Dario Calmese is a jack-of-all-trades artist based out of NYC. Working in a variety of mediums including writing and performance, Dario explores the realm of humanism. His latest work titled "The Black Art Yearbook" captures creatives who identify as those of African decent. Working with instant photography on the Lomo'Instant Automat Glass, Dario shares his project with us along with his experience working in instant photography.
Hi Dario, welcome to the magazine, care to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi, sure! I’m a artist and writer based in New York City. I alternate between photography, text and performance, as each medium provides not only different modes of expression, but provides a framework to pose different sets of questions and hopefully some answers. In my work, I approach photography as theatre; what I call the Theatre of the Anthropocene, or the stage on which humans play out their roles, scenes, and lives. Sometimes it’s about the character, at times the scene, and other times the aftermath.
You titled this project "The Black Art Yearbook" what was your intention with this project?
My intention with this project is pure documentation. The art world can be a beast with many moving parts and machinations, but hidden within the traditional art historical canon is a network of incredible emerging and established artists, curators, collectors, and writers of African descent that not only support each other, but are interpreting the world with such relevancy. Some may be lost to history; but I want you to know they were here.
You have a huge list of celebrities and artists, who were some of your best experiences photographing them?
To be honest, they are all so lovely, it’s really them giving me a small gift by allowing me to capture their image. Thelma Golden was particularly generous, allowing me to take several shots as I learned the quirks of shooting on instant film; such a giant, yet so patient.
You have this kind of "cool guy" approach to your photographs, not too flashy or too staged, how do you tend to approach your photographs?
Oh are they cool? Hahahaha. I believe in honesty, and approach image-making from a place of truth; whatever that moment was, is what I capture.
What about shooting instant photography excites you?
I really enjoy the immediacy of it. The majority of my work is on film, so there’s a delay (which I enjoy) in seeing the final image. Instant photography allows for instant gratification, and a level of excitement with the subject as we wait for the image to develop.
Do you prefer shooting instants, if so why?
I still prefer traditional film photography (medium format) for the control and quality it provides, but really enjoy the freedom of instant photography; it allows me to release my need to control.
Why do you think it's important to photograph and celebrate artists with such a heavy saturation of work spread across social media platforms?
Well, for one, how will we create a album of Instagram posts to look back on 20, 40, 60 years from now? Social media is such a branded presentation of self, and a level of truth is lost. One’s persona and stature can appear mystifying, but a level of humanity is restored in capturing the figure of the artist, akin to Alexander Liberman’s “The Artist in His Studio.”, one of my favorite books.
If you had to take one camera with you for the rest of your photo career what would it be and why?
I would surely grab my Pentax 67. It’s a bit of a tank, but it’s weathered many a storm, takes beautiful images in both the field and the studio, and will continue to do so longer after I’m gone.
What advice would you give to budding photographers?
Study history, imitate the greats, and follow/capture your desire. Our minds are unique prisms though which we reflect and refract our experiences. The more you see, the richer your source material will be, and it will show up in your work, consciously or unconsciously.