Hump Day Hot Seat: James V. Mignogna


seattleviewtourists_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.


Hump Day Hot Seat: Jason Vasquez

Jason Vasquez

Photo ©Jason Vasquez

1. Who Are You?

I am Jason Vasquez, just a joker who likes to have fun and play with his camera.

2. What do you do?

By day, I am an ultrasound tech in the medical field and by night I play freelance/fine art photographer extraordinaire. I primarily enjoy landscape and fine art portrait photography but with picking up Photoshop techniques, I have learned that all forms of photography help me achieve the final image I am seeking.

3. When/Where/How did you get your start?

I started taking photographs at a very young age when my dad gave me his camera to use at six years old. From there, I just kept snapping photos and collecting cameras along the way. Probably 90% of my technique has been self-taught through lots of trial and error. I do emphasis on the error. It is only in the past 10 years that I have taken it to an even more serious level with digital photography and slowly shying away from film. Along the way, I was asked to join a group of resident photographers at Gallery 13 in Asbury Park, NJ. From there, I have recently obtained some studio space to get a little deeper into my projects and to provide clients with a studio environment as well.

4. How long have you been at it?

Taking photos since my dad put the camera in my hands at around six years old. I want to say I have been pretty much at it seriously for the past 4 years with the last 2 years being resident of Gallery 13.

5. What is the most important thing we should know about you?

I really enjoy classical music and a good dance partner. I also really like the comic book character the “Joker”.

6. Is there anyone else in your field that you particularly admire?

I follow Benjamin Von Wong. He is so ahead of his time and experimental.

7. What other types of art are you in to?

All of the mediums. I appreciate a well done painting down to a well written song and everything in between.

8. You got any crazy hobbies or unique talents?

Lately I started building Gundam models again – 1/60th scale (I’m such a nerd), but I got that from my mom who taught me ceramics and how to make porcelain dolls from scratch. Other than that, I like to keep fit and strong at the gym, Building my own camera equipment, and I also like collecting sunglasses even though I only wear one pair.

9. What’s your favorite vice?

Going to get a really good burger with a cold tequila and ginger. Repeat second part. Ha!

10. How do you make it over the creative hump?

I turn on some classical music. Lately it has been a toss up between Brahms and Mozart. Then there is always a good heavy lift session at the gym.

11. You eat food? What kind? Like to cook?

I LOVE FOOD!! Especially Seafood. I like to cook.

12. If someone was to write a craigslist missed connection about you, what would it say?

Lunatic on the loose goes by the name “Mista J” wears red sunglasses. Probably laughing. Seen him?

13. Tell me about the last time a project blew up in your face?

That happened recently. Poured some Everclear on a glove and lit it on fire. Well, I poured a little too much the first time around. I lit my hand on fire, wearing a fire retardant glove, and I accidentally burned the hair on my arm. I got the shot though.

14. Truth or Dare? Elaborate.

Truthfully I really enjoyed this interview… Daringly, I wrote back.

15. What is your most prized possession?

50mm Nikkor f1.4 nonAF. That is pretty much my favorite go to, all around lens even though I use Canon bodies. Oh and my red sunglasses – cannot forget about those!