Interview with: Giuseppe Dante Sapienza

Our latest interview is with Giuseppe Dante Sapienza, a Melbourne-based photographer and all-round creative. We talk about the move from shooting against a client brief to shooting what you love and Giuseppe shares his tips for ensuring that a portrait sitting goes swimmingly. If that ain’t enough, we are also showcasing one of Giuseppe’s most recent shoots, ‘All of this and nothing’, with the beautiful Jaime Laycock. Enjoy.

What first sparked your interest in photography?
It’s a little tricky to pin point really. Photography has just been a part of a natural journey exploring different creative mediums; it has always been there. Before taking up photography full-time, I was heavily into fine arts; painting and illustration. My first full-time job in my 20s was in a mini lab developing film but, at that stage, I was still looking to pursue fine art. More recently (last 10 years or so) is when I decided that photography could be something I could switch to full-time.

Who or what are your main sources of inspiration? Are there particular photographers and artists that inspire you?
For me, artists that inspire have always changed depending on what ‘phase’ I was in. In the past, I looked up to the elaborate and concept driven work of Tim Walker. Then, the surreal colours, story elements and unconventional work of Steven Klein was something that inspired many of my ideas and style. More recently, the work of Peter Lindbergh; his black and white, natural light look, cinematic framing and mood is what I most relate to.

I’ve always been of the mindset that it takes two to get an amazing image – the photographer and the talent – so I’m always conscious to allow the model some freedom and bring a part of their talent into the mix.

How do you prepare for a portrait sitting? Do you have images and poses in mind or do you rely on a sense of spontaneity? What are your tips for ensuring that the shoot goes smoothly?
It depends if it is a client booking with a brief – that client may have supplied reference images – or if it is a test/concept shoot of my own. If it’s a test shoot I’m setting up myself, I do like to start with some references I either find on Instagram or Tumblr. These are mostly as a guide for the model. Much easier to show than to explain. Once the shoot begins, I let it flow and see what happens. I’ve always been of the mindset that it takes two to get an amazing image – the photographer and the talent – so I’m always conscious to allow the model some freedom and bring a part of their talent into the mix. I always use references images as a vibe, I have never been interested in recreating this or that. The art will come from a more free-form approach from two talented creatives. If you put too much control on it, you are not allowing that little bit of chaos to manifest. The chaos for me is that special secret ingredient that creates the magic. My current work, I am after mood and not perfection. Sometimes the camera may not be precisely focused on the eyes, or the focus has completely missed hitting the shoulder, or maybe the model has drastically moved to an extreme end of the frame, cropping part of her/his face. These are all things I encourage, it gives the photo life.
Simple hints to make a shoot run smoothly… have at least a rough guide in your head of what you want. It can be as simple as black and white in natural light. Have a rough guide of what you want the model to do, and let them know: be natural, be strong, look at the camera, don’t look at the camera; It’s important to give the talent some founding guidelines for them to build on. Be prepared to change; an idea in your head may not be working, don’t force it, you will lose your own flow and the model will also begin to hesitate. If it’s not working, move on. In saying that, sometimes if you see it’s almost there, but not quite, it could be worth while pushing a little longer to get that amazing shot. Be confident. The crew looks up to you, you are like a director on a movie set. Everyone will look to you for answers and confirmation. If you show confidence, people will trust you and the shoot will go smoothly.

It goes without saying, practice what you love. Go out and shoot. There are no excuses.

What general advice do you have for young photographers interested in fashion and portrait photography?
It goes without saying, practice what you love. Go out and shoot. There are no excuses. Shoot your boyfriend/girlfriend. Shoot your family and friends. Practice your art on those who are happy to sit there while you learn, then progress to like-minded talent. Take inspiration from everything around you. Not just other photographers, but movies, film directors, artists, even musicians. Compositions, mood, light, colour, inspiration can be found in all aspects of art, not just photography. Try to understand the craft, know the basics first, then begin to break the rules. This is the most fun but also most critical for your development. This is where you get to experiment and, at the same time, discover yourself as an artist. This is the crucial time to start to look and find your own style. Its that individual style that will set you apart and get you the work. If your work looks like 20 other photographers, why would a client come to you? Find your own voice.

I read in your blog that you recently decided to change direction with your photography, moving from a ‘service’ to a ‘product’; what changed? How do you see your photography evolving over the next few years?
Since I moved to full-time photography, I have done everything from portrait, fashion, magazine submissions, weddings, christenings, family portraits – essentially, I have a camera and a good eye, hire me to take your pics. But as I mentioned right at the start, photography for me is just another creative medium. Art is what I want to create. More precisely, I like to tell stories, I have always considered myself a storyteller above all else. Changing from a ‘service’ to a ‘product’ essentially means I want to concentrate more on creating art, using my own voice and hopefully find an audience who likes what I create enough to want to purchase it for themselves to keep and enjoy. I’m currently working on several projects, mostly print/book based. ‘Products’ consisting of photography, short stories and illustrations, all in one package, all telling one story. The current project is a book titled ‘Fly or Fall’ . I took some photos late last year with an amazing model, Roz, that I will use as one-third of themed book. The other two-thirds of the book will consist of a 30 page short story which I’m currently writing and then 10 black and white ink illustrations to accompany the story. I then hope to self-publish the book and have a small exhibition for the illustrations and photographs. I have actually taken the photos for the second book already, so it’s something that I want to continue with maybe two or three books a year. In between these books, I am working on a few other smaller projects, in different formats: digital, audio, and magazine. As a consequence, most of my time these days is spent working on these projects and less developing my portfolio to get more clients. I’m still available for commissioned work, I’m just not actively seeking it – hence transitioning to a ‘product’ type business.


Photography: Giuseppe Dante Sapienza | Website / Instagram

Model: Jaime Laycock | Instagram

All images copyright Giuseppe Dante Sapienza.