Photographer Review: Sergio MottolaThursday, January 13th, 2011
As many of you know, I am perpetually posting images of my wife on Facebook. She is gorgeous, and enjoys having her picture made, which is a fortuitous combination for a photographer’s wife. One day I posted a recent photo of my wife to my wall, and Sergio Mottola responded that we would love to do some portraits of both of us. Sergio is located in Tacoma, WA, and it just so happened that in a few weeks we already had plans to travel in the Pacific Northwest to visit family and friends. So in honor of our 6th anniversary, we commissioned Sergio for a portrait session of the two of us together in Portland, OR.
If you would like to see the rest of the images of us, please follow this link to Tacoma portrait photographer Sergio Mottola’s blog.
A quick portrait I snapped of Sergio on my Mamiya 7
So why did we choose to work with Sergio out of the many talented photographers we know?
Amanda and I place a tremendous value on quality photography, but at the same time would feel rather odd about displaying photographs of ourselves that might come across as pretentious. While my wife might be able to pull off the slick glamorous model look, I certainly couldn’t… and an effort to produce images of us that mimic a Conde Nast spread or Anthropologie cover would have felt like putting on airs to us. We wanted images that reflect who we are, what we like to do, and how we feel about each other.
The best way that I can describe Sergio’s greatest talent is that he has a gift for making photos that look like an amazing, lucky shot by one’s friend rather than a polished-yet-impersonal production from a professional stranger. At its core, Sergio’s work is just as content-driven as I strive to make mine, albeit through a different path. Sergio’s work is certainly stylized, but at his best his style is a natural extension of a highly specific worldview. Regardless of to what extent his approach may be unorthodox, it is typically the result of a passionate and reasoned intention rather than a flimsy affectation. I often tell people that in order to be a good photographer you must first be an interesting person with strong (albeit possibly mercurial) perceptions and beliefs. Sergio is an interesting person with a strong personality and a developed perspective.
I remember being struck by this portrait session in particular, which I felt had an earnestness and organic quality. Sergio is a friend sharing a day with the couple, and the photographs capture the couple’s relationship without resorting to excessively dramatic gestures. We also loved this wedding, which reflects a sense of style without being overwrought. Perhaps we were also swayed by the taco truck, because we do love food trucks….
image by Sergio Mottola
I think that the salient quality of our session, and one of the key factors in its success, was Sergio’s commitment to actually experiencing a day in our life. One of our first stops of the session was a block of Portland that is full of food trucks of every description, from tacos to Thai. We ordered some (delicious) curries, and sat out on top of the park bench because the seats were too icy. We had a few bites, and then I started thinking that he would be getting tired of shooting us eating. I started to move to get rid of my half-eaten curry, and Sergio stopped me to say something to the effect of “no, I really want you to eat your lunch.” This may seem silly, but the fact that Sergio wanted to document us actually experimenting with interesting cuisine and really enjoying it, rather than simply using the food as a prop for a brief moment changed the fundamental nature of the shoot for me. Certainly, we spent the day conscious of the camera, and were considering our activities partly in light of what might photograph well. However, I can honestly say that this is a day that we really experienced, rather than a series of fabricated images of things that didn’t really happen. We really did explore the photo section at Powell’s (a spectacular bookstore that we had visited many times before). We really did stand on line for a half-hour in the freezing cold outside Voodoo Donut so that Amanda could try the legendary maple bacon bar, the pastry she was born to eat.
That level of commitment matters.
image by Sergio Mottola
I believe the end result of this session is a series of photos that accurately reflects Amanda and my lifestyle. They are images where Amanda looks gorgeous and I don’t look like too much of a doofus (a photographic achievement worthy of a Pulitzer IMHO). The photos show how we feel about each other without an endless string of PDA. We couldn’t be more pleased, and look forward to receiving our photo book from this session.
image by Sergio Mottola
“These are just…they are totally us. I could get gushy about it in a multitude of ways, but I’ll spare all of you. Suffice it to say that Evan and I are madly in love and Sergio has deftly captured what I love about my relationship with Evan and what I love about Evan himself.
And it’s true: Evan is very difficult to photograph. He does a “camera face” sometimes (if he’s thinking too much) and he thinks a lot about the act of photographing something as I’m sure you all well know, so being on the other side of the camera is tough: it’s hard for him to let go.
After a while of hanging out with Sergio, I think Evan was at ease and we were having fun. I, of course, am an absolute ham for the camera so my biggest hurdle was the cold: it was 25-degrees F in these shots!
Working with Sergio, it was easy. He was there, then he wasn’t, he was conversational, then he was standoffish…he seemed to respond to all situations with an appropriate intrusion (or lack of one). We were also really amped to see him work because we love his work and we love what he seems to draw out of his couples.
Further, as a photog’s wife (who sometimes goes on couples shoots) I was excited that we WERE NOT going to go do some “canoodling in a field.” No offense to canoodling in a field, but I don’t want shots of me doing something I wouldn’t ordinarily do. I love NOT camping, and being outside in the city is about the limit of my appreciation for the out of doors.
So we wanted to DO something. We love each other, coffee, food, books, bacon…this was perfect.”
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