FIRST THINGS FIRST
The final year’s shooting of USER will be exhibited at Gallery
La Petite Mort.
Show opens this Friday, September 23rd.
Five days only.
You all are invited to the opening.
USER was always conceived as a multiyear project. A series
of portfolios that, though shot on just one 30 meter strip
of sidewalk and using portraiture only, aimed to explore
the face and the feel of the addicts who congregate there.
The latest (and last) work from this project, USER 2010, is
a series of images, shot simply, in natural light, snapshots
really. Echoes of all the previous shooting I have done on
the corner, about faces and relationships. A summation.
You’ve got your fotografers who love to take fotos and you’ve got your
fotografers who just do it to get paid.
You’ve got your fotografers who bring passion and politics and verve
to their work and their foto-play (i.e.: personal projects) and you’ve
got your fotografers who churn out standard shit that doesn’t add up
and they call it personal work.
Today drool gets to talk with Joao Canziani, NYC (via Peru) editorial
fotografer, and a fotografer who obviously loves to shoot and brings
passion, politics and verve to his personal projects.
Joao Canziani at Gallery La Petite Mort
I met Joao at his opening at Gallerie La Petite Mort last week, where
he was showing images from his recent project (shot in Peru) titled
CANADIAN CAFE BAR.
Installation view of CANADIAN CAFE BAR
drool: Can you tell us a little about this project?
Joao: It was great meeting you the other night. Thank you for coming
to the opening.
This project came about kind of by chance. I was in Lima shooting another
personal series when I stumbled upon a couple of girls shooting a “sexy
calendar” shoot by the shore. After some convincing, I got to shoot them
as part of the landscape, and then I asked the model if I could shoot her
at a later time. The girls were doing that shoot for the place they worked
at, but they didn’t want to tell me what that place was. So I assumed it was
some sort of strip joint, but that wasn’t quite it. My curiosity was piqued,
so I decided to investigate a little further.
It turned out that Karla, the girl from the sexy calendar shoot, worked at
this bar called Canadian Café Bar. It was a mix between late-night tourist
trap and hostess bar. I went in a couple of times to check it out, naively
thinking I could ask some other girls there to pose for me. That turned
out to be a bit of a challenge.
What was a simple desire to shoot portraits and nudes of the girls that
worked there, turned into something more meaningful for me. It allowed
me to viscerally connect with the city I was born in, because I had left it
when I was barely a teenager. I have always considered Lima my home
town, but I have always felt like I didn’t quite “belong” there. After shoot-
ing this project I learned that “belonging” has a lot to do not only with
growing up in a place, but experiencing this growth with members of
the opposite sex; meaning the whole gamut of sex, falling in love, getting
hurt. I didn’t quite have that, or more to the point, I was uprooted at the
point were I was about to experience all of these things. So this series
didn’t satisfy that in a physical way, but at least it brought me closer to
a place I consider my home.
As a note, I wrote about all these experiences shooting this project on
my blog… you can read more about it here.
drool: Interesting, isn’t it, how one sets out to shoot some personal
project and, if you are open, it can turn into something you never
imagined…it can help you to imagine, see and learn.. There’s certainly
something to be said for keeping an open mind, opening a door and
seeing (and accepting) what comes through.
You also shoot editorial and (some) commercial assignments. How
do your personal projects feed into what you do for money? And do
your personal projects get you paying gigs?
Joao: Well, personal projects on the simplest level act as a way to
investigate new ideas and experiment. Then I have a chance to apply
these new ideas to commissioned assignments. And if you “fail” with
personal work you’re not risking failing for a paying client, which will
cost you future jobs.
David Lynch, for W magazine
But on a more spiritual level, I find that to feel good about my life and
photography, I have to have a balance between the personal and the
commercial. Like body and soul, you need both. Doing commercial
work I feel validated in a sense as clients are responding to my work
and hiring me for it. But without personal work, there is no “me.” I
have to create something that is coming from me, and not from
somebody else’s brain.
Brady Corbet, for Planet magazine
So yeah, personal projects do get me paying gigs. Sometimes a client
sees something in that work and wants to replicate it on the commercial
assignment. But it’s better when you get to earn respect from the good
photo editors for doing both the personal and commercial and for con-
tinually striving to find your own voice. There’s a better payoff for this
in the long run.
drool: Can you tell us a little about your approach when shooting editorial?
Do you scout? How many setup do you shoot? Etc.
Joao: Shooting editorial always varies depending on the assignment. If it’s
a travel shoot I usually have a discussion with the photo editor regarding
the shot list, then you head to the location and shoot what is on the shot
list. For these shoots I like having an extra day or enough time to flesh
out the shot list. Meaning time to roam around, get lost, and encounter
things that neither the magazine or I would have thought of before arriving.
Boqueria Market, Barcelona
When it comes to portrait assignments I like scouting whenever possible.
Most of the times this is not the case. Either way it’s about being as pre-
pared as you can be, considering that in order to get something good out
of the shoot, you need to push beyond the planned scripted shots and find
the tension in the unknown (to paraphrase a quote I read and love). Because
when you’re doing that you’re taking a risk that the shot might turn out like
crap, or maybe not. There’s something about this that makes the photograph
Walton Goggins, for Entertainment Weekly
drool: Thanks for your time and interest Joao. Anything else you’d like to add?
Joao: Always carry a camera. And I should heed my own advice. When you do
that, a photographer friend of mine opined, you reduce high expectations to
get something good whenever you have the camera with you, because now it’s
always with you, as part of you. Not to mention, it’s a good thing to document
your life, or the world around you.
Television, Lima, Peru
You will find Joao’s website here.
22 MINUTES SUCKS
The CBC program This Hour Has 22 Minutes kicked off their
Fall 2011 season this past Tuesday by stealing one of my
fotos to use in a piece they did on Prime Minister Harper’s
I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the piece (like the program)
wasn’t funny. And somehow, in their close-cropping of the image,
they managed to butcher its look and feel.
SPEAKING OF TV
A while ago I mentioned here on drool that I had been interviewed
by Lilly Koltun for a local art-magazine-on-television thingy.
Well, my episode is being aired this coming Tuesday, September 20,
at 6 p.m., on channel 22, baby.
STEPH’S LETTER CONTINUES