Mariangela Ciccone, as an art director, what are some of the qualities you look for in a prospective artist?
The qualities I look for in artists are the same qualities I look for in every person: energy, not being afraid of making mistakes, having the courage to take risks, doesn’t fear the opinion of others, is ambitious but humble.
Skills can be developed but hard work, dedication and the right mindset are something that cannot be learned.
How did you get the opportunity to work for the John Mazlish Studio?
It happened by chance. We met in a terrace in New York city. I was just back from California from another project. John said that he heard of me prior to us meeting for the first time.
Are you referring to the project Greater&Greener in San Francisco, where you masterfully curated the selection of the exhibitor and artist?
What are the essential skills that an art director has to possess if he/she wants to run a photographic studio?
Your personality is your most important asset. You must have a certain sense responsibility and creativity. Last but not least, you have to love the work of the studio you are working for.
What is it about John Mazlish’s photography that drew you to his work?
Before John is an amazing artist, he is an extaordinary person. He actually started out as a celebrity photographer. He never liked the notion “celebrity”, to him, we’re all equals. “We are all truly just human beings, having an experience of being human.” That’s what he says, and it’s amazing to work with someone that has this mindset.
His works are a reflection of himself. He seeks joy, love, and beauty. He puts that into his photos.
He sees with his heart and his works are able to transmit his vision of peace and happiness to the viewer.
His fine art style is also very simple: he loves to be out in nature capturing moments of beauty and simplicity, with the hope to bring some of that peaceful feeling into somebody else’s life.
Do you think Celebrity Photography is important?
The images we see of famous people -the so called “celebrities”- shape our understanding of them.
A celebrity is a person who is widely recognized in a society, but being recognized, and therefore famous, is not the only prerequisite needed to be a celebrity; in fact there has to be a level of public interest in the person in order for him or her to be considered one.
Why are celebrity photo’s so loved by the public?
Celebrities and photography have become so connected to each other that the first almost doesn’t exist without the second.
For better or worse, celebrities have the power to create impact in the lives of people. Most of the time they represent someone people admire, someone we aim to be; they have the lives we would like to live, the houses we wish to have, the job we dream of. For these reasons celebrity photography is so important nowadays and so loved by the public: it gives us the chance to see how their lives look like.
People wonder how famous people spend their time, which events they attend, how they dress, what they eat and celebrity photography gives them the visual answers to all of their questions.
Is there an iconic celebrity picture that you are drawn to?
There are many iconic celebrity pictures I really like, from Steven Meisel’s photo of Linda Evangelista smoking in the streets of New York, to Martin Schoeller’s shoot of Robert DeNiro eating chips in the New York subway. The one I feel drawn to the most is Ed Feingersh’s photo of Marilyn Monroe on the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel, where she looks like a normal 32 year old woman that just moved to Manhattan and looks down to the streets, breathing the energy of the city, feeling it inside of her veins, so full of life and dreams. We all know what actually happened to her a few years later, and it’s probably the dichotomy between this picture and her real life that makes me love this photo so much.
Photography is art, and art is not about telling the truth, art is about communication. It is a language that doesn’t express itself with words, but rather with sensations.
Photography takes the viewer into a different world, into somebody else’s life. When it makes us feel like we are part of that world too, when it makes us feel closer to that person, when we can look into his or her eyes and feel a connection, that is when celebrity photography becomes art.
Has social media tarnished the integrity of celebrity photography? Is there even a difference?
Social media has changed the whole concept of celebrity. Back then, a celebrity was an actor, a singer, or a politician. There was a thick line between fame and obscurity, now platforms like Twitter, Instagram and YouTube give normal people the possibility to gain fame, and they give celebrities the opportunity to connect with their fans, self-promote themselves which circumvents the paparazzi. Celebrity pictures are available 24/7 because of social media, and these shots devalue the market. But people love to see selfies or photos taken and posted by their idols: it seems more real, more intimate. We feel more involved with their lives because we can see their pictures everywhere, we are surrounded by their social media feeds.
In my previous question, you said social media devalues the market. What is the market’s relationship with social media?
Social media is an accelerator of the reality, an opportunity but also a threat. It has given people a tool to shape the world’s culture. It is an inevitable outcome. Shortly, I see people getting a great chance to gain more exposure, more clients, more of everything.
Interview by Reginald Amedee