An Interview with NYC Based Photographer-Visual Artist Joao Carlos

I have always been passionate about The Arts and my first artistic endeavor was the constant painting of this hallway in my parents home; it was a massive canvas to me. I must have drawn, scribbled and painted it two or three times and everytime my father and mother would scold me and paint over my “ART” and then I would repeat the deed. The first Christmas present I ever asked for at the age of five was a camera. My sweet mom gave me this box- like toy camera and I kindly said thank you and gave it back to her, stating it didn’t have a flash and I wanted a real one!

My dream in grade school was to be a automobile designer, then in Junior High I wanted to be a comic book illustrator and in High school I played the guitar (I was, and am still, terrible!) so my dream was to be a rockstar. Then collage came around and I wanted to be a painter: a ‘real’ Artist. Then my idea was to live a bohemian life, but I am far too practical for that. Halfway through my second year (after already having some solo and group shows) I was going to have my first big solo show at a local Municipal Museum and I needed to have my paintings photographed and a buddy of mine, a local family photographer, was going to charge me a small fortune todoit. I was 19 and broke. So I did the only thing I could do,I sold my guitar (my Fender Stratocastor) and purchased my first camera. That is how it all got started; I immediately fell in love with the art form. I switched my major from Fine Arts with a minor in Art History to Photography. My camera became a quick way to make some extra cash and I love the more immediate gratification. I worked at a local paper on weekends shooting sports and anything else possible, whilst still developing a style and subject interest.

* Describe your career development?

My career starting I guess when I became an assistant for Joao Palmeiro, a big advertising photographer in Portugal. He was my biggest influence and I worked for him little over 3 years and did everything and anything that was needed or asked of me. I moved on to opening my own studio with a buddy of mine, Pedro Davim. We opened Milkman Studio Productions in April of 2002. I still assisted other photographers for about three years and I worked for various production companies on a free-lance basis. This time period was crucial having contact with big productions and working with some well established photographers. I worked with more than thirty photographers, such as Horst Diekgerdes on shoots for UK Vogue, Frederic Pinet and Thomas Strogalski shooting for Audi and Mercedes. I was always working on my own projects too, and having my own studio so early on meant I would come home from a 12 hour shooting day and then jump into my work for another five or six hours. I don’t sleep much, I never have, and this helped me hone my skills. Since then I have moved on to developing a client list with advertising agencies, magazine editors and apparel and beauty companies .

* More specifically, was there one or more life changing moments that helped you move to the next level and become the photographer that you are now? Perhaps a big break, a perfect mentor, a movie, a mystical moment?

I do not think I have any life changing moments. My career honestly has been full off ups and downs; it’s been a process of not only developing my style and technique but learning the craft of business. Lots of trial and error. I am grateful to all the photographers for whom I have had the pleasure of working with and I have taken some type of knowledge from all of those experiences .

* How do you learn your techniques?

Practice makes perfect…well at least practice make syou discover that you need to practice more ….

* Who are your photo heroes? Or who has inspired your career?

I take inspiration from all types of sources, there are so many artists that inspire me, but sometimes it may just be a single image. If I have to name some I guess this would be the list: Meisel, Klein, Roversi , Solve Sundsbo, Mario Testino, Lebowitz, Weber, Ritts, Demarchelier, Avedon, Newton, Adams, Sabastiao Salgado and it goes on and on. My biggest influences are from cinema such as Kubrick, Godard, David Lynch, Hitchcock, Roger Deakin, Janusz Kaminski, Christopher Doyle and the great painting Masters such as Caravaggio, Sorrola, Gustave Courbet or Vermer just to name a few…but the list is almost endless.

* What is the worst part about doing what you do?

Not having a pay cheque, the instability of the life of an artist living from month to month.

* What is the best part?

I Love almost every moment of my Job. The creation element involved is quite soothing and calming; sure it can get stressful at times but when I have a camera in my hand everything looks and feels different. It’s also one of the coolest Jobs anybody could have!

Learning from the Pro

* What are we going to shoot today?

I love shooting in Portugal, the country truly inspires me; the stunning landscapes, the amazing people and the glorious weather. I wanted to shoot on location in the streets of Portugal and since I would have a teeny team with me consisting of the model/dancer Katy Cee, one assistant and myself, the best option for my lighting needs was the New Mobil A2R by broncolor. This shoot was actually shot the night of my birthday! What better way to celebrate then shooting on location with my beautiful friend
and model Katy Cee. Her posing is exceptional and her figure exquisite. This is a personal series I have recently begun to explore; the human figure contrasting with architectonic structures. I am primarily interested in achieving a sense of symbiotic fluidity between all the elements in the image: the model, the location, the stylistic elements and the differing textures of each. It is sometimes nice not to have a super huge team of hair, make-up, styling and clients around when I shoot.

* What tools are you using to make this image?

This is all that I brought and worked with:
Hasselblad H4D 80mm f/ 2.8 28mm f/2.8 Minolta Flashmeter IV Light meter
Mobil Pack Mobilite 2 Lamp base (x2) Pulso Adapter for Mobilite 2 Transmitter RFS Westcott light stand
Five in one reflector by Westcott Pelican Case 1510 Standard Reflector p70 Drop it Modern backdrops (x2)

* Why did you choose these tools?

They are the best tools on the market; they don’t make my images better for using them, but they do make my life easier.

* What features of the equipment that you use make it easier to do your job?

I kept the lighting simple but effective by using one single light with the standard light modifier. This light (A2R ) is so powerful that it illuminated the model, the entire facade of the church and picked up the detail in the backdrop textiles. I set the light about 3 feet above and behind my head, so to not create large shadows but to keep the sense of drama that this lighting setup naturally concocts. One of the potential issues that could be problematic with shooting at night, is the lack of ambient light. Fortunately the modeling light is really powerful, which enabled quick and accurate focusing. The strobes fire consistently and recycle rapidly so I was able to capture the model’s movements in a spontaneous and fluid way.
The camera was handheld and set to: ISO: 200 1/125 s F stop: f/1

* Did you use competing products in the past? What made you change?

My First set of lights were Elinchrom and I have shot with Profoto and Westcott in the past. My first contact with broncolor was
working for the 1st photographer I assisted. It was Love at first click! I always told myself I would have broncolor one day. The A2R packs are super adjustable, user friendly and produce great light with super fast recycle speeds and solid flash durations.

Joao Carlos
Photographer-Visual Artist
Hasselblad Master 2009

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