By Louisa Grund
Experimenting with photography from a very young age, Peter Baiamonte wants each of his images to tell a story, show a glimpse of a place, reveal a personality, communicate a meaning. He works regularly with clients in New York, Berkshire and Boston, in addition to working in projects that take him to the corners of the world, even as far afield as Antarctica. We asked Peter to share more about his life as a photographer, his most exciting experiences and more. Read on to get a gilmpse of the intriguing life and work of this talented photographer.
Production Pardise: Your father introduced you in the fascinating world of photography and I think your first job in photography was as a photographer’s assistant right after graduation. Would you say this has been an easy journey, or have you also experienced hard times on the way to becoming a successful photographer?
Peter Baiamonte: My father was an avid photographer and actually shot some jobs, although it was not his primary career. From a very young age I can remember being in his basement darkroom and learning to use some of the equipment. I learned how to read a light meter when I was ten. Those experiences made a big impression on me, but I didn’t realize photography could be a career until I met a commercial photographer at college. That chance meeting led to a full-time position in a busy studio immediately after graduation – with major ad clients of all types, including still-life, lifestyle, and portraits. It was a fantastic learning experience.
After three years at that studio, I went out into the freelance world. I assisted, produced, did digital tech work – whatever anyone needed – for many years. I had lots of ups and downs. Several times I thought I wouldn’t have to continue to do support work, because I had enough of my own shooting work to make a living – only to find in the following month I had to step back into support work to pay the bills.
For most photographers, I don’t think this struggle ever ends. Clients come and go, and work can be elusive at times. You can never stop promoting yourself and seeking new potential clients, or finding new ways to get your work in front of a larger audience.
Production Paradise: Is photography still your passion now, after it became your job?
Peter Baiamonte: Yes! The business side is always a mix of pain and pleasure, because of all the paperwork, negotiations, and planning involved in organizing a job. But once I start shooting and I’m actually working with a subject – solving problems, figuring out lighting and composition, etc. – then I’m happy. Seeing a good finished product that I shot is very satisfying, and always gives me a rush. That never gets old.
Production Paradise: Your photographs tell stories and reveal subjects’ personalities. How do you achieve that? Do you usually have a clear vision of the concept before you start shooting, or is there some sort of evolution from the initial idea?
Peter Baiamonte: Every shoot is different. I try to spend a lot of time conceptualizing and running ideas past my client prior to the shoot. Even for an editorial job, I like to have themes and ideas in mind – a look, or a feel – before I start. Sometimes my ideas work out as planned, and other times I see that I need to take another direction after I begin, so flexibility is also important. In a recent fall fashion story for Berkshire Magazine featuring local celebrities, I chose to work with wider lenses so I could include the landscape in the shots. I tried to find compositions using darker backgrounds for a fall/winter feeling. Throughout this job, as I set up shots, I reminded myself of my initial concept. The end result felt really cohesive.
Production Paradise: You have traveled for all kinds of commissions, where did you have the best shooting experience?
Peter Baiamonte: It was not a commission, but two years ago I was able to take an expedition-style trip to Antartica. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In addition to shooting the amazing scenery, I made a point of getting to know my fellow passengers and the guides. I interviewed several about their own experiences on the journey, I’m really happy with that body of work. Someday I’d love to get back down there!
Production Paradise: Your portfolio features mostly lifestyle, sports and portraiture. Is there a special reason why you chose these categories? Do you experiment with other categories of photography?
Peter Baiamonte: When I was younger, I had a still-life book; at that time I wanted to shoot product and still life. I started exploring portrait work after assisting some amazing photographers who primarily shot portraits. Working with them, I was drawn to that category. My lifestyle photography evolved out of an overall creative interest in using photos to tell the story of a place or an event. My interest in sports is more personal, as I’ve always been a big fan of cycling and motorsports. I’ve continued to refine all of these topics in my work. In addition, during the last few years, my travels and my second home in the Berkshires have inspired a new love of landscapes – a subject that I may eventually develop into a new body of work.
Production Paradise: You are based between New York and The Berkshires, in Massachusetts – does this double location help to expand your client base? What’s your favorite part of each location?
Peter Baiamonte: The Berkshires is a fairly new world to me. My wife introduced me to the area and we got a place there about four years ago. Friends in the area have led to contacts for photography work, and I’ve become familiar with Berkshire magazines and potential local clients. Berkshire-specific magazines don’t have as much money to spend on shoots as national publications do; however, my local work in the Berkshires has also helped me grow my portfolio in unexpected directions. In addition, I’ve been reaching out to Boston contacts and see the potential for new work there. So, yes, having a second professional location has helped me expand my client base.
On the other hand, shooting in NYC is a unique experience. Since any city job draws from a deep pool of amazing talent, experienced crews, and important clients, professional NYC shoots always bring the “A” game. The hustle and bustle of the city infects the mood on set. It’s fun and exciting. In contrast, during my latest shoot in the Berkshires – a farmer’s portrait at dawn – the light was beautiful, my wife came along to help me out, and we had coffee with the farmer and her family afterwards. It was a completely different vibe, but equally wonderful.
Production Paradise: You also had a chance to work as behind-the-scenes-photographer in the film production set with actress and now director Karen Allen. Was it different from your usual photo shoots? What is your fondest memory from this experience?
Peter Baiamonte: I’ve assisted on set for various TV commercials and films, so I came into the project with an understanding of the process – the specific way a film crew operates – and that helped a lot. In contrast to the more commercial projects I’ve worked on, I felt like I was part of a team creating a piece of art. The film is a 30-minute short, shot in black and white, and based on a Carson McCullers short story that is a meditation on the nature of love.
Our DP was Rick Sands, who is also well-known as the lighting director/gaffer for Gregory Crewdson. One of my fondest memories from the project was watching Rick frame up the first shot on the first day. It was a gorgeous composition, and I realized then what a wonderful week it was going to be. I’m proud to have been involved.
Production Paradise: How does Production Paradise help you? Do you use it more to find services for your own projects or to promote your work?
Peter Baiamonte: Well, first and foremost, it’s part of my promotion strategy, which includes direct mail and a strong social media presence. The variety of subject categories that Production Paradise promotes gives me the possibility of showing the diversity of my work to a wide variety of potential clients. I’m also starting to use Production Paradise as a resource for services; if I book a project in an unfamiliar city, I include Production Paradise in my search for support and contacts.
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