Peruvian born, New York based photographer João Canziani has quite the impressive portfolio of portraits and travel photography. His client list includes Apple, The Fader magazine and Monocle, amongst others, as well having shot portraits of David Lynch, James Blake and Morgan Freeman. João Canziani took a moment to step away from the camera and speak to us about his personal experiences and camera preferences. Lucky for us, João Canziani has wonderful taste and he has shared with us (below) a list of talented photographers on Tumblr to check out. Here is what’s up with João Canziani …
What is the portrait you have shot that you think has received the most attention? In the past I think it was the one of Morgan Freeman. I shot him in his hometown while on assignment in Mississippi. Nowadays, with all the social media and Tumblr, I think it’s been the black and white portrait of Common. It received over 3,500 notes on my Tumblr blog, Subliminous.com. Not that popularity contests should be a reason to do something, but I got encouraged by this and submitted it to American Photography. I was very excited to find out it was selected to be included in this year’s AP book.
Describe your style of portrait photography in a few adjectives: Stark, intimate, at times ambiguous and narrative, and with an occasional aversion to smiles (on the subject), with a little Latin American sensuality thrown in (ha!).
What is your go-to camera? I’m shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II most often. I carry my iPhone everywhere though, because I like posting to Instagram too (follow me there @joaocanziani), and I also carry a Yashica T4 for more off-the-cuff pictures shot on film. That being said, I love shooting with my large format camera too. I need to get back to that.
What is something you recently discovered that has helped you as a photographer? I’m not exactly sure what to call it. The goodness of people? Karma? In fact I wrote about this on my blog. It is the discovery of using social media as a community where all of us as photographers and people in the industry can help each other out. This has been an effective way for me to find assistance in foreign places. Or even, as I did before I headed on a portfolio trip to London, where I emailed a bunch of my peers for suggestions on who to see. Although I was offering something in exchange, like a round of beers on me, or offering my contacts here in North America, I was still nervous that nobody would write me back. The response was incredibly positive! Some people even offered to make introductions on my behalf. This kindness only works if the feeling is reciprocal, of course. Which is where this “karma” bit comes in.
What has been the most challenging project you have had to work on in your career? Why? I can’t recall “a most challenging project,” but I do remember when I first started, years ago, when at times I wasn’t getting the results I was envisioning. It has been a learning curve, and now I’ve trained myself to push myself until I get what I need. Cos there is no other way about it. You can’t have half-assed results if you want to keep on working and shooting. But, there will always be challenges from time to time. One recent incident I do remember is when I was shooting a portrait of this famous chef in the hotel I was staying at in Portugal. Perhaps because I didn’t have all the lighting equipment I needed, I was not very happy with the images I was getting. So rather than push the idea I had, I abandoned it completely and told the chef I’ll be right back. I ran to my room and grabbed my tiny Bluetooth speakers, and decided to take our shoot outside. With some good music and a little candid conversation, our moods immediately improved as well. So much so that he offered me one of his cigars he had just brought from a recent trip to Cuba. All of us, as a collaborative experience, managed to bring out the wonderful spirit in this person, and I think it shows in the pictures. The lesson I learned is that you can’t get too precious with your ideas. You have to be willing to abandon them when they’re no longer working. Knowing when to push for them and when to abandon them is what’s important though.
What is your most recent accomplishment? I would say I’m very proud of this personal project I shot towards the end of last year, in Zuccotti Park, when Occupy Wall Street was going. I decided to take the subjects out of context, to concentrate on who each of my subjects were as individuals. And as it had become a media phenomenon, I made the decision to not only include many of the protesters, but also anybody who was in the park at the time visiting, such as tourists or photographers or businesspeople taking their lunch break. You can take a look at the project, the website was selected to appear in this year’s PDN’s Photo Annual.
What/who is on your radar right now? There’s a few incredible photographers I’m following on Tumblr that are worth a good look (and worth following if you’re on Tumblr), in no particular order of preference …
Daniel Seung Lee
And then, not sure if they are on Tumblr, but still amazing to me: Todd Hido, Pari Dukovic, Luis Sanchis, Nadav Kander, Alex Prager, Etc etc etc.
What is an inspirational quote or lyric to you? “[Photography], to be compelling, there must be tension in the work; if everything has been decided beforehand, there will be no tension and no compulsion to the work.’ The compulsion comes from an artist with a crisp artistic vision committed to the facts. The tension emerges from the high risk of failure.” — Elisabeth Sussman and Tina Kukielski quoting David Levi-Strauss in the introduction to Taryn Simon’s An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar -
Here are a couple of images from João Canziani’s 99 portraits project, to get the bigger perspective of João Canziani’s talent in portrait taking visit his website …