10 minutes with Michael De Pasquale

Interviews with Photographers May 16, 2011 8:01 am
When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

I was in the mounting room of my father’s photography studio. It was around 10 pm on a weekday. The distinct aroma of fixer and C41 chemicals permeated the air lIke the cologne of a old man wafting through this house after he has died.  One week prior, in a dusty bookstore at the bottom of the sale pile, I found a book called “Advertising Photography” by Allyn Saloman. I went to the studio and started working to replicate the pictures I liked. I had spent most of my childhood working with my brother and father in that studio. Building turbo-charged graphics computers out of scrap parts. Developing paper while dad printed. Labeling, mounting, and tray-ing slides for presentation. Packing up for the big shoot. Setting up the night before. This is before power point  A/V was the rage.

Skip to year 2000: After working as a day-laborer in San Diego, I was broke and moved home and got a job at a factory. I reconnected with a middle-school love of mine. She was in art school, and I decided to join her, where I studied painting and graphic design. They offered photography classes abroad in London, and it was there that I realized I was better at taking pictures than painting them. When I got back to the States, many of my friends were in jail or doing nothing, so with my hands empty, I returned home. My father shot industrial stuff, and all but one manufacturing plant had moved to overseas, leaving the factory towns in total devastation. My father and I were looking over my work for the week: it consisted of 4×5 chrome b&w test strips and lots of references to my new book. I was intrigued by the power of the zone system– I was trying to figure out its application when using chrome and neg film. He looked at me and said: “Go to photography school. I don’t have this in me any more. It’s all digital now.” At one point, we were shooting for the one remaining client with a mega vision s3 digital back, 40 grand and 5 megapixels. You should have seen the client’s face when we showed with that rig. The first few times they made us shoot film as well as digital. That fall, I packed up some of my things and drove across the country to attend photography school.

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

How do you come up with the components that go into your still life shoots?

I go out and collect most of it; the rest are gifts. The process is different depending on the project. In one case, I’ll have a dream of a picture, then the next day I’ll go out and find the items. Our minds are working all the time. If I can’t find the solution, I’ll sleep on it or do something else than think about it. When I wake up or get back to it, BAM!, it can happen just like that. For other projects the objects are relics, confirmations of someone’s or something’s existence in a specific time or place of history, collected to be arranged as emotional responses, or impressions if you will. I also keep a black box of obscure and unpredictable items containing random items I have collected over the years to be used as props and portals of creative-thinking. Nonetheless, all is either hand-collected or given to me by someone in some sense.

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

What do you love most about being a photographer, and what is the hardest part?

Being a photographer is being an observer. Of everything. Light watching, capturing it, recreating it. Sometimes if I see great light that needs a person, I’ll go stage myself in it. To make a temporary picture, like a impromptu installation. The hard part is not being judgmental of other artists, and dealing with paperwork.

Michael De Pasqualeq

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

What advice or words of wisdom would you have given yourself 10 years ago?

Only compare yourself to the greats and don’t compromise.

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

Michael De Pasquale

Tell me about the video aspect of your work

Video has snuck its way into my work in the past year or so. At first, I was doing lighting, then lighting and framing, and now a little bit of directing. Motion and sound: great new friends. I just finished shooting a documentary for broadcast in Sweden, to be released in September. (*The documentary is IPHIGENIA and it’s about Swedish composer Anna-Lena Laurin)

(Michael is based in Brooklyn, New York. See more of his work, here)

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