It’s Photography Month here on the ADC Blog, a chance to showcase the shutterbugs within the ADC community, sharing both their work and their stories. Photographers aren’t the biggest segment of creatives amongst ADC Members, but their passion more than makes up for their numbers. Whether they’re veteran shutterbugs, newcomers just starting to make a living, or just people who love to shoot on the side.
Our next featured ADC Member is no stranger to us here at ADC — she used to be part of our staff! While professionally speaking she works in video, Claire Lorenzo‘s creative passions are a mile wide, including a deep=seated love of photography. Claire’s looking to take in an artist’s residency to combine even more of her talents (you can even help fund it here) but today we’re focusing on her camera creativity.
Freelance Video Editor, Casual Films
How old were you when you became interested in photography? How did that interest come about, and how was it fostered?
I was originally turned onto photography around middle school, and into high school. My first real camera was a Nikon D50 (state of the art at the time) and the difference between holding that camera in my hand, versus a point and shoot, was astounding. But the real life-changing moment wouldn’t happen until my freshman year of college when I bought my first 35mm analog SLR and dove head first into the world of black and white darkroom photography.
Do you remember the earliest photograph you ever took that moved you?
I can’t remember the first photograph I ever took, but I can remember the first “good” photograph I took. I was living in the Bronx at the time as a student at Fordham University. I was walking down Arthur Ave. (the Little Italy of the Bronx) and I spotted a group of construction workers on a break, relaxing on a brick stoop. I approached them without fear and snapped a few shots. Their reactions to my forwardness were a weird mixture of annoyance and flirtation. These guys were the same catcallers who’d sometimes make me feel uncomfortable walking down the street, but there I was, turning the watchful eye back on them. It wasn’t spiteful though. The whole incident was actually quite playful.
What type of photography would you say is your specialty, and how did it come to be your specialty? Can one be transient — starting in one area of photography but evolving into another?
My favorite photographer of all time is hands down Henri Cartier-Bresson. He popularized and is, in my opinion, the greatest street documentary-style photographer of all time. I was hugely influenced by Bresson during my college years, and still practice a street documentary-style manner of shooting today. This essentially means you take to the streets, camera in hand like a loaded gun, and you wait for your subject to reveal itself to you. He had a mantra, “Le Moment Decesif” the Decisive Moment—that’s what photography is to me. There are moments which happen here and there; so when they reveal themselves to you, it is the duty of the trained photographer to be ready to capture them.
How would you define your photographic style?
Your photographic style is like your singing voice. I can sing you a Johnny Cash song, then I can sing you part of Magic Flute, the opera by Mozart — clearly completely different song styles, but you could probably recognize that it’s my voice singing both. Photography is the same way. I can shoot street-documentary style, then shoot something in a studio, and you’ll probably be able to observe an overlap. The best (successful) photographers, in my opinion, use this fact to their advantage. I really hate Terry Richardson, but I have to hand it to him, I could identify a Richardson portrait from a mile away. The guy has an incredible, specific, and distinguished portrait style that’s unmistakeable, and it’s what made him so famous. Why else would they hire him for the “Wrecking Ball” video?
“Your photographic style is like your singing voice. I can sing you a Johnny Cash song, then I can sing you part of Magic Flute, the opera by Mozart — clearly completely different song styles, but you could probably recognize that it’s my voice singing both.”
What’s your favorite camera to shoot with? What’s so awesome about it?
I collect cameras. I love cameras. I have everything from a 1950s era medium format 120 film format Brownie, to my most recent toy, a Canon 5D Mark III. My favorite? My very first 35mm Pentax analog SLR. No fancy features, just aperature and shutterspeed. All day. It’s like singing into a microphone with no effects or production added onto your voice. You can’t fake it. The camera will help capture and project what you see, but it’s up to you to do all the hard work.
What is the hardest part about making a living as a photographer? Any advice on how to overcome that challenge?
Photographers actually have it pretty good nowadays. Everyone and their mom wants a good headshot, good video for their brands, their companies, their restaurants. We’re such a visual society. I work freelance jobs doing both photography and video. My advice to photographers coming out of school, hunting for jobs and all that, would be to expand your skill set to also include video. It draws on all your important basics that you already know from studying photo — light, composition, ⅓ rule etc. It’s just moving image instead of still. If you can become a triple threat: photography, video, sound — you’ll never have to worry about getting a job, you’re what a production house would call “indispensable.”
Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?
In fall 2015, I launched my own collage-design clothing line called In Pieces. I screenprinted my original collage art onto a line of sweatshirts, tees, and denim jackets. In promotion of the line, I borrowed two good-looking friends to model the clothing for me, and we spent the day running around my neighborhood, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The shoot was so off-the-cuff, and unplanned, it was more fun than any fixed event I’ve ever worked. I posed them on random stoops, against brick walls, against graffiti murals. At one point I was shooting them against a beautiful bright blue door of a brownstone building. The people who lived in the apartment below came home and found us on their stoop and were not happy! I got one or two more shots and then we all fled the scene.
What would be your dream client/project/collaboration?
I miss photographing music. I cut my teeth working at a radio station, WFUV 90.7 FM in college, and capturing musicians in their element was truly an out of body experience for me. It requires a diligence, and most importantly, an actual ear for music. You become part of their act too in that way; you’re moving alongside them through the song. You’re essentially anticipating a “wow” moment in the song before it happens. Then you just need to plant your feet, pull focus, and nail the shot as soon as it comes into frame. The passion and exuberance musicians emit when they perform make for strong, natural, and unpredictable photographs.
Nowadays everyone has ‘cameras’ in their pockets and Instagram on their phones. How has this changed the photography game? How has this changed your photography game?
I absolutely hate the camera phone. Do any other photographers out there remember when Instagram first came out? When it was an app for serious photographers? I don’t get up on a stage, start spewing Shakespeare, and pretend I can act, so why does everyone suddenly think they’re a photographer? No one who goes to the store and buys a set of water colors starts calling himself a painter, so why did we do this to photography? Throwing a cool filter on your picture of tree doesn’t deserve anyone’s attention. By clogging our eyes with a ton of mediocre and amateur pictures, Instagram has effectively diluted the medium of digital photography.
On the flipside, I shot an entire documentary in Spain this past summer on the iPhone 6. I was reluctant at first but it can shoot at 60 & 120 fps and I was hiking mountains, so I guess that makes me the biggest hypocrite in the world!
“So, you’re a photographer?” What’s the strangest question you’ve received when someone learned what you do?
Everyone just wants me to shoot their headshots.
“Everyone just wants me to shoot their headshots.”
What are your other creative outlets and sources of inspiration?
I work very interdisciplinarily. Photography overlaps with my love for collage art, it factors into my full-time job in video, and it also ties into playing music. I used to always wish I was more of a “specialist,” being really good at one single thing. But then I started making collage art that incorporated my photography. And then I started making films that incorporated my collage art. And then I started writing music to score those films. I’d love to start some kind of design studio wherein all these elements can be connectively-employed, allowed to interplay with each other.
Fill in the blank: “When I’m not shooting, I am…”
…I am playing trumpet and singing in a new band I just started. We’re called WILD.
Which professional photographers do you look up to, whether from afar or as mentors?
I already mentioned Henri Cartier-Bresson, but in terms of living photographers, I have to give a shout-out to my good friend, Simon Harsent. (He took my headshot!) Simon has mastered the difficult, but entirely possible, juggling-act of working in both the commercial and fine art photography industries. A lot of artists will say you have to choose one or the other–work a day-job, then practice your art in the off-hours. But Simon has proved that you don’t have to give up your nights to serving at a restaurant. You can be an incredibly successful commercial photographer, pay your bills, afford a studio in Williamsburg, and in doing so it allows you to execute your fine art projects too.
Check out his portraits of icebergs. I call them “portraits” because his shooting style is so uniquely incredible; he humanizes these enormous ice structures in the most delicate of ways.
When all is said and done, what is it about being a photographer that gets you up in the morning and drives your passion?
If we don’t do it, if we’re not the ones to care about it…then who will?
Photography Month takes place throughout March, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!