Renato D’agostin, from origin Italian, but living in New York is a photography artist who still is creating his work with analogue photography. His work has been exhibited all over the world and he has also published numerous books. Some of his prints have in the years become part of public collections. I met him at the opening of his exhibition in the Kahman gallery, here in Amsterdam.
“Dislocating subjects from their realities, he depicts his perception of the space around him, the relationship between the architecture and people, opening a new portal in the spectator’s imagination”
You posed for me in front of your favourite work, why you choose this one? What is it that makes it your favourite?
The jumping man was shot in Los Angela’s. I feel it expresses really well my photography and it has the kind of tri-dimensionality that I like. That only photography can give you.
The subject is pushing into the frame. You can picture yourself in it. It’s about freedom, running, jumping, escaping, and very open to different interpretations.
“The atmosphere of city life nourished his curiosity to capture life situations with the camera”
Tell me how did you get started?
Actually, I quit after two months the Photography-school in Milano. It was not for me, so I started to be Photographers Assistant where I spend a lot of time in the darkroom. After I went to New York and tried again the Photography-school, but now I already quit after two days.
“I just like to be in the field, working, and not talking about photography”
I went to assist Ralph Gibson, learning how he was managing things, how to live as a photographer, how to make it possible. Those things you don’t learn at school. He was a great inspiration.
I also have been a dog walker in New York for every day three hours to pay the bills. And in the afternoon, I was knocking on the door of everybody “in the name of Photography” to show my work until somebody gave me some opportunities. I looked for everything myself in my life, and things happen. I don’t believe in luck.
“You build every little stone of luck in your life yourself”
Desperation can take you very far. When you are really desperate of doing something, you will challenge yourself in a way you can’t even imagine.
That’s how I started photography and that’s how I believed in my dream of being a photographer and exposing my work.
Your work is still analogue and hand-printed black & white Photography with lots of grains in it. Which camera and film do you use?
A Leica M6, which is very small and easy to carry around. W
Film basically everything `I can find, but I prefer Kodak Tri-X400.
You also take assignments or you only make free work?
Only free work so far, but actually tomorrow I have an appointment in Paris with a big brand for a potential commercial job. But then, I will have complete freedom. For many years I said no to commercial jobs because I wanted to find my signature first and to get my name out. And now I’m asked to do a commercial photo-shoot because they like my style and based on those photos I get the job. I can do my own thing and don’t have to compromise.
What drives you?
It’s a natural thing. I don’t even chose photography; it just felt like the right thing.
I come from a small town and being a photographer is like being a wedding photographer and making passport pictures, so my mom felt sorry for me.
I knew what I liked about photography and it was about travelling around and gets my free work out there. But I had no idea where to start and that’s why I worked so long as an assistant and build up my portfolio. I went to galleries, to exhibit. I work 22 hours a day.
“I’m in constant motion”
I give up many things for his. And I would do it again another million times. It’s about choices.
What fascinates you?
What fascinates me in photography that it’s a medium that gives a possibility to the viewer that other fields of art don’t give you. There’s something about the specific moment and time that can’t be modified. You cannot get that moment back in the exact same way. So it’s all about timing.
And also if you approach something in an abstract way it can open a different portal.
What does success means to you?
“Success for me is to able to do what I want without limitations”
I look for it every day, I just want to work more and better.
What are you grateful for?
Life in general. I’m grateful to some people in my life who were very supportive.
What’s important for you in life? What makes you happy?
Definitely, photography is a 100 % my life and I’m 100 % photography.
“I don’t like to taste things, but eat the whole thing.” If I do something, I’m a 100 % in it. I have friends and a girlfriend and her life is also a 100 % about photography, so we’re in it the same.
What characteristics make you the way you are and participate in the success you already have?
“When you want something that bad, you create your own characteristics”
If I wanted to go on with photography and I had no contacts, no nothing, I had to look for everything and I think that’s determination. So from an early age, I decided I that determination became part of my characteristics I guess.
What other things do you like to learn?
But just in relation to my specific life, I want to learn what I have not understood about photography yet, although I don’t know what that is.
Digital photography as well?
No, I’m not interested in Digital photography. I can’t stay behind a computer for many hours. It’s not natural for me. I want to use my time and skills in what I love doing.
Do you still have dreams?
I have a million dreams still, I live on dreams.
“If you start towards getting from A to B, you’re already there; causing you set your mind to get there”
So I live my life like that. For now, I like to get better and work even harder.
Do you travel a lot?
Yes, sometimes too much. Every month I travel, mostly for exhibitions or book presentations but also for photography projects.
Can you give some to do tips of New York, the city you live in?
- Come to visit my studio in Brooklyn, just email me before. My studio is my darkroom. And there’re pictures on the wall, good wine J
- The area of Bushwick, if people are into art, east of Williamsburg, is very dynamic with lots of exhibitions. It used to be Chelsea, but now Bush wick is trendier.
- In Brooklyn are everywhere nice place.
- The Whitby hotel is for the cityscape view on the top floor and by sunset very beautiful. The restaurant downstairs is very beautiful too. It’s in Brooklyn and you can see Manhattan.
- The Standard hotel in Manhattan is great too, for its amazing rooftop bar where you see all of New York.
What’s your life slogan?
Obviously, if you see my work:
”Less is more”
But my personal life slogan is “Work harder”
Do you have anything left you like to say?
I would like to have more time to visit Amsterdam.
The exhibition of Renato D’agostin will be until the 22th of September in Amsterdam. After the exhibition will continue to antother part in the world.