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Sam Scott Schiavo


Sam Scott Schiavo, “Michael (Milan 2001)”*, “Raphael (Budapest 2018)”, “Enzo (Budapest 2019)”, “Forbidden Planet (Wyoming 2019)”*, “Hunter Cody (Milan 2008)”, “Karl (Budapest 2018)”

* in exclusive with the Lavor Collective Gallery in Budapest

Q: Where would you start if you portrayed me in an image? Light? Form? Color? ...?

A: First I would just study your face; its beauty, its flaws, angles, how the light reflects on and from it. At the same time, I would engage in a steady conversation with you, to be sure that you are relaxed, open, and natural in front of the camera; possibly shedding any pre-imagined concepts of how you see yourself and letting me see you through my eyes. Usually, when I shoot a portrait in digital I do not decide if I prefer it in color or B&W until I edit the images. If I would photograph you in analog, I would most likely choose B&W.

Q: As a portrait artist, are you going to discover and reach out for the one being portrayed, or do you let the person portrayed come to you? How would you describe the dynamic relation between the portrayed and the portrait artist?

A: I consider myself extremely fortunate in having been able to take my lens to many, many great faces, capturing their uniqueness through my early years as a photographer whilst also working as a booker at important modelling agencies in Milan. I would say it’s a mix, but I would say that in the past 10 years more have reached out to me thanks to recognizing my work on social media, in editorials, and naturally after the publishing of my monograph book ‘Carnal Remains’. The ‘relation’ is always one of extreme trust; the portrayed must have this to bare their soul and be spontaneous in a portrait. Maybe this is the reason I am often able, and asked by the portrayed, to re-photograph them over the years and very many have become lifelong friends - a sort of extended family.

Q: Should a portrait be timeless? Or should it refer to the present-day in a way that will inevitably make it ‘dated’ in the long run, and therefore just testify to the 'here and now'?

A: I am fairly classic, traditional and ‘old school‘, so I would say a portrait should be timeless. That's why I prefer to use simple, natural light and have simple, basic styling and grooming. The focus is the portrayed person, not their clothing or latest hairstyle, or the background location. The emphasis is on the sitter, letting either his best or worst show, but it is him, the truth (and not a filter)! An example of this is a message I received just 2 weeks ago from a long lost model I photographed in 2000 while on a family visit in Philadelphia. He sent me this analog photo asking if I had remembered him ... naturally I did, but the photo from then looked so fresh, as if it was taken today. I am proud to say that it was because of my belief in sticking to the basics, keeping it simple and real, that the image remained in the ‘here and now’.

Q: Can you describe your physical working method? How does your working method help determine the image?

A: I usually prefer to do a portrait in my studio, as I work the best with its natural available light sources. There is always some great music playing from my Spotify playlists, I am usually standing, often walking all around the subject studying their angles and light and ALWAYS talking, questioning, telling an amusing story and laughing. This all enables the portrayed to be relaxed and be themselves in the lens which is the key to a great portrait. I consider the portrait interesting, and my mission accomplished, when the image says something that makes it special. This can be by a simple gesture with the hands, a few words said with the eyes, a frown or half-smile, a mood, a truth, a tear ... It could be a combination of emotions but it must come from within the portrayed, and my job is to bring this out in them and be ready to immortalize a split second in my lens. Every picture should tell a story. My greatest satisfaction is when I listen to comments of others regarding a portrait and they see and imagine a completely different story as to what I see and what others saw ... a different emotion felt!

Q: What is the most important quality to possess as a portrait maker?

A: Well I believe my answer above contains an explanation of many of the qualities a good portrait maker must possess. But perhaps my golden rule is you must be able to listen to the silence; it is often here that important things are being said and understood.


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