The following is a blog post written in collaboration with Santiago Garcia of Sueños Marketing and Communications.
A Foggy Morning
I caught up with Eric Formato -- owner of Formatografia, experienced photographer, and incredible visual artist -- about one of his most recent shoots. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the brain and heart of one of my favorite artists and try to understand why photographers shoot what they shoot.
Eric, brotha man, so tell me about one of your latest and favorite shoots?
Ooooh, well a couple weeks ago I somewhat stumbled into this amazing shoot that’s quickly become one of my favorites.
I woke up early one morning and encountered an extremely foggy but unusual ambiance. I snagged my camera and went outside to shoot the surrounding neighborhood to see what this odd, foggy, but warm morning had in store for me and it came out really sweet.
So you woke up, saw fog, and it motivated you to go out and shoot?
Well, somewhat. I woke up and when I peaked out my bathroom window I could barely see the building that’s always next door. I was shocked, because usually I can always see it due to its proximity. I thought it was interesting, and started envisioning what pictures in this fog would potentially look like. It peaked my interest so I went ahead
I take my sisters dog, Diego, out for a walk out almost every morning and as soon as we made our way outside I was stoked. It wasn’t just the fog that was interesting. It was everything. It was the light. It was the bizarre warm front weather. It was the weird dance between the misty fog, the warm wind, and the rays of sunlight that got me. It was unlike anything I’d really seen here in Chicago and my inner photographer went into overdrive. I stopped several times to take shots even before arriving at the lakefront, Diego was not pleased... But, anyway, with 4 lenses ready to go I was prepared to capture whatever lay ahead of me. We walked a few blocks over to Belmont Harbor, where I take him every morning, and that’s when it all got even better. The light was amazing over by the water, despite there being so much fog. The water was extremely blue, a sharp blue that stood out in contrast so well with the white fog and concrete pier. The contrast in color was beautiful on with all the other conflicting themes going on, nature vs. civilization, warm vs. cold, vibrant vs. moody.
The entire atmosphere was irresistible to my eye. Every step I took was as if I had walked into a totally different scene because the fog would move around and cover lines of trees or skyscrapers. It was extremely quiet out there, too. As it usually is during winter in Chicagoh, there was essentially no one else out there, just a group of fishermen, myself, and Diego. The isolation or tranquil energy just added to the power of the atmosphere; it was genuinely so unique. And even though there was fog everywhere, it transitioned between creepy and colorful, as you can see in the contrasting styles from this shoot.
The shots do their job of encapsulating and externalizing that exact atmosphere and ambiance I was feeling. It was exciting but tranquil. Pausing to take it all in, and then capture it, Diego was dying to continue on his walk, but that's just life my dear Diego! We continued around the mouth of the harbor where you can see the city skyline. One of my favorite spots, certainly never captured in exactly this way before.
Once I got back to edit the shots, I was ecstatic to see how much I could manipulate the pictures and the lighting. It was the perfect storm. The light that morning, in combination with the odd, heavy fog was the ideal mix to create these color schemes I hadn’t even seen before. There were these yellows and pinks and greens coming from the trees that I was not expecting at all. The versatility and flexibility of this light allowed me to express different perspectives on the energy that day. I could make the scene look wintery or creepy, or fresh and misty. It was like this random shoot turned into a trillion different shoots!!
Are a lot of your successful shoots somewhat random like this one?
You know, I’ve had some really strictly planned out, detailed shoots that go really well and some sporadic ones like this one that kill it too. In essence, I don’t think it’s about planning or not but instead genuinely recognizing your surroundings. Recognizing the opportunity. Recognizing the signs. Feeling the rhythm and going with it. In that context, nothing is really random. It’s all there, we just have to see it (and with me, evoke it and pull it out digitally.)
That morning, the environment and the ambiance completely got my attention. It made me pay attention, and look closer. Maybe it was just another morning in Chicago, but what I saw was an incredible dance and interaction between the city’s infrastructure, the buildings, the pier, the roads with the fog, mist, and natural lighting. Maybe that happends every morning, but in this specific situation I felt, saw, and acted on it.
With photography...spontaneity, luck, synchronicity, timing, spidey sense- a combination of those or whatever you want to call it is pretty essential. As photographers, we need to be energized and be present in order to notice opportunities to act on and shoot. I think this foggy morning and this specific photo shoot is a nice reflection of that. As a photographer, you can’t force a shot but you do have to make it. You have to feel the right moment and capture its essence. In this case, I felt the moment and took hundreds of pictures. But that’s really what art, creativity, and life is all about. If you toss yourself out there in situations without major expectations, you might surprise yourself, you might learn something new or, in my case, create a new set of art that I didn’t even know was possible. That’s probably why I really do love this shoot so much. I listened to my intuition, went off a hunch, challenged myself, trusted my energy, and created something new.
Bringing the warm weather back to Chi City
(well, for about 12 hours anyways)
After 3 weeks of non-stop travel to 9 cities in 4 different countries, I'm back in Chicago and apparently brought some of the South American warmth back with me as you can see in the pictures below! The night we arrived it was around 30 degrees which I had entirely underestimated and underprepared for, but the following day the temperature shot up to 70 which made for some awesome pictures. Within the same day, the temperature dropped significantly again, yes, this is spring in Chicago...
Coming back to the US was bittersweet, more bitter though... both in terms of the weather and about actually being back. Honestly, I identified more with the ways of life that I experienced both in South America and Western Europe. Things like taking life slower, and therefore savoring it. Using public space as a place to gather and be social. Saying hello to people. Walking more, and not being dependent on cars. Not being so dramatic and stressed out all the time. Eating real food that made you feel good just by eating it. Kissing people on the cheek when you meet them (I thought this totally broke the ice with everyone I met). It being okay to breastfeed or show affection in public... Since when are we that judgmental and critical that we are completely bothered by a woman feeding her kid, or by people loving each other??? What are wrong with these things, and is it just maintaining our level of political correctness that we do not accept these things in our society?
Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for being born and raised here, and no country is perfect... But the trip just made me realize again just how huge the world is, and how much more is out there than there is in here. I want to understand more of humanity, I want to see smell eat breath and LIVE other types of humanity. Needless to say the trip was eye opening, rejuvenating, and more needed than I realized. With all of the craziness going on in our country right now, the trip was not only good for the soul, but also for the mind to gain wider perspective of the realities in other societies that are effecting millions of other people. What I thought was an isolated catastrophe in the Western World, I came to learn did not even come close to the overall situation of say, Argentina. Moreover that every country has problems of its own and their issues are as real to them as our are to us. Unemployment is through the roof in Spain. Italy is dealing with some of the heaviest waves of refugees in Europe, and in its entire history. The Argentine peso's value has dropped 4 TIMES as much as when I was last there, and their X-president who is facing a $3.5 billion dollar fraud case played out an equally aggressive and unprecedented transition of power...
So perhaps we don't have to be at an apocalyptic level of terrified, angry, and hostile, because in comparison to somewhat's going on out there we still have it really good. But politics and global crisis aside, being exposed to foreign cultures and immersed in Spanish and Italian allowed me to think of the world differently, or as the theory of Linguistic Relativity suggests, actually cognitively experience it differently. Through experiences like kayaking in the mountains with no one in sight, to being in one of the most inclusive, accepting and pluralistic regions of the world Catalonia, I came back with a glow that I think will take a while to fade. I experienced other ways of living, ways that I now am certain I want to revisit. I feel very differently now than I did when I left. I feel less fearful of the future and more confident about my present. I feel less holding me back, but am not deterred by all of the obsticals that I will surely have to face in order to progress. I am fueled with ambition to start doing work outside of the US, starting by solidifying the foundation here.
All in all there was way too much to be talked about in one post, so I'm going to cover each country that I visited as I get through editing them. I will be posting bi-weekly about Chile, Argentina, Spain (Catalonia), and Italy with TONS of pictures! Until then I'll leave you with shots of sweet home Chicago and some of my key takeaways from this experience.
- I felt more comfortable and free in most of these places
- Connection is essential to our human experience, existence, and happiness
- Take life a little bit slower, enjoy the essence of existing
- It's unarguable positive to take breaks from social media and from the news
- Recognize that the other is just as important as thyself
- Travel and discovery are now an absolute priority
- The grass isn't greener on the other side, it's just a different shade
- Other social norms are fascinating and can drastically impact your perception of your own
- US holidays are entirely commercialized and have lost some of their meaning
- My camera is on its last legs... After 7,000 pictures in 21 days, plus the tens (or hundreds?) of thousands I've already taken with it... yeahh it's time
- I want to combine my Spanish, business, and photography to help others gain higher opportunity
- And the last one REALLY blew my mind. When I came home my mentor told me about how her husband got Italian dual citizenship and insisted that we search Ancestry.com. I was sure nothing would come up because I was told my whole life that we didn't know where our elders came from. Turns out they had records on records of them, and that the conditions are such that if I can round up every birth, death, and marriage certificate of all of my Italian forefathers, that I could potentially be an EU citizen which means able to live or work in Europe
I hope you enjoy the pictures and I hope you try to travel soon! Even if it's not convenient, even if it's difficult or scary to travel, even if it costs a lot, even if your parents or spouses don't want you to... In my humble opinion, screw all of that because what you discover about others, yourself, humanity, and the possibilities of life are far more valuable than whatever it costed you to go to discover for yourself.
Join me in revisiting THE last festival of the season, Edgewater Art Festival! This was my very first festival a couple of years ago, and now I revisit it three years later. This year I'm mixing it up, and working with a good entrepreneur friend of mine who has an awesome clothing and accessory line based on Chicago House Music: EVOL Chicago, (LOVE spelled backwards, and also referring to the EVOLution of love through culture and music).
I have partnered with the company's founder Misha in the past for collaborations of our brands. Below you will see some captures from us working together. This time, though, we're both bringing our individual best, together to YOU! Be sure to stop by to find some of the most unique Chicago merchandise out there! From Chicago shirts, hats, pins, and scarves to art printed on anything and everything you can imagine! Introducing multiple products before summer is over, don't miss it!
WEST LOOP ART FESTIVAL IS THIS WEEKEND!
IT'S ONE OF THE FINAL STREET FESTIVALS OF THIS SEASON, AND IT'S HAPPENING IN ONE OF CHICAGO'S FASTEST BOOMING NEIGHBORHOODS.
The festival starts on Washington Boulevard between Aberdeen and Halsted this Saturday+Sunday, and I'm super excited to exhibit my work in this rapidly evolving neighborhood! The West Loop Art Festival will showcase the work of more than 150-juried artists from across the country in a variety of mediums, including photography, mixed media, painting, glass, ceramics, jewelry, shit for your dogs etc... This will be my first year exhibiting in the West Loop neighborhood, and I'm stoked to get this new demographic's feedback! I have a plethora of new pieces- both wall art as well as for the first time, functional art. And of course my cologne and perfume line Facci and Faccette will be making their return as well, but in a grander way. Not going to spoil the surprise of what that means... You just have to come to experience it ;)
Although I featured the following product at my last festival, it's still a new material I've been working with, and I'm very pleased with all the new designs as I've been printing in preparation for the festival for the last several weeks! I can't get enough of these guys, they're dual coated metallic finished aluminum panels that allow them to be extremely vibrant, yet also extremely reflective against any source of light, especially the sun. The video below is under some ceiling lights mind you! In direct sunlight it's some of the most interesting stuff I've seen so far. Check them out!
Also, just for nostalgia's sake, Here is of my first pictures of the West Side once I came back to Chicago after college and having taken up a greater interest in photography. The Western perspective of the skyline is possibly my favorite, yet I shoot there almost the least... so I really hope I can find high buildings to get that allow me to capture the seemingly endless wave of steel, concrete, and brick that is the Chicago skyline.
Cheers to West Loop, hope to see some familiar faces there!