Agata Gravante, Photographer


For the Inaugural Post… 

… of an endeavor which I hope becomes tradition, I’d like to introduce a photographer who is recent to the United States, from Italy, and by way of Brazil. Her colors and focus on the the lighter side of people is what inspires me about her work. Her photography combines the aesthetic qualities of multiple disciplines: fashion, photojournalism, and travel. Agata and I had a chance to meet at a portfolio review event (follow us at @BeReviewsLA) I hosted last October in Los Angeles. We have since been discussing art and the business of art.


    1. Portrait Leah. The traditional Korean Dress. Los Angeles
    2. Portrait Leah. The traditional Korean Dress. Los Angeles
    3. Woman taking a bath inside the Gange. Because considerate purification. Millions of devout Hindus led by naked ascetics with ash smeared on their bodies plunged into the frigid waters of India’s holy Ganges River on Monday in a ritual they believe can wash away their sins.
    4. From the Project “Meu Mar” Documentary about the life on the beach in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro
    5. From the Project “Meu Mar” Documentary about the life on the beach in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro
    6. Woman Talk in the Temple . Haridware, India
    7. Man Pose near to Mother Gange, Haridwar, India.
    8. Festival Baloons in Albequerque. New Mexico
    9. One of the beautiful park in Los Angeles. Descanco Garden. 
    10. Haridwar is an ancient city and important Hindu pilgrimage site in North India’s Uttarakhand state, where the River Ganges exits the Himalayan foothills.


Background and Getting to Know You

Q&C: How did you come about the practice of photography? Did you make a deliberate choice to start being a photographer one day? Have you always been drawn to the practice of photography? Or, was it something you came upon later in life?

AG: When I was a little girl, my grandfather gave me a camera and told me to start taking pictures. We went to a historical museum. I remember taking photos of him and the museum. That has inspired me until today.

Q&C: Follow Up Question… What was, and where is, the historical museum you went to as a child? Do you have any photos from these trips or portraits of your grandfather?

AG: I don’t remember the exact museum, but there is history everywhere in my city. I have photos but they are in Italy.

Q&C: What did your parents say when they found out you wanted to be an artist? Many of us artists have had to face this pivotal moment in our formative years. Some of us endured this experience, some of us were emboldened by it, and some of us have given up the path for art. Everyone has a slightly different story. What’s yours? 

AG: My parents knew I was an artist since I was a kid when I liked to draw and play with water colors. I was always very attracted to art. In primary school, I have the best memories of origami class, ceramics class, and many other things. My parents always knew I had this attitude. They never told me I had to change or do something more “serious” with my life. Later when I was older, I studied historical restoration of Renaissance art and eventually went to the European Institute of Design. 

Q&C: Follow Up Question: Tell us more about historical restoration and what that involves. Has this impacted or influenced your aesthetic?

 AG: I had to study art and painting before getting involved in the renovation. You have to know about colors. There’s a lot of theory. I remember one technique called rigattino, that is a very elaborate way of filling in missing pieces of old paintings. It influenced me because I learned about all the history of art there is in my city. 

Q&C: What’s your favorite camera and lens combination that you own or have worked professionally with? Which combination do you use most often? 

 AG: My Canon 5D Mark II is my baby. I like to use a fixed 40mm f2.8 lens. 

Q&C: What’s your preference: digital photography or film photography? Which do you use most in your practice? 

 AG: I use almost all digital, but I love film too. 

Q&C: Do you have a lingering idea in your mind for a photography project that you haven’t gotten around to yet? How long has the idea been with you? What prompted it? Why haven’t you done that project yet? Would you mind sharing with us what that idea is? 

 AG: I have been thinking about a project with people with their guns. I have had this idea since I have been living in the USA . The gun culture here is totally strange to me as a European. We do not have this kind of thing in Europe and I would like to explore it here with a photo project. 

 Q&C: Follow Up Question: I would love to help with this project. What roadblocks are you encountering with this project? What aspect of it is strange to you and why approach will you take: comedic, satiric, serious, surreal, hyper-violent, political protest, social anthropological? Do you see this being a studio shoot? 

 AG: I’m still thinking of the visual language I want to use. Probably satiric and surreal. Probably not in the studio but on location with natural light and maybe some portable strobes. Also I need to find people to participate and places to shoot. 

Q&C: How did you get your photos selected by What were they selected for: a competition, a curated exhibit, something else?

 AG: They have open submissions but they have become much more selective since the beginning of this year. 

Q&C: You’ve worked in Brazil, and you’re from Italy, and now living in the United States; where was it easiest to find work? 

 AG: It was most easy for me to find work in my home country. 

Q&C: Of all your projects, which one or two have been the most rewarding? 

 AG: I love all my projects but I love most the portraits I made in Haridwar, India, and the photos on the beach in Brazil. 

Q&C: Of the things that you enjoy about your photographs, how much is decided by happy accident, circumstances, experience, or planning – knowing that all artists benefit from each of these opportunities in their work (for we’d be fools not to)? 

 AG: Luck is an important part of street and documentary style photography. Many of my photos are about observing and feeling what is happening around me. Recently I have been studying more about studio and artificial lighting, which is a completely different way of looking at my subjects that requires more planning and much less chance. 

Q&C: How have you, and how are you currently, learning the business of art? The business of art is consistently a difficult aspect of the craft to deal with, and very few artists ever receive or learn the knowledge required to succeed at the business of art. 

 AG: It’s difficult for me because I am still new in this country and learning about the culture and language here. I do a lot of networking, and I think that meeting many people is a good way to make a base to build something. 

 Q&C Follow Up Question: What would you recommend to someone new who is trying to get into the business of photography? How do you generate business? 

 AG: I think its important to have a website with examples of your work. Also I have a business card to give to people that I meet. I go events and mixers to meet people. Also I use Instagram and Facebook a lot. 

Q&C: When you shoot, do you take hundreds of photos of a subject and then find the right one later, or do you take very few photos and only when you’re confident that you have the image you’re looking for?

 AG: I try to think and see more and wait for the right moment to shoot. 

Q&C Follow Up Question: What’s the longest you’ve waited for a shot, and how many photos do you shoot power day, when on assignment? 

 AG: I don’t really know about the time. If I am comfortable in a place and it looks interesting I will wait for awhile. The number of shots depends, maybe about 100. 


Questions About Your Photos

Q&C: Of the images selected, my favorite is the one that overlooks the Ganges by night. It has amazing color and a warm & personal mood, much of which is highlighted by the flares of the lights. Additionally, the digital or chemical processing you used gives the photograph an appearance of being shot in the late 1960’s.

  • How did you find the shot?
  • How did you get the flares to look at è 

 AG: It was easy to find the shot because there was a major ritual going on there. We arrived by taxi and that was the first photo I took at that magical place. It’s an iPhone picture and I used Instagram filters! 


Reader Questions

The following questions are from one of the readers, Kyle Hayward. His own work makes use of strong contrast while often studying the details of his subjects. His work would probably be most like that of product photographers who incorporate careful lighting and layout planning to achieve the exact shot for the project. A sample of his photography can be found at this link. It’s compelling and I urge you to check it out.

Reader Q: Any recommended books or other sources for improving one’s photography?

 AG: Look at other photographers work. I spend a lot of time looking at other photographers on the internet. Some of my favorites are Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Brassaï and other European masters. But also Brazilian photographer are Miguel Rio Branco, Rogerio Reis and my good friend Guy Veloso. And of course some american like Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, William Klein, William Eggleston, Mary Ellen Mark.

Reader Q: Also, as a total amateur I’m interested in how someone goes about getting their work published or selling it.

 AG: To get exposure for my work I look for websites looking for content and contests that are open for submissions. I use a lot of social media also. 

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