Rfotofolio is pleased to feature and exhibit the work of Cy DeCosse.
Please tell us about yourself.
I was born in North Dakota in 1929 and grew up in the Twin Cities, first Saint Paul and then Minneapolis. I graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and began working at the BBDO advertising agency as an art director. After several years I won a Fulbright grant to study in Florence, Italy.
This was a life changer for me. My brief experience in advertising made it clear that photography was the language of the future and in Florence I was able to study with Renzo Maggini, a great photographer and an inspiring teacher.When I returned to the States, I joined Campbell-Mithun, another ad agency, and in that capacity as a more senior art director I was able to travel and work with some of the best photographers on both coasts. This was a wonderful learning experience. In 1969 I left the agency to form my own business which segued into a publishing company noted world-wide for its photographic quality. (Google: Cy DeCosse books). After the sale of the company in 1994 I was able to pursue my first love, photography. As mentioned above, my first job in advertising made it quite clear that knowledge of photography was critical in communication so my way of learning was to buy a camera and make a lot of mistakes. Which I did.
Did your family influence you in becoming an artist?
I was always an artist. My mother saved pictures and collages that I made when I was four years old.
Please tell us which photographers you admire?
The Life magazine photographers of the 40’s and 50’s were a great inspiration. I had a collection of the first ten years of Life. Also Irving Penn was at the top of his career at Vogue. The photographer that I most admire is Steichen.
What about their photography inspires you?
The simplicity, the directness and the drama of the above mentioned photographers.
What makes a great photograph?
This is a tough one. I think stopping power, that extra something that lifts it out of the ordinary. How the photographer crops and presents the drama of the moment.
What are your thoughts on the state of fine art photography?
It’s crazy and wonderful. The technology makes everyone a photographer who has a cell phone. This technology also makes possible a new era of photo creativity that is just emerging. The next ten years will be amazing.
What first attracted you to platinum printing?
Back in the late 50’s I saw a show at MOMA of Irving Penn’s Vogue celebrity portraits printed in platinum. It blew me away. I immediately bought the necessary materials and started making mistakes. It took me two years before I got a print that I liked.
Please tell us about some of your favorite processes and collaborating with a master printer Keith Taylor ?
I did my own printing in platinum for the first few years after going out on my own. Then I met Keith Taylor, a printer from London, who had just moved to Minneapolis. We formed a relationship and we have worked together ever since. After some years of working in platinum we felt the need for color and we developed the gum dichromate process to what we believe to be a high level of quality. We also print digitally but continue to look for ways to give our prints that extra edge.
What Challenges do you face as a photographer and how do deal with a creative blocks?
Every day is a challenge to find the way to make the photo interesting.As far as creative blocks are concerned, I learned long ago in the advertising business to think alternatives not negatives. If I really get hung up, I knock off and try again the next day. That usually works.
How does your art affect the way you view the world?
The only thought that comes to mind is that I find myself constantly aware of light and its impact on the world around me. That’s not an earth shaking statement but it has definitely become a semi-subconscious habit as a result of my interest in photography. I do not strive to save, or change, the world through my photography. My work is not political. I try to find the interesting and the unusual in ordinary things.
Thank you Cy for sharing your words and art with Rfotofolio.
To learn more about Cy DeCosse please visit his site. Cy DeCosse.com