Photo © James V. Mignogna
1. Who are you?
James V. Mignogna. The V is for Vincent. It was my grandfather’s name.
2. What do you do?
These days? Well up until about five months ago, I was working at the International Center for Photography in NYC helping to keep their darkrooms humming. That, and of course, shooting any chance I could get. These days… well I gave that up to be a stay at home papa to my eight month old son. I was able to build a pretty professional darkroom in my attic, so I’m still able to work. So I guess the answer to this question right now is, feed, corral, wrastle and otherwise adore my little gremlin boy (as in that Bugs Bunny cartoon, not Mogwai). Also, I’ve been printing. I guess you’d call me a fine art photographer. I’m currently printing out a series for a solo show that will be opening in September at the Mamaroneck Artists Guild in Larchmont, NY. They are orotone variants… palladium prints… hand painted emulsion on 24k gold guilded vellum. It’s keeping me pretty busy.
3. When/Where/How did you get your start?
At Photography? Well the old joke is that I got a PhD in photography from my father. “Push here, Dummy.” Really, he was the first person who got a camera in my hands. He was a bit of an amateur shutterbug and always had a camera or two lying around the house. He was generous enough to let me play with one. I also took a photo class in high school. You know how people say they get hooked the first time they see an image come up in the developer? I’m no different. Maybe not super original, but no less true. Jesus, that would have been what… 27 years ago? Wow. I may not be as young as I think I am.
Anyway, I’ve had a camera on me, off and on, since then. It’s always been part of my identity, but I only maybe in the last six or seven years decided that I should stop running around it. This is just who I am. I’ve only been starting to try to show my work in a serious way in the last three years or so, but I’ve gotten some good responses from it. At the heart of it, it’s a connection to my pop. It’s been several years since he passed on, but it’s kind of an unspoken way I keep him close. Funny I should say that it’s unspoken, because for a time there, photography was the only thing we COULD talk about. Some fathers and sons have baseball. We had photography.
4. How long have you been at it?
I guess I kinda answered that one.
5. What is the most important thing we should know about you?
The most important. hmm. I don’t know about most. I guess that depends who you are. What would I tell you about my work? I guess that all of my photography is “straight.” There are some people who would tell you to “make photos, don’t take them.” I don’t know. For me, I like to take them. The act of extraction from the real world is possibly the greatest strength of photography. I am a photographer by choice, not default. I like to make reference to painting and etching, but it is always photos of real things described as they are. For me to see what is in the world, to record and venerate that is an act of saying “yes” to existence. It’s an act of reverence. It’s really not that unlike prayer.
6. Is there anyone else in your field that you particularly admire?
So many. Really too many to mention. Mostly, I still lean towards a middle 20th century look, so you’d find my inspiration in Frank, Friedlander, Erwitt, Davidson, Winogrand, Kertész, HCB, Mary Ellen Mark, W. Eugene Smith… I also love the work of Salgado, Kratochvíl, Kashi, Haviv… Ernst Haas and Saul Leiter… so many… I also draw inspiration from lots of my talented friends, Daniel Elliott, Denis Yermoshin, Sumner Wells Hatch, Ed Cheng… I really could go on and on and on, and I hate the idea of leaving anyone out.
7. What other types of art are you in to?
Painting. I love painting. I’m also a great fan of etching and printmaking. Sculpture is a real love of mine as well. It is really the art form I would love to try, but it just feels so foreign to anything I’ve done before… I just imagine Cellini pouring the bronze for his Persius with the Head of Medusa and I’m just in awe of it.
8. You got any crazy hobbies or unique talents?
Well I don’t know about crazy. I love to collect vinyl which is sort of common, but I also collect Laserdiscs. You know… They were the medium between VHS tape and DVDs. They are kind of like a DVD in the size and shape of an LP. You even have to flip them. They are just so wrong that they are perfectly right. I have about 500 of them now. I love movies. I’m a big movie buff. I also quite like to cook. I’m a bit of a foodie.
9. What’s your favorite vice?
Wine. Wine and absinthe… and good beer.
10. How do you make it over the creative hump?
I try another take. Over the years I have gotten to what I feel is a personal look, but I do a number of things. If I get stuck with the traditional B&W silver gel street work, then I move over to the color abstract stuff… if that starts to challenge me, I move on to the hand painted emulsion / alternate photo stuff.
11. If someone was to write a craigslist missed connection about you, what would it say?
“You: a hairy unkempt possibly unwashed shambling monster pushing an adorable baby in a stroller. I was about to call child services when I passed you in the park, but didn’t. I fear I maybe should have.”
12. Tell me about the last time a project blew up in your face?
Well nothing really “Blows up” but often things evolve in a way that I wasn’t planning. It can be a real disaster if I’m too stubborn about that, but I give the process enough respect to listen to what the project wants to be. Ultimately I may still be left with a project that I want to get done in the end, but it’s all just a work in progress… both the images and myself.
13. What is your most prized possession?
My family. Not really a possession, but you get the idea.