Tag Archives: photographer

“Hip Hop…Hooray.”

(Note: Webster defines Hip Hop as ‘rap music; also : the culture associated with rap music’.)

“When I first arrived to the U.S., Hip Hop quickly became my favorite genre of music. I had grown up in Germany and Italy and was therefore naive to most of it, American music was hard to come by overseas. I had also just entered my teenage years and could relate to most of the lyrics in most of the songs. Although I hadn’t grown up in the lifestyle that was often rapped about (drugs, violence, drug-use and life in an urban city), I could associate with the culture of it…fun, freedom, non-conformity and the expression of oneself through music and other forms of art. For many years recently, however, I’ve felt as if Hip Hop has changed into something that I no longer understand. It seems to be flooded with money, exorbitant living, disrespect to opposite sexes and races, and a bevy of one-time, one-hit, one-good-song artists. Not only has the music scene changed completely, but the culture associated with that music has also become unrecognizable.”

“I used to wonder why my parents (and the generation they belong to) still listened to music from fifty years ago when so much more has been released since then…I understand now. To continue enjoying the culture that I found so dear to me, I find myself holding onto the music, clothing styles and social scenes that I was a fan of years and years ago. As a New Yorker, that was easy to do…I simply had to look up the music or crowd I wanted to mingle with and then go to that location. Now that I live in Italy…it’s not so simple. Most of the city (and the country, for that matter) doesn’t listen to Hip Hop. It’s true that there is a very large selection of American music around, in locales as well as on the radio, but for the most part it’s music that I don’t listen to. In the rare instances that I do find a place where they’re playing the music that I enjoy, the culture of that music is missing. The crowd remains completely, well, Italian. The Italy of today is exactly like the Italy I grew up in 30 years ago; Hip Hop-less. Or so I thought…”

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(photo: Samuele Storari)

“Two weeks ago I stumbled upon an event here in town. It was billed as ‘the newest Hip Hop night to hit Verona’ and cleverly titled ‘Hipology’. I was asked to be the night’s photographer, and I was looking forward to it because I was told ahead of time that my favorite local DJ (my good friend Carletto) would be there. So even though I could trust the music would be solid, I wasn’t truly aware of what the scene would be until I got there. Some of the nights out I had experienced during my first year here in Verona were filled with my kind of music, but as I mentioned before, the environments had been different. I wasn’t entirely prepared for what was in store for me, but I can safely say that I wasn’t disappointed in the least!”

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“It was as if walking through the doors of the establishment was the same as jumping in a DeLorean and going back to 1995. Not only was the music exactly what I knew it would be, but he ambiance fit the bill as well. The attire was a recipe of 90’s dress code and NYC/LA outfits, with a pinch of the stuff ‘kids wear today’ thrown on top. Hairstyles, accessories and shoes were picked to match…with the occasional gold tooth and nighttime sunglass-wearer thrown into the mix.”

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“Everything about the place screamed Hip Hop! The dance floor was packed, and counting the number of dance battles took two hands instead of one. Three separate DJ’s spun a never-ending supply of ‘that’s my jam!’ songs, interrupted only by a mid-party pause featuring a handpicked selection of some of the local b-boys and fly girls. The line outside was long, the bouncers were big and the VIP tables were perfectly typical: at first too empty, then before you could say ‘I’m on the list’, too few.”

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“Finding Hipology not only proved that there is in fact a Hip Hop scene in Verona, but it gave me a taste of an Italy I had never seen. Black, white and mixed people were everywhere…there were no groupings of different creeds, colors or races. And even though Italian and English were the main languages spoken, many others had come out to play…giving it that NYC, melting pot feeling. I was happy to see a room full of multiracial friends, as well as multiracial couples, enjoying the night carefree…it made my job as a photographer not only easier, but more enjoyable personally. I’m certain it’s a bias, preferring to shoot environments filled with mixed race individuals, but I can’t help it…I am one myself.”

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“Like the party flier said, the entire event mirrored the Hip Hop culture that I had adopted and made my own while in New York for fifteen years. No one was afraid to flaunt their own style, and those that were afraid flaunted it anyway…even as far as the race of friends you hung with or the person they called their own. Their people were their people, and their music was their music…period.”

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“The only thing that mattered was Hip Hop.”

– F

* All photos by me, except the first *

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Filed under La Bella Italia, New York City, Nightlife

“Shooting Myself…” (Photographically)

“The first time I became a ‘paid photographer’ was almost a decade ago.”

“Technically, I had taken photos well before that, having been bitten by the bug in college and shortly after becoming ‘that guy with the camera in your face’ during vacations and road trips. But it wasn’t until about 9 years ago that I was actually paid money to photograph something. I started small (as I imagine most shooters do), with events, parties and red carpet affairs…all very easy to find in NYC. Before long, however, and with help from friends in high places, I found myself with access to fashion shows, VIP happenings and the occasional star-studded wedding.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“A year or two of that kind of photography put decent money in my bank account, but I found myself wanting more. Not more in the sense that I wanted to do more volume, I simply wanted to do the kind of shooting that held a little more substance. I didn’t just want to shoot more photos, I wanted the photos that I shot to mean something…I wanted people to FEEL what I was shooting, not just see it. It had become evident to me that I enjoyed taking random photos of people on the street much more than models on runways or celebrities at functions, so I began putting my focus into portraiture. I remember reading that a certain photographer had prepared for taking portraits of others by practicing on stuffed animals. For some reason though that sounded strange to me, as shooting a non-moving object hardly seemed challenging, so I practiced by shooting photos of myself.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“I can’t honestly say that I took away much from that (other than the fact that being on the receiving end of a lens was more intimidating than I thought), but it did teach me one very valuable lesson: you can’t lie to a camera. Sure, you can make yourself up or undress yourself, you can pose differently or hide certain physical characteristics or imperfections by keeping them out of frame. But in the end you look like what you look like, and you are who you are…there’s no changing that.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“Of course, this was a decade ago, not everyone and their grandmother’s had yet gotten their hands on Photoshop and various other applications that can make just about anyone look like just about anyone else, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the photo the second you take it, while it’s in the camera, raw for the world to see. Paul Strand, an American photographer and filmmaker, once wrote: ‘It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.’ In the end, he’s right, we’re all just humans….and that’s what I try to show in my photos. True, I’m no master photographer, I’m still learning every day, with every person that I shoot.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“But after adding a few years of portrait-taking to my resume, after having photographed hundreds and hundreds of people in the streets, homes and jobs of various cities in countries around the world, I can safely say that I’ve learned a lot more about what it is to be human….and what it means to photograph that humanness.”

“That’s why I take photos.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“….and that’s why every now and then, I still shoot myself.”

– F

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Filed under The Story Behind The Shot, Why I Do What I Do

“Disaster Strikes…But What Can I Do?” (Nepal Earthquake)

Planet Earth as a whole is an unbelievably large place; oceans to seas, mountains to plains, cities to villages, it covers nearly 200 million square miles.

Often times when we hear of a tragedy occurring on a different continent or in a different country than ours, it doesn’t have the same effect on us as it does to those living where it happened. This doesn’t mean we’re not paying attention, it doesn’t mean we care less…it’s just simply difficult to be able to see, feel and hear about the various disasters, big or small, that occur around the world on a day to day basis.

 

Yesterday however, for the first time since I can remember, a natural disaster occurred thousands of miles away from me, yet I felt it in my being…the earthquake in Nepal. I was blessed to be able to see Nepal a couple years ago while on assignment with several surgeons and medical staff from Mission: Restore. It is a beautiful country, and the people we encountered there were friendly, generous and hospitable to us every step of the way.

 

As I scanned the internet for more information on what was occurring in the cities I had visited while there (specifically Kathmandu), I came across a photo of Patan Durbar Square, which now lies half in ruin. I had taken a photo in the exact same spot, from the exact same angle that this photographer had taken theirs. The place where I had been standing a few years ago was gone, demolished, covered by brick, stone, mortar and dirt. I stared at this particular photo for a very, very long time. 

(Patan Durbar Square / In 2011, and today)

(Patan Durbar Square / In 2011, and today)

 

I tried to mentally reconstruct the buildings in their entirety as they had been when I was there. I tried to picture myself being there after such a disaster struck, would I be able to help, or would I be as helpless as so many others I had seen in the photo? I then imagined being there moments before the earthquake hit…would I even be alive now?

 

Perhaps distance, time and space is enough to keep us from physically being side by side with others when tragedy strikes, but with today’s technologies, means of transportations and online methods with which to share infromation, we can get to them quicker and help them much faster than we ever could in the past.

 

If you have the means, if you have the resources, if you have the time, share those things…via Mercy CorpsUSAIDDirect ReliefUNICEFHabitat for Humanity and so many others. It doesn’t matter if you only have a couple dollars to send, a tiny little bit of help from billions of others just like you reaches much, much further than you think.

– F

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Filed under On Assignment, The Good In Mankind

“When In India…”

They say “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”…a saying I’ve tried to adhere to in every city in every country I’ve ever visited. To truly experience a culture (especially as a  photographer) one must allow oneself to become immersed entirely, to try new things, to fit in.

Often times in my travels I’ve noticed foreigners in other countries acting like, well, foreigners. More specifically I see Americans abroad complaining that it’s too hot, or too cold, or too dirty. They walk around upset because they can’t find a McDonald’s, Burger King or Budweiser. In my opinion, finding myself in a country lacking the “comforts of home” is exactly the reason I went to that country in the first place! Tasting the local cuisine, walking the streets and soaking up the essences that make that particular country what it is…that’s what traveling is all about.

…and that is exactly why on assignment in Delhi, India, I found myself meditating, yoga style, for the first time ever.

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I can’t wait to go back.

– F

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Filed under Diary Of A Traveling Photog, Globetrotting, On Assignment, Uncategorized