Interview: Chris Zedano

Staple Street Project 'Norbert' © Chris Zedano

Featuring photographer Chris Zedano: you may have seen him in…Silvershotz MagazineFeatureShoot, Lenswork, Moment 05 Magazine

I came across Chris Zedano’s work in Lenswork magazine where his Staple Street Project was extensively featured. I found the images profoundly compelling; the characters captured combined with the enchanting backdrop permeated the page and I simply had to contact him. I’m delighted Chris has agreed to share some of those images here.

Staple Street Project 'Tighe' © Chris Zedano

Staple Street Project 'Michael Dirt in a bubble' © Chris Zedano

Chris Zedano has created portraiture not only of the eccentric personalities we see but of the city itself. Staple Street dates back to the 1800′s and is swathed in history; this street represents the permanence and importance of ‘place’ in our lives. He has captured a plethora of engaging moments with intriguing characters, among them dancers, performers, clowns and mimes. These are characters playing characters; but somehow Zedano entices them out beneath their layers to connect with us.

Staple Street Project 'Kent, Magician' © Chris Zedano

Zedano’s choice to use a NYC backdrop free of landmark or attraction lends a certain nostalgia to the photographs; it may be the black and white contrast or soft-focused backdrop but I find them romantic; intimate.  This street feels just as important as Times Square; this little narrow, industrial street is just as beautiful as Central Park. Staple Street is composed as a significant platform mirroring these complicated, exciting and intriguing personalities beautifully.

Staple Street Project 'Sean' © Chris Zedano

Staple Street Project 'Chris McDaniel' © Chris Zedano

On a personal level, I also feel these images communicate a personification of the energy and excitement Zedano must have felt when first moving to New York; we are sharing in his wide-eyed, curious viewpoint as he makes real connections – it’s a pleasure to be looking through the same eyes, with the same full heart, as Zedano.

I’m delighted to feature new work from Chris called intimateNYC -  a project that promises to be just as visually stunning and narratively exciting as Staple Street. intimateNYC further explores the meaning of connection, and delves deeper into the very nature of humanity. They are full of fragility and defiance.

intimateNYC 'Andy' © Chris Zedano

intimateNYC 'Dame Cuchi' © Chris Zedano

intimateNYC 'Little Stormy and Max' © Chris Zedano


Chris Zedano

Tell us a little about yourself.
I come from Lima, Peru and I have been residing in New York City since 2002.

When did you discover photography?
My interest in photography emerged while I was processing images at a photo studio. My enthusiasm intensified after witnessing a friend’s passionate commitment to photography. I began by simply taking casual photographs during my free time.

What equipment do you use?
Mostly Nikon. I use the D3 for its full frame and a bunch of old lenses, mostly fixed (most of them wide angles) since I wasn’t too happy with zooms. For lighting I bought a profoto portable setup, a light stand and a chimera softbox that’s handled more hard use than probably spec’d.

How would you describe your photography style?
Photography allows me to express my interpretation of the world around me and to interact with people with whom I would normally not engage. My camera is my passport to an unexplored world.

I am deeply interested in people. I am curious as to what lies behind their eyes, where they have been and where they hope to go. My photographs are not always a true representation of the subject in front of my camera. I scrutinize the subjects in front of me, break the paradigms and generalizations and create my own interpretation. I rarely have a preconceived idea of the photo I would like to get, at least for my personal photo projects. I go as open minded as I can and let the flow take me to that photo.

Who inspires you?
I love to look at photographs from different portrait photographers from Richard Avedon to Mark Seliger to Mary Ellen Mark. The list goes on.

Where do you find your photography subjects?
Craigslist was the main source at the beginning. For Staple Street Project, I attended different venues to find my subjects. After that, it was word of mouth.

How did the Staple Street project begin?
I used to wander around the city with my camera and I found this small, quiet, sliver landscape in the heart of TriBeCa called Staple Street.I knew there was something magical about that street but it needed to be brought alive. So a quest was born: I set out to connect with different characters and performers from all over the city by bringing them to this narrow and interesting space.

I met artists and eccentrics of all stripes — dancers, jugglers, actors, magicians, body painters, mimes, card sharks, singers, clowns. They were vibrant, defiant, shy, sad, sly, witty, odd, exuberant, angry, giving — a perfect representation of the city itself, and of this tiny street that dates back to at least the early 19th century.

There’s something about Staple Street that I can’t explain with words. The street still has a grimy, industrial, and to me, romantic feel to it despite its proximity to the trendy, high-end real estate that has spread throughout lower Manhattan like an oil slick. The people I met and photographed have maintained a similar integrity, and thus for me, provided a similar romance.

What did you enjoy most about the Staple Street project?
Meeting and working with amazing people. Creating something totally different to what I have done before. It was definitely worth it to spend long hours, most of the time on my own, in this street.

I can’t say I enjoyed leaving my expensive equipment to a person that I just met for 30 mins to run to the coffee shop for a bathroom break. I guess that explains the connection we were able to achieve when working together. I needed the subject to give her/himself away and let me take control of the process. In exchange, I would have to trust my equipment to take a little break.

How do you source your inspiration?
I’m always checking out new work from different known and not so known artists. I attend galleries. This project allowed me to connect with photographers from different places all over the world. We are constantly exchanging ideas. There’s always ideas in my mind for different projects and they can come from papers, movies or even sometimes sleeping in the subway.

What projects are you currently working on?
I was working on my intimateNYC (www.intimateNYC.com) but I had to put it on hold since I was getting overwhelmed with work but I will definitely get back to it once it’s all done. There’s nothing like working on a personal assignments at my own pace where I have full control of the process. It’s kind of selfish but it also pushes my work to the next level.

Where can we see more of your work?
http://www.chriszedano.com

Thanks for sharing you work with us, Chris.

2 comments

  1. His photos are really creative and I loved the black and white ones!

  2. Having lived in NYC for many, many years one often forgets that intimacy even exists. I am enjoying the images from this project – something so raw yet fragile and “intimate” about the images against the backdrop of NYC.

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