“Be Unique” is the message, Fashion Photographer Joseph Cardo wants the next generation of photographers to remember. Joseph was born in the quaint town of Puglia in the South of Italy. As a child he was influenced by his culture and family that has led him to this phenomenal career as one of today’s most talented photographers.
He moved to Milan to pursue his passion, where he worked on many campaigns worldwide and the most important ones are Emporio Armani, Blumarine and recently with Paul Marciano for Guess. He is one of the italian photographers most requested by celebrities and his portraits are constantly covers for endless magazines.
You grew up in beautiful Puglia, looking back at your childhood, was there ever a time that you felt or knew you'd become one of the top fashion photographers today?
I've always thought of my homeland with a sense of great gratitude. Puglia is a generous land, full of sensations and contamination, which have always been an inexhaustible source of passion and energy for me; bringing it to my photographs was natural. However, the possibilities that this land offered were quite limited, especially in the field of fashion photography. So, inevitably, my work is a mix-match of different influences that blend from my land to travels and researches; curiosity is the glue of everything, it has always driven my instinct. My aesthetic sense certainly come from my childhood and education. I owe very much to my family and so I thank them despite the understandable fears, the enthusiasms and the initial qualms about a passion that luckily turned into a job.
Icons and legends like Cecil Beaton, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Peter Lindbergh and Mario Testino to name a few have paved the way for many of today's successful and future fashion photographers. Who has inspired you?
When I started to shoot, and looking at the work of the most famous fashion photographers as a valuable sources of growth and inspiration was complicated, especially like me when you're self-taught. You could know true fashion photography only through a careful and specific research, the difficulty made everything much more exciting and fascinating. That charm is lost now, with the growth of social media and digital, which make the knowledge of everything related to the world of fashion and the access to the information extremely simple, something impossible to think of only a few years ago. It's difficult to talk about a photographer who has influenced me, there have been many and each one is related to a particular moment of my life for a specific reason. I've always been very fascinated by Richard Avedon, from the beginning, because of the dynamism that he led to fashion photography, constantly changing it. Later I discovered that I loved Newton for his audacity, Lindbergh for the naturalness of his shots, Demarchelier as master of elegance. Each one of them has been for me a source of inspiration in different moments in my career, and from every each one I learned something. Research is the key word of my work and I think it is important to use these great masters of photography as guides; we should never copy them, but get deep into their language instead of just dwelling a quick glance.
What was your first photo shoot like? Describe seeing your first cover on a magazine.
My first photo shoot was made for the commercial catalogue of an emerging brand. It was the first time I was commissioned work like this, besides it giving me the opportunity to learn the set in a more concrete and professional way, allowed me to start being a bit more technical and to achieve an artistic growth. My first cover was made for a national magazine. It wasn't a wonderful experience. That day was particularly tense during the production of the photo shoot, and the way I managed the set didn't sufficiently satisfy me; the publisher, however, appreciated the photographs, commissioning me for several other photo shoots. Thankfully today, because of the experience I gained over the years, I am appreciated for my strong determination, which often becomes the reason of a "friendly clash" with my customers, as I try to build an image of the product that is always enriched by creativity in line with the current trends.
Aside from fashion photography what does your typical day look like?
I have to tell you that I always work. You know how it works, no? "If you do the job of your dreams, you'll never work a day." I love music, from which I often take my inspiration from, I like to take walks around and visit art exhibitions. I sometimes end up understanding my free time as a form of investment for work: photography and art in general is my drug, and the world is my pusher. Food is another passion of mine. Lately, I'm trying to experience the cuisine by cooking myself, clearly not the traditional one (creativity is way of expression in any form). Favorite dish: Raw fish. In the upcoming months I planned a trip to a part of America that I have seen many times for work, but that I have never been able to appreciate in its true essence: California. It will be a car trip that I will do in January to explore deserts, sparkling cities, and the people you meet on the street. I'll be in the company of my girlfriend Gintare that shares my unbridled passion for travel and art. We'll end up in Nevada.
I know shoots can be stressful and the process can become overwhelming. How do you plan the shoot while still keeping your cool? Have you ever turned down a project?
It's true, the working process of a commercial project can sometimes compromise and sacrifice the artistic aspect of the project itself, but I never quit any job. As I said, I am stubborn, determined and, most important; you always have to know how to play your own role by never losing the enthusiasm.
There are students photographers that are in college today working to become the next "top" fashion photographer; based on your experience what advice can you give them that will help them in their journey?
I have a simple message I want to convey to young aspiring fashion photographers: "Build your own style." No need to make copies of copies, which have already been seen; you've got to learn how to be recognizable in style and language, in two words BE UNIQUE.
If you had a chance to work with a fashion photographer, who would it be?
Richard Avedon, a genial man with a strong and characterized style. I wanted to become his assistant and I can't deny that as a young man I tried repeatedly to get in touch with his academy in America, but my young age and a little money in my pocket didn't allow me to get to the other continent.
Your photography style has been described as “predominated by a tonality halfway between white and black and color, i.e., by an attenuation of the color and all his shots have a very particular style, full of feelings and expressiveness." How would you describe your style? Are there any techniques you use while editing your images?
When it comes to fashion photography, photographic style is strongly influenced by the trends and moments of fashion itself. I wouldn't define my style like "something in between black and white and color", I prefer to look at it like a form of visual tone compensation, which combines a very saturated color of the skin to that of the details that stand out and convey the emotion, which drives the final user to buy the product. Fashion photography is meant for that: it's aspiration. My artistic training comes from an analogical knowledge, that is very different from nowadays way of thinking. While the analogical photography was conceived in a way that the photo had to be studied first and then it was ready to be printed, the modern editing faces a completely different making of process. A seemingly "flat" photograph can be easily turned into an original image, if in the hands of a good digital artist. I prefer to personally assess the post-production steps, I believe that the author's visual memory retains information that give a different value to a shot, even after a long time after taking the image. There are photographers who depend too heavily on post-production: this is not the result of a personal research, but the result of a manipulation. My approach to post-production is a mixture of knowledge from the old analogical system and techniques belonging to the digital world. The color grading, the same that sometimes characterizes me, is inspired by the vintage tones of films that are no longer even in production.
And if a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it's as though I've neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible. - Richard Avedon 1970