EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Marjorie Salvaterra - a Short Interview

David J. Carol


©MARJORIE SALVATERRA


I'm not sure where I came across Marjorie Salvaterra's work. It might have been through Aline Smithson or possibly  something I read about Photo LA. Be that as it may...When I saw her series Her, I was sold. I loved it. It was kind of a look back in time or maybe into the future all rolled into one surreal group of photographs. Here is a short interview with the very talented Marjorie Salvaterra.

What photograph of yours, or anyone else, inspired you to think "I want to be a photographer"?

I actually didn't know much about photography 9 years ago when I fell in love with it. I had gotten a little point and shoot for our wedding and took that to Morocco, where my husband was working for 3 months. I began to travel around the various cities and photographing the people. My husband was producing a movie and the set photographer was the incredible Richard Cartwright. He invited me to come on set to shoot with his fancy cameras. He was also the one who told my husband about Julia Dean, the greatest teacher and mentor who I began to study with as soon as we landed back in LA. She was a black and white film shooter and had been the apprentice to Berenice Abbot. My education was old school, which I'm so thankful for! A few years after, I was on bed rest for nine months with my 2nd baby. Every few weeks, Julia would bring me stacks of photography books, which is where I fell in love with Kertesz, Erwit, Arbus... 

What's funny is that many years ago, in my short lived acting career, I starred in Herb Ritt's only film. It was a short black and white and we rehearsed in his studio. Every time it was time to rehearse Herb would find me sitting and sifting through piles of his photos. I could've drown in the beauty. I'm not sure why the photo bug didn't hit me at that moment. I'm a bit of a slow learner. I do have a Polaroid somewhere that Herb shot of me. He actually cut off part of my head in the shot but I can still say I own an original Herb Ritts.

I love the "HER" series. Can you tell me about it?

The first few years that I was doing photography, I was a portrait shooter. I would shoot faces, bodies. As I learned more about the art world, my work became a bit more experimental. My falling Man series was about using photography to look like sculpture. Then about a year and a half ago, I read a quote on Elizabeth Avedon's blog. For the life of me I can't remember the quote but it was a photographer talking about his best work is his most personal. Up until then I was always looking to shoot something new about someone else. I thought how do I make my work personal. Now here is the TMI part. Around the time I read that quote, I had been under the weather. I was also trying to reconcile that as a mom at my kids school I was about as cool as I was in high school. (not wildly!) There are moms at my LA kids school that are dressed to the nines at 8am drop-off. I am running in as the bell is ringing dressed in my "uniform" black leggings, black top and my hair looking like a baby bird -- not in a great way. This doesn't do a lot for my popularity! During this time, I took my 5 year old daughter to see "Wicked". The good witch was beautifully adorned. The bad witch looked a lot like me. Slightly green and wearing her black uniform and a drop of water threw off her whole day. At that moment of realizing I was the bad witch, I suddenly pictured the women, dressed to the nines, standing in the water. It was my first shot of the series. It was really about trying to be all things to all people, juggling many roles, trying not to disappoint anyone, feeling tremendous guilt, worrying about things far beyond my control and still trying to look like I've got it all together.

Pick your three favorite photographers...If they never existed, how would your work be different?

Since I didn't know much about photography when I started, I don't think my work would be different having started with favorite photographers. I now love so many of the classic photographers but I am blessed with an amazing community of new and very on the verge photographers. I adore Aline Smithson's work! Liz Huston's. Claire Mallet's nudes. I'm going to make her trade me a print!!! I love Jennifer Hudson's work (who I don't know) and I'm a big fan of Heidi Lender, whom I just became FB friends with! I love photography that makes me feel something like that of Dorthea Lange and Elliott Erwitt and I also love new photographers who do work so different than anything I could ever get my head around. That was way more than three!

Photos copyright: Marjorie Salvaterra

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