JAMES BARTOLOZZI

Being 100% self taught in this field, I don't feel like it's ever been easy, and I don't know that it ever will be easy. Truth be told, I don't think I want it to become easy! That leads to complacency, and for me, that's the end of the road. I remember this meeting I had with an (unnamed) agency not too long ago about testing with their models and the agent just tore my work to shreds! I had asked him for his honest opinion and, well, he didn't hold back! To my amazement though, he took a good 1/2 hr out of his morning and basically gave me a full portfolio review. He even gave me homework! And I actually left that meeting with a list of photographers whose work I should check out and I could learn from. Needless to say, six months later I was being contacted online by models from the very agency that turned me away only months before! I'll always be grateful to him for taking the time out of his day to help me become a better photographer! I suppose you just gotta put it out there and take the hits when it's not up to par just as much as you take the praise when it's good.

I've noticed that confidence was a theme in your interviews. As far as where I get my confidence from, I'd have to say a lot of it comes from shooting as much as possible. Again, being self taught, I've never really had a guide or a mentor to give me notes on my work, whether positive or negative. And I really feel like feedback is incredibly important to the growing process. I also believe that taking the time to experiment with different shooting situations, whether it be lighting or location or concept, is a great way to build self esteem as an artist. It gets you out of your comfort zone, and gives you more options in your repertoire. In a way, I liken it to being a musician who's constantly practicing. I'd have to say my confidence primarily comes down to experience. 

 

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I guess growing up with two older sisters I've always been comfortable being around women, and truth be told, I've always rather enjoyed being in their company. So for me it was only natural that this is where I would have ended up as a photographer. 

I think the short answer would be: Who wouldn't want to spend their afternoons surrounded by beautiful women? (laughing). But in all seriousness, the full answer is; I absolutely adore women. There's nothing more powerful than a confident woman who can embrace her femininity and her sexuality, and who can fully appreciate the fact that she is a woman. During a shoot I'll try to give some direction as to the mood I'm looking to capture for a particular look, but I generally like to keep it a little more free flow and have the models share their energy. And if I can capture that energy and that power in a photo, I just get really amped about it. It's such an incredible feeling for me. 

Then there's the playful side of things. A major aspect of my photo shoots is that they have to be fun, first and foremost. I'm a pretty high energy person myself, as all of my models will gladly tell you, so I definitely want a model with personality. She has to be someone that I would hang out with outside of the studio. One of the first things I do when I'm meeting a model for the first time is to let them know that she can relax, we're just here to have a good time. I'm immediately, from the second I open the door to the studio, trying to create a enjoyable atmosphere and a light energy. And when you're able to capture that playful and flirty side, there's just something magical about it. It's almost like an addiction for me!

 

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I know some photographers like to have total control of a shoot, but I am a huge proponent of collaboration! Unless I have a specific shot in mind with no room for creative leeway, I fully invite people bringing me their ideas or suggestions during a shoot. I feel like you won't grow as an artist if you don't collaborate on things... and better yet, I feel like the images will suffer as a result of being closed off to new ideas. 

The only real quality that I keep an eye out for is that you work hard and take our shoots seriously. And don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean that we can't have a good time during the day, because as we all know by now, I really like to have a good time. But nothing is better than a model who works hard for you. And it definitely goes both ways… you have to do the same for them. Of the models I've worked with repeatedly, Niki Christine and Valerie Usui both come to mind. We'll usually work on a mood board together and decide beforehand what we're going to shoot, be it wardrobe or makeup or concept. And those images generally turned out to be some of the better ones we've gotten because we both had a vested interest in getting good shots. 

 

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It's funny... because the style that I seem to be gravitating to more and more these days is also the one that's giving me the most trouble! I've started moving in a more "high fashion" direction with my work, and that brings a whole new set of challenges with it. Those shoots in particular have to be more curated, with better styling, better makeup, better hair, better sets or locations... etc etc. There's a lot more "stuff" to be coordinated for the shoot. but, the whole game gets elevated to a much, much higher level of creativity and you also get freedom from the "rules." And when you can pull it off, that feeling of success and achievement becomes that much more, the reward becomes that much greater! I guess I'm just feeding that addiction I spoke of earlier! Hah.  

This doesn't mean that I'm closing myself off from the other styles I was shooting previously. It's more of an evolution of styles than anything else. I've always enjoyed shooting lingerie as well. I mean, duh, right? But it's more than that though. And again I think it goes back to what I said earlier. There's something about having this sexy, confident woman in front of you who's completely comfortable in her own skin and is basically sharing this part of herself with you, and ultimately with your audience; that's just intoxicating. But even this style can be challenging in it's own right. The most confident person on the planet still has insecurities. It's my job to make sure that my model is in a good head space during a shoot. 

 

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One of the most challenging aspects of my work, but one that I'm grateful for is: I mentioned complacency earlier, and it's certainly something that you can fall into with ease. Finding new ways to keep it creative and not get into a rut is definitely a challenge, but it's something that I'm constantly working on. It's forcing me to develop my skills as an artist to achieve better images. I'm also the type of person that gets bored easily and needs constant stimulation. One of the nice things about this gig is that you get to meet new people all the time and hear new stories and even pick up some new tricks along the way. So that definitely helps in easing the boredom.

 

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Generally I've been pretty optimistic about life and my future/our futures, but at the moment, things really ain't looking too good. It does seem that people are starting to become more proactive about our politics and our planet, and just becoming more engaged with life in the process. But then I'll be walking down the street (I live in NYC) and half the people I pass by will be on their cell phones not even looking where they're going, just engrossed in this little screen in the palm of their hands! I suppose I always have hope though. I try my hardest to appreciate what I have around me, and hope that most everyone does too. Hopefully that's enough. 

 

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The end of civilzation will be caused by: An alien species destroying the planet to make room for an intergalactic highway!

 
















James Bartolozzi // jimmyshootspictures // bartolozzi.com

 

JUNNNKTANK is an online zine which has existed in one form or another since 2006.
For over a decade, the focus has been on highlighting the efforts of inspiring individuals and artists from around the world.

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