Growing up in a mixed environment to Italian and American parents, Dominic Episcopo was constantly surrounded by tasty cuisine and rock & roll. The talented food photographer, renowned for his creativity on Meat America, took time to be interviewed by Production Paradise. Read more about his inspiration from the 60’s and 70’s, his church renovated studio and going back to his Italian roots.
Production Paradise: First we would like to hear about you and your background. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what sparked your interested in photography, especially food photography?
Dominic Episcopo: When I was in sixth grade I received a Polaroid one step camera for Christmas and that was it. I just knew this was what I wanted to do. I was sold on the experience and have been taking pictures ever since. I grew up in North Jersey in a large Italian American family, food was always the centerpiece of our household. My mother and grandmother were always in the kitchen and on any given Sunday we would have 15 people to the house for dinner, so it was just natural that I started photographing food because it was always around. I’m not sure I thought “I’d be a food photographer” at the time, but it was definitely shaping my future without knowing.
Production Paradise: You have mentioned that the 60’s and 70’s were significant for you, especially regarding rock & roll – how has this influenced your photography/imagery?
Dominic Episcopo: I love music and I love history of both music and politics. The color and textures of the 60 and 70’s had such an influence on me. The war, hippies, drugs, rock & roll, Nixon, Watergate, Kennedy assassination, Vietnam… all that was happening and the way that music served as a way of expressing political and social views really inspired me. Society was so conservative and proper but rock & roll was raw and stuck its middle finger up to conventional society norms. I loved the counter culture attitude, the rebel, the resistance and the fight for social justice.
It was this transitional time in America when we had this loss of innocence and I was right there in the midst of it. Some of my favorite musicians at the time were and still are best known by the photographs taken during this transitional time in America, along with their albums. So I of course started learning about the photographers who were taking these photos and began taking my own photography in this direction. I was inspired by not only what the music was saying and how it made me feel, but also by the image these artists projected in their style that I would see in magazines and on television. I wanted to photograph people like that, who were vocalizing change and dressing however they wanted.
Production Paradise: You have been featured in a variety of well-known campaigns and magazines as well as personal projects such as your own books. Is there a project that stands out the most for you?
Dominic Episcopo: I love all the attention and praise I get for my book Meat America, but we shoot so much more than clever meat photos. We shoot mostly food, and I love it, but this past year we shot a couple of great lifestyle campaigns. We shot a print and outdoor campaign for Independence Blue Cross and it was really an awesome production, one of the biggest in my career. My crew was amazing and the team from the agency and from IBX were awesome to collaborate with. We made some great images!
Production Paradise: You have been in this industry for over 20 years. How do you constantly keep up to date with the changes and developments?
Dominic Episcopo: I honestly really don’t care about all the digital and technical stuff, I have an assistant and great crew who keep me up to date and on my toes. I understand it, but my job is to create compelling and interesting images for our clients. So much of the new technologies allow us to move much quicker & with great efficiency but at the end of the day you still need to have an idea or point of view to create a captivating or convincing image.
Production Paradise: Do you have any advice with regard to becoming a successful commercial photographer?
Dominic Episcopo: It’s not always about getting the big commercial jobs, make sure to keep testing and trying new things to see what is working and inspiring you. I think if you stay true to who you are and what you love, the right clients will see that authenticity and want to work with you. Of course if commercial work truly is your path, you do need to have tenacity to keep bidding on jobs and cultivating relationships with clients. You get a lot of no’s before you get a yes. Also, get yourself a good producer you trust so you can focus on the creative and let them deal with the production, logistics and money.
Production Paradise: You currently reside in Philadelphia, in a renovated church where your studio is also located. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this?
Dominic Episcopo: About 15 years ago I was looking for a building that I could make both my studio and my home, and came across this 160-year-old church in Fishtown. Fishtown was a great, blue collar, family neighborhood in Philadelphia and at that time was just on the cusp of some intense gentrification. 15 years later and we are in the hippest and fastest developing neighborhood in Philly. Renovating and maintaining a building this old and this large space is a labor of love and a life time of a project. But the payoff is that I have this amazing studio and home. The studio itself is a 4000 sq ft room that was originally the banquet hall of the church, now complete with two make up stations, a full kitchen, and a 15 ft cyc wall. It’s truly awesome to have such a great studio available to me and potential clients all the time. This is where I can test and be creative as well as offer clients a full service studio which is a glimpse into my home and world.
Production Paradise: We love your work and we are excited to see what is to come next. What can we expect from you in the near future? Do you have any big projects planned?
Dominic Episcopo: My grandmother and mother were professional cooks. I collected their cookbooks and for the past two years have been making their recipes and photographing them. I started the project to create content but it took on a very personal spirit. The images started to become about memories, family stops and my favorite meals from my childhood and life. So now I have amassed a book’s worth of work, that could be the most personal and in my opinion the best Italian cook book ever.
Production Paradise: Lastly, what are the advantages you have experienced as a member of Production Paradise?
Dominic Episcopo: Production Paradise has given me access to an international audience as well as exposure to such a larger group of creatives that I normally wouldn’t get my work in front of. The Showcases that you do really give you an opportunity to present what you are working on and talk about it. I’d highly recommend being part of it.
Watch Dominic Episcopo’s video and get a snapshot of what his photoshoots look like!