Friday, October 2, 2015

Portraits And Places by Greg Tsontakis-Mally

'I seek an extraordinary feel in an ordinary shot.'

So many of the incredible images that grace FH never actually end up being printed on paper. There was a time it would have been difficult to conceive of a digital image. Most of us, even those of us not that old, remember when moments were captured on film, printed on paper, and put into frames and albums to enjoy and trigger memories.

There is a texture and an intimacy within the work of New York based artist Greg Tsontakis-Mally that comes not just from his choice of camera, but from the time it takes to capture each moment. There have been times I have featured digital imagery, that I have gone through hundreds of images to find one I feel worth posting. Pictures are snapped one after another and if a great moment is caught, it is sometimes due to luck. For Greg, that same moment must be created, through planning, timing and patience.


'I work with a large format wooden camera, a 4x5 built for me by Ron Wisner in 2000. My process is crazy slow. Long exposures - very few shots. When I work with a model, I only shoot 8. Male nudes are a relatively new theme for me. I have been shooting them just in the past 2 or 3 years.'

Greg's process leads to images both intimate and distinct. When I first saw Greg's work knew I was seeing images that were beautifully thoughtful and done with care. I also especially loved that Greg's life as an artist acts as his location and as background, surrounding his models with his artistic history and experiences. Greg's first art training was in painting and he settled into focusing primarily on two subject matters: seascapes and nudes. 'Painting is my soul song. Only one song. It is the song of love in the disguise of beauty.'

Photography came later after taking his first photography class at Parsons School of Design. Greg would later teach photography for 17 years at a local high school. With photos, Greg says that he always gravitated towards black and white photography. In 1997, Greg took a workshop in large format photography with Kenro Izu and after found his own work took a profound shift. 'It is a very different way of working. The set-up is more time consuming and you really need to have in your mind's eye a pretty good notion of what you're shooting, and yet still leave room to work by instinct and allow accident and surprise.'

'I attended my first life drawing class as an art student when I was 17.  The human figure was an old and constant theme in my work, but had not thought to apply it to photography until the last 3 years. I thought the camera was too literal. I had run the life drawing class at the local art league for 7 years, and so I had developed a working relationship with nude models for some time. After starting with male nudes, I have stayed with it. There is a dichotomy of strength and vulnerability that I hope to capture in the male naked form.'


Greg has found models to work with on Model Mayhem, and has also asked former students to pose for him and sometimes, even asked complete strangers. 'I find first timers better to work with. There is a level of tension with an element of risk that I think survives in the images. And, seeing someone I know in a different setting, nude for the first time is a wonderful discovery.' Greg has experienced those feelings of tension and risk for himself having worked as a life model when he was in college.


'I have a lot of compassion and understanding from the model's point of view. I work hard to make the model feel comfortable and natural in the shoot. It is a collaborative effort and without the models, there would be no work.'

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