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In this feature, we will share information and images from photographers who are on our Professional Photographer Registry. That means that you can be sure that each photographer showcased here has been in business (legally!) for a minimum of three years, has a portfolio of professional level work that is technically sound, and is operating a business designed to be sustainable and profitable. In short, the photographers in our articles are operating their businesses with integrity, and dedication to preserving artistry in the photographic industry. If you are on our registry and would like to be featured, please email firstname.lastname@example.org!
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So I said to myself recently, “I need to do a Photographer Spotlight about MaryAnn Talamo SOON, before all of those photographic awards and titles she has achieved become downright cumbersome to type out on a blog post!” MaryAnn, the talented artist behind Custom Digital Images in Staten Island, NY, has a B.A. in Studio Art, is a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) through PPA, achieved her Master of Photography (M.Photog) degree from PPA as well, received the 2009 Canon Par Excellence Award and 2009 Photographer Of The Year Gold Award, and has a dizzying array of prints that have received merits in national competition. Dedicated to her art, MaryAnn produces classic, timeless portraiture using impeccable lighting techniques. She has a special talent and love for producing painted portraits, and she shares her skills in her Modern Renaissance Workshops as well. (Interested in learning studio lighting and Painter? There’s a workshop coming up in late June, and another in September!)
Impressive list of achievements, without a doubt. But don’t be intimidated – MaryAnn is approachable, laid back, and always willing to share her knowledge. So without further ado, here’s MaryAnn
NICKNAMES: Mare (family & friends), Ma (my daughters), Mommy (my son) MA (online)
BUSINESS: Custom Digital Images is my portrait studio, but I also have two subdivisions. Custom Digital Artwork is my digital painting service for other professional photographers, and Modern Renaissance is my workshops in studio lighting and Corel Painter.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR STUDIO: I run a boutique style studio in the Staten Island, NY, but I have clients that visit me from all five boroughs of New York City, as well as Long Island and New Jersey. After working for a wedding video company on and off for 10 years, I started my own photography studio in 2003. At first I did a little bit of everything, including weddings and events, but then in 2005 I decided to specialize in just children and their families.
TELL US ABOUT THE STYLE OF PORTRAITS YOU PRODUCE FOR YOUR CLIENTS: My style really depends on what my clients are looking for at any given session. I always lean towards a more traditional, classic style, but I can also create more casual portraits too. I can’t say I have to rely on props, but I do enjoy building up set to create an atmosphere. I think that comes from my background, both from studying art history extensively and being Italian myself, that I prefer to create Renaissance type portraits with traditional Rembrandt lighting. I like recreating the look of an old Master’s painting, I like the impact. I feel it can still be timeless if done correctly, and if you add some modern touches. But if a client is looking for a portrait that is a little less formal, and the kids are dressed more casually, I can be inspired by that as well.
ARE YOU SELF TAUGHT or DID YOU HAVE FORMAL INSTRUCTION AS A PHOTOGRAPHER? Both. I started out as an art major when I was 12, so I have an extensive background in painting and drawing. When I was 17, my Dad bought me my first SLR, a Minolta x700. That was the camera I cut my teeth on. When I was continuing my art studies in college, I took tons of photography electives where I learned darkroom developing and printing. At the time, I was more interested in abstract photography and landscapes, and didn’t even have one portrait in my portfolio. When I decided to transition into portraits, I thought I probably should learn studio lighting, so I bought a cheap light kit and some books and attempted to teach myself. I always wanted to create portraits that looked like the Renaissance paintings I studied in art history. After some trial and error and frustration, I was decent, but I wasn’t satisfied what I was producing. The turning point for me is when I took a class with Louise & Joseph Simone, two master class photographers. After seeing them work first hand I was completely inspired, and learned so much more than any book could ever teach me. My experience with them is now what inspires me to teach my own classes, so I can help other photographers from spinning their wheels and get right into creating the look they want.
WHAT PRODUCTS THAT YOU PRODUCE COMPLETELY KNOCK YOUR CLIENT’S SOCKS OFF? Definitely my digitally painted, canvas mounted portraits. My clients have a very hard time telling the difference between my end product and traditional hand painted oil portraits. The look is that similar.
TELL ME 5 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT MARYANN:
I’m obsessed with Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers
I have a serious coffee addiction; I probably drink about six cups a day.
I’m 100% Italian American. Both my maternal and paternal families passed through Ellis Island in the early 1900’s and lived in Little Italy before migrating to Brooklyn, NY.
Most of my wardrobe is black (or “none more black” as they say in Spinal Tap)
I have a terrible habit of quoting lines from movies at any given moment. “No you’re not alright, Spider!” (…………Goodfellas.)
WHAT COLOR SOCKS ARE YOU WEARING: I’m usually barefoot, but when my feet are cold, they might be any color or print. I’m not above wearing other people’s socks either.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER? I love being a part of the special occasions in my client’s lives, and being able to share their joy with them. It brings me back to my experiences with my own kids, which was a wonderful time but so fleeting, so I like being able to capture those moments for them.
LEAST FAVORITE THING? Crawling around on my hands and knees when I shoot, because I work with very small subjects (wink).
NAME SOME THINGS THAT INSPIRE YOU? Everything inspires me. I feel like my brain is constantly churning with ideas, from movies and television shows to magazine advertisements. I’m influenced by all areas of popular culture. I’m also inspired by color combinations – I can build a whole set based on two Christmas ornaments together in a box, or a flower arraignment, etc. But really, the biggest inspiration for me is time – how can I get all of these ideas out of my head and into a medium that’s tangible and can last. Also, capturing and keeping moments is a big motivating factor for me. I want to stop time, just for a second, and photography helps me do that. It’s artistic expression in its fastest form. Childhood is such a short period in the human lifespan, I feel like you blink your eyes and it’s passed. A fleeting smile, a shy glance, a pensive expression…..cute, round babyness…..those are the things I want to hold onto for my clients.
WHAT’S IN YOUR CAMERA BAG? A Canon 5dii (thank you, Canon Par Excellence Award!), a Nikon D3, and a Nikon D300. Various flashes, various lenses, my favorite being my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 (love!) – but the most surprising thing I have in my bag is the Lightsphere for both my Nikon and Canon flash units. After trying all kinds of modifiers, I like it the most for softening the flash when you need just a fill light.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INDULGENCE? I guess it would be Starbuck’s Toffee Nut Lattes, but that seems more like a necessity than a luxury.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU? That my personal style varies greatly from my photography style. Most people expect me to be very buttoned up and proper, but I’m much more rock n roll and free spirited in my appearance. Growing up in NYC in the 80’s, I was heavily influenced by the culture of Greenwich Village and the East Village, and that has really stuck with me. Also, that I’m blessed with a thick New York accent that I can’t shake.
WHO DO YOU WISH YOU COULD PHOTOGRAPH – AND WHY? If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and photograph my father, who passed in 2005. He really didn’t like the camera, so I never pushed it and only took snapshots of him on the sly. Now that he’s gone, I wish I would have pushed him to sit for me for a formal portrait. It’s one of my biggest regrets. Now to go in a completely opposite direction, I would love to do a photographic series on drag queens. I am fascinated with their whole culture, and with their creativity. I think it’s an underappreciated art form, and I would love to see what I could contribute to the illusion from behind the lens.