Rfotofolio is pleased to feature photographer Terri Cappucci.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I love New England and I have lived in western Massachusetts my entire life. I grew up in a Bernardston, a wonderful farming community that borders the Vermont state line. For the past 20-years, my home and studio have been based in Montague. I have a wonderful 23-year old son, Aaron, who is also an artist who is a passionate and dedicated musician.
If you asked my parents, they would tell you that I had quite the imagination as a child. I knew how to troubleshoot, fix, compensate, and create, at a very young age. Although my curiosity would often get me in trouble, my rebellion has saved me from falling into boxes that would limit my ability to think broadly. Those traits have been prevalent throughout my career and my life. They are the foundation of where I draw my creativity from, as an artist.
I remember wanting to be a photographer back in elementary school. I can recall that every time I drew a picture of myself, I was always a photographer. When I was falling asleep at night, I would visualize myself jumping off of small plates in remote parts Africa, wearing a khaki vest, jeans and red bandana around my neck, while holding my cameras. When the book “Gorilla’s in the Mist” by Dian Fossey was released, I saw her as a combination of my longtime visual of who I would be as an adult, as long as it included taking photographs in Africa. One day after getting off the school bus, I ran into my Dad’s garage with the exciting news. His head was under the hood of a car and I confidently said, “I am going to Africa and becoming a photographer. He chuckled and said, “Alright, I hope you make a lot of money so I can retire”! I’m not sure either of us realized that I would stand by the exclamation I made that day, and my journey as a photographer who went to Africa, began.
How did you get started photography?
The daydreamer I was in high school, got me in a bit of a bind with graduation. I was one credit short. Thankfully, my art teacher Mr. Coy, offered to let me do an independent study in photography. Those darkroom skills took me a long way. I had gone to South Africa a few years later, on my own spiritual quest. After returning in 1989, I went to a community college and took more classes in photography. In 1993, I began an internship at local newspaper as a photojournalist, and from there I made my career. Over the years, I pursued my education with a Bachelors degree in Photojournalism and then on to earn my MFA in Photography at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Besides working as a staff photographer for various newspapers, I branched off and began freelancing for larger publications such as the Boston Globe, New York Times, etc. I began teaching in 2000 and have been committed to my own artwork, along the way. I have spent twenty years documenting life in the rural communities in South Africa’s Kwa Zulu Natal Province. I am currently working on a book that will bring two decades of change together, beginning with first all race elections in 1994. Over the past several years, my work has been moving away from the people I have documented and seems to be focusing on the spaces where they would dwell, or once did. I am drawn to locations where life no longer exists, yet a story can be imagined by the remains of furniture, personal objects, the natural light, and composition that agrees with what I want my audience to see.
Which photographers and other artist work do admire?
Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston, Gregory Crewdson
And what about their work inspires you?
Dorothea Lange: The expression, detail and composition of her subjects, take me to a place where I feel present with them. They are real!
Edward Weston: Shape, light and clean images. They are precise and technically sound. He is brilliant behind the camera.
Gregory Crewdson: The surrealism is captivating. His process is very detailed and his placement when composing and mood from his lighting, are phenomenal.
When did you start to develop a personal style?
It is an interesting question because I believe that my style is always evolving. When I began photographing in South Africa, I noticed about 3 years into the project that I had a very specific style to the environmental portraits I was taking. My subjects were making direct eye contact with me, which I was trying to make myself move away from. The direct eye contact was actually telling the story. My more recent work that does not include people in the photograph, consists of light and reflection. This is a style that is still developing.
Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of photography is for you.
My process consists of an idea that begins forming. It plays around in my thinking and can sometimes be a quick sketch on paper or a cluster of thoughts that merge when I actually begin shooting. I then reflect on my work for a few days after, see what I want to do differently and formulate a plan to get it done. It never unfolds the way I originally think it will. My first shot is usually pieces of an idea. I can’t move forward unless it makes me feel something. Good or bad feelings, I am emotionally involved with whatever I produce.
The perfect day of photography for me: I guess that would be when I look through my viewfinder and I am moved in a way that makes me want to make change in my life. If I have a personal revelation by what I am seeing through that lens, then that is the perfect day of photographing. It doesn’t necessarily require me to walk away with a photo at the end of my day to make it perfect!
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
I think the greatest challenge I face is to continuously find new ways to keep my work unique. In a world where computers and software can mimic traditional methods, I find that I need to keep that edge in everything I create. I have a responsibility to myself and my work, to always forge into new territory. Even if some of those methods take me back to when it all started in the 1800’s, in the digital world we live in, it is becomes new again.
With the rapid changes in how people make and view a photograph how do you view this time in the history of photography?
Great question. Let’s put the answer this way. I prefer to cook in a conventional oven. It may take longer to get it done, but I thrive on the savory smell that it gives off and the tender quality that you receive from a more traditional way of preparing my dinner. A microwave will give me something cooked, but it will be noticeably different if I just push a button for fast results! I do shoot digital photography and I also use Photoshop for certain projects. There is something to be said about being in a darkroom with the smell of the developer and slowly watching my work come to life. For me, there is no comparison to a traditional silver print.
I love digital photography and all it has to offer, as well. However, the “auto” button on a camera and the “auto adjustments” in software, can give a photograph the “microwaved” look. There is a quality difference in the work of a photographer who will take the time to do everything manually. Their work will always stand out. You can never go wrong with taking your time.
How do you over come a creative block?
Well, it is never easy. There are times where it’s very important to push until you have a breakthrough. Sometimes I have to put it away for a while and come back to it when I can see it at a different time in my life. My leaf project was one I dabbled with 7 or so years back. It made no sense to me but I wanted to something with it. I put it away and just forgot about it. About a year ago, I was walking my dogs and I saw aged leaves on the ground. I took them home and studied their lines, change of color and form. It made sense and my creative block was dissipating. I needed that time to experience more of my own life in order to help me understand a more significant story in that project.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
It absolutely keeps me sensitive and empathetic.
Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like tackle?
I have recently begun working with wet plate photography and I love it. There is such a rich and rewarding moment that washes over me when I see the image develop on the plate, right in my hands. It has given me another exciting project to mull around in my thoughts for a while. I plan to create series from this process. The subject matter has not found its way into my plan. As I work more with this process, I expect it will come together.
Thank you Terri for sharing your work and your words.
To learn more about the work of Terri Cappucci please visit her site atTerri Cappucci.