By David König
The Italian artist Marco Piana is known for his remarkable beauty photography. But his portfolio also contains his work as director and his amazing personal work. Now he lives and works in New York. We had the chance to do an interview with him and talk about his inspirations, his views on photography and film and on how you can connect with models on set in order to create amazing pictures.
Production Paradise: Have you always been interested in photography and film and what’s your story to arrive at where you are today?
Marco: I have always been attracted by forms of communication especially the visual ones. I remember the first time my grandfather gave me a camera. Photography was his passion and he carried his camera during WWII when he was a soldier in combat areas. The day he handed me a camera, I was so eager to transform ideas into images that I didn’t even listen for instructions on how to properly load the film and I tried to do it by myself. Obviously nothing came out of that first roll but I’ve learned that art is a mix of dream and technique. I still have a photo that my subject took of me while I was shooting a group of people with my grandfather’s Rollei.
It was while finishing college that I had the strength to leave Italy and move to Paris to study directing and acting. I consider acting fundamental to know how to be a good director. There I’ve met a person who has been very influential in my intellectual growth, Jack Garfein, my directing mentor. The learning curve didn’t feel complete, so in order to master the craft, visual language through framing, I threw myself into photography once more. Through my past I have been able to progressively improve my knowledge of photography.
Production Paradise: Your beauty photography is remarkable. What exactly made you want to do this kind of photography?
Marco: The fact that beauty is composed of details. The universe of a woman is much more interesting than that of a man; in the sense that it is made of nuances and moments. Sometimes when we miss the woman’s point of view, we don’t understand. It’s all in the gestures and it’s a wonderful elegant subtle language. It is because a man universe is basic and dry. Probably beauty was always in me. For example, as a teenager, during the weekends my childhood sweetheart and I would manage to lie to our parents and spend weekends together. I waited for her to fall asleep and then looked at the light on her lips, nose and skin. Recording each moment and thinking, if I only had the camera that my grandfather gave me. My point is, beauty photography is not about technique, it’s about loving a woman’s nuances and trying to capture the romanticism of those moments.
Production Paradise: You’ve published your work in several big magazines over the past few years. Which one are you the most proud of? Could you give us some insights on your “most successful” shot or shots?
Marco: Well, I am not one for namedropping but I have worked with some of the most talented artists in the industry and I am deeply grateful for that. More or less I’m proud of every shot I’ve taken in the past. Sometimes you have more chemistry with a certain team and sometimes you don’t. But honestly, the photoshoot I’m the most proud of is always the latest one. However, there are some shots that I’m particularly in love with for example, the two old portraits with Kiera Chaplin, and the other with Joy Bryant. The Bernhard Willhelm interview would be another example.
Production Paradise: Your “South of Rome” photography seems to be stylistically different. Could you tell us more about this photography?
Marco: South of Rome is different because it’s not really a project, it’s more of a selection of different situations. It was born one afternoon while visiting a friend in Montauk. Our girlfriends were at the beach and he asked me about the south of Italy. I had just finished installing a software that allowed me to connect to my home computer. I opened my photo archive and we started to print images and compose a paper collage. When the girls came home, we opened a bottle of wine and continued to cut pictures and prepared this “mood” board for an imaginary trip. It was such a great evening that I’ve dedicated a section to it in my work portfolio.
Production Paradise: What advice would you give a young beauty photographer in such a competitive environment?
Marco: Listen to everybody and don’t listen to anybody. What I’m saying is, don’t follow the trend of the moment but embrace your point of view. Don’t choose photography for fame or money, but because it’s your call. Also, always experiment with light, forget about photoshop and similar gimmicks. Never forget to think about the people who believed in you at the beginning, and always forget about those who don’t. I can only say thank you one thousand times to the magazine’s beauty editors who gave me a chance to show my work when I was just a young man, who pretended to know what photography is about. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Production Paradise: You have already worked with many different actors and musicians. Could you share some stories from set?
Marco: Of course I won’t mention names but as people say in Italy ”tell the sin but not the sinner”. I was shooting a job for a big client and the talent was not “connecting”. Maybe not because of me, but I blieve because of the big team around her. Since the first shot of the day I saw it was not happening. I didn’t insist. Against the suggestion of the producer, I stopped shooting. I asked the talent what her favorite music was. A DJ friend of mine, had couple of CDJ1000 and a mixer into a portable set. I texted him to bring the system as soon as possible. He came within 20 minutes, he set up the whole thing. Due to my background as a DJ for 20 years, I started to “spin” while taking pictures of her. It was fun, but at the end of the day I was exhausted. I’ve never played records for eight hours, not even in clubs.
Production Paradise: Anyone you would love to take pictures of?
Marco: Great minded people, maybe Bill Gates, Elon Musk and some singers but if I have to pick a specific singer I would say Jay Kay. I’d love to drive his classic car collection!
Marco: Marketing! It really complements the job of an artist and his agent but opens markets in which the agent lacks of presence. More than that, it acts as an online showcase/PR and increases and addresses Social Network presence with a clientele capacity that is hard to be found in an single agent or personal manager.
Production Paradise: What can we expect from you in the future? More film projects or more photography?
Marco: HA! I’m currently recovering from an elevator accident, but you can expect a continuous evolution in my photography work and a feature film project with strong character driven dramas.
If you want to show off your latest work to the industry in the next edition of Production Paradise’s Spotlight magazine Hair & Beauty Photography & Motion get in touch with us and send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org