In keeping with the theme of “diversity”, I like to interview photographers of all levels in their professional and artistic careers. Photographer William Vazquez is Chairman of APA | NY and probably one of the most experienced shooters I’ve interviewed on this blog – even though as you’ll later read, his parents think he’s unemployed. Follow Willam Vazquez on Twitter.
D&B: Where are you from?
WV: I was born, and raised in NYC of Puerto Rican parents so that makes me Nuyorican. I have pretty much lived in every borough of the city at one point or another except Staten Island.
D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started – any “formal” training?
WV: I don’t feel that my work really falls into one category except for the fact that there usually is a person or people in them. My main objective is for my photos to have some level of emotion to them.
I do advertising, documentary, conceptual, and fine art. I don’t like to box myself in to a particular place if possible. I like to try different techniques, and approaches. Although if you look at my work as a whole there definitely feels like there is a common thread to them.
I like to say that I do really nice snapshots, but in reality that is a style. I put a lot of effort into creating photographs usually by using lots of production, looking for the right environment, or inspiring people to get them to react in a way I would like.
In the beginning photography was a hobby for me as a teenager. It wasn’t until I met a real photographer who asked me if I wanted to learn more was I hooked. I ended up going to Parsons School of Design in Manhattan.
D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use?
WV: I use a Canon 1ds mark II for a good portion of my projects. Although I don’t have any particular techniques that I usually use. It depends on my subject matter, what I want to accomplish, and sometimes what the clients need as an end result. These are the things that decide what equipment, and approach to use.
Anything that needs high resolution or better color fidelity I rent either a Leaf or Phase One back with an H2 camera. I also use a 4×5, and shoot black and white film. At the moment I am contemplating getting an 8×10. I find that large format helps me slow down, and focus. Also I love Type 55 Polaroid, but it doesn’t exist anymore.
D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
WV: I feel my mentors are the photographers I had assisted in the past. Photographers like William Abranowicz, and Peter Ogilvie; good working photographers who showed me how things were done, and took the time to teach me. Also Franchesco Scavullo, who showed what it, was like to work at a higher level.
I do like looking at great photography. I just don’t necessarily feel that I have to emulate anyone. I find my inspiration in the people I meet, the places I go, movies, and art, most anything.
D&B: Have you experienced any setbacks or different treatment along your photography career that you would attribute to being a photographer of color? (this question is optional)
WV: I have never felt any difference in treatment because of my heritage. If anything being multi-cultural has been an advantage to me. I am able to communicate with more people, and make them feel comfortable with me. Not to mention sometimes I have a better understanding of where someone is coming from.
D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your
journey towards becoming a working photographer.
WV: It really started when I started assisting for professional photographers when it dawned on me that this is a real career. Growing up I was not exposed too much art or anything really creative.
Where I come from being successful meant being a doctor or a lawyer not anything artistic. So as I started to work for different photographers I saw my potential as a photographer. I worked very hard in creating the network of people I needed to help me move forward as well as working on my craft. My parents still think I don’t have a job though.
D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
WV: One of my dreams as a child was to travel. I collected stamps form all sorts of exotic places, and imagined going to them. Now I get to go to many of those exotic places, meet the people, and get to share a moment in their lives. To me photography is more than a job or a career. Photography is how I communicate, and I want to communicate with as many people as possible!
D&B: What’s your dream photography project?
WV: My dream project is to be able to travel without the pressure of deadlines, and collect people’s stories.
D&B:What’s the biggest (life) lesson you’ve learned through photography?
WV: The biggest life lesson I have learned is to not have any preconceived notions of people, and how they live. We are all much more similar than we think.
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