perfectly as most images are first, captures of split seconds in time and then, more often than not you’ve got that one “split second” to get the perfectly framed shoot. In addition it had a very real meaning to me as that fateful day in March a very real series of split second events are the only reason why I am still here today.
You seem to have developed close bonds with the artists you photograph. Can you tell me more about this and do you believe it has an impact on your work.
I started shooting artwork on the streets with no specific purpose in mind. I was satisfied with taking photographs, hopefully good ones, of beautiful art on the street. I was at Welling Court on a cool October day (I even remember the month) standing in front of a “Goddess” mural when a young lady approached me and we started talking. At the time I was not very familiar with the artists and did not know who the artist responsible for this lovely mural was. The artist turned out to be Alice Mizrachi as did the young lady talking to me that day. I was so impressed with her that I visited her in her studio and we’ve been good friends ever since. That chance meeting set something else off in me and I started looking to shoot artists at work. At this point, for me, the finished pieces are secondary to the artist and the process. As a result I have developed many friendships and some very close bonds. I have a great deal of respect for the commitment and effort that artists will put into works, works they know are ephemeral in nature and could very well and often be gone in short order. That always amazed me and is always in the back of my mind when I am out shooting. The only thing many artists have of their street art will be the photographs. I also want to let them and you see what they are doing when they are focused on their work and not paying attention to anything going on around them. I am particularly fascinated with the hands and have an ongoing series called “The Hand of An Artist” which I will eventually pull together into a project. I remember one time I had an artist who did this strange thing with his finger and I caught it. He had no idea he was doing that until I showed him the photo and a few others. I got a kick out of that one. Being around artists has absolutely made a difference in my work. It’s definitely honed my artistic eye and made me a much better photographer. I don’t just want to shoot a photograph I want to shoot one that tells a story. Doesn’t always happen but when it does….
Do you have a particular street art muse that inspires you in your work?
I have so, so many artists whose work I admire and respect that it’s really very hard to answer this question. Many I know personally and many I have yet to meet. All are amazing in their talent and unique styles. If there’s one artist who I have photographed more than any other it would have to be Fumero. The man lives and breathes art and has an insatiable drive to create. He pushes harder than anyone I know and we’ve been great friends for a good while now. He’s always pushing me to go further and that’s a good thing. I know you only asked for one but another I can’t go without mentioning is CityKitty. He’s a wheatpaste legend here in New York. Most probably you only know him for his awesome cats and street characters but his artwork goes way beyond that. He’s been a great sounding board for me and will often steer me in the right direction when I tend to veer.
Fumero with an embedded M* Code @fumeroism @mrtiancodeart
What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?
Technology wise, social media has been a huge platform for photographers and their work and my main vehicle has got to be Instagram. It’s a tremendous tool to get your work out there and in front of a large audience. The vast majority of my post-processing work is done in Lightroom. It’s a fantastic bit of software and I love it dearly. I also have but rarely use, Photoshop but that’s mostly because I’m not very good at it. It’s one of those mountains I keep saying I’m going to climb and now that I have a bit more time perhaps I will. As far as camera gear, I shoot Canon and right now with only one body, the 5D Mark III. God, I love that camera and all the beautiful Canon “L” Glass that goes with it. I’m really impressed with what I’m seeing from Sony (the a9) and the mirrorless line of cameras but I am so heavily invested in Canon gear that unless I make a killing or Sony wants to set me up with some equipment, it’s Canon for now. In the end, as good as the technology, software, and gear are, it really comes down to the eye behind all that and the vision. The more thought and framing and composition you put into a shot the less you have to do with it afterward.
What inspires you to continue to take pictures? Are there any other photographers that have inspired you on your creative journey?
I love taking photos, it’s that simple. If I ever get bored doing it, which is not likely, I’ll stop. I’ve worked very hard these last few years and I’m very proud of my work but I’m always learning new things and I’m always improving. I’d like to think that the one photo that will define me is still out there to be shot and that’s motivation enough. There are so many great photographers whose work I am enjoying that it’s hard to think of names off the top but a name that comes right to mind is Ansel Adams. I’m always in awe of his work. Jay Maisel is also a favorite and God knows, I’ve shot countless photos of the street art plastered all over his old home, 190 Bowery.
What lies ahead in your creative journey? Do you have any upcoming projects you are looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to continuing with my artist collaborations, with some twists. Those are a lot of fun to do and very rewarding. I’m also looking to starting back up with my resin work and photo embellishments. No specific projects for the immediate future as I am limited in how much I can physically do and I am slowly getting back my strength. But I very much look forward to getting those pieces done that didn’t make it into “A Split Second.” I will be co-curating a few shows at the end of the year for two of my favorite artists and I’m really excited about that, more info to follow. And, of course, there’s always someone out there painting on the streets.