My Dream…for a Brilliant Campaign

November 12th, 2014

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to record my world using Instagram. Sometimes these images are shot on my Panasonic GH4 and wified to the phone; sometimes I just use my phone. Taking happy snaps and then doing that Instagram filter thing really excites me. Instagram is the quick version of a Photoshop effect and has become so ubiquitous in our society the word is used as a verb or a noun.

My images are all personal. At times they are life achievements and events going on around me. Other times they are the visuals that I have to stop and shoot. I always keep them as snaps though; to me taking a commercial image that has been retouched and putting it up to Instagram defeats the purpose. Instagramming should be the spontaneous side of your photographic life, the one you get to set free with the medium.

My dream is to someday do an entire magazine travel piece or ad campaign – either all on my phone, or all through Instagram. Below is a collection of my Instagram images I wanted to share with you.

photo layout (l2)


What I did on my Summer Vacation, an Instagram Story

August 20th, 2014

 

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One of my favorite things to do in the world is to take my daughter, Sophia, on vacation with me. It’s our ‘father-daughter’ thing to do and every year we go to Europe on a food excursion. You see, I taught Sophia to cook, as our ‘father-daughter’ activity when she was 9.

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I showed her how to use a knife properly, explained about spices and how they change at different points in the cooking process, reductions, etc. I taught her everything I know about food types, which was Chinese, Thai, Japanese, French and much Italian cooking. She is now 17 and a fabulous chef. She has well surpassed my skills as a cook; the basics taught to me by my Italian mother and grandmother.

So when Sophia asked me a few years ago to come with her to France, to explore the food of the country, I was thrilled. We have made this our annual excursion – usually adding a week to my trip to the Arles Photo festival – eating with my big girl around France.

This year she wanted to go somewhere different. Being half Italian and enjoying cooking in her family heritage (and boy, is she good), she naturally wanted to try Italy. So we ate and shopped our way around Italy and France, with the help of my girlfriend Gill. We had a particularly good time. The Arles festival was not the best this year, but the time we all had could not be beat!

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Showing at the Photo Independent Art Fair April 25th – 27th

April 21st, 2014

Hi All, So I decided to take a booth at the upstart art fair, Photo Independent, across from Paris Photo this weekend, April 25th through the 27th. I will be showing a body of personal work, The Urban Landscapes Project, which are panoramic images that chronicle my travels around the world while on assignment. The images are colorful and graphic and received rave reviews at Photo LA in January. Please come to the Raleigh Studio Hollywood, 5300 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90038, I will be in Stage #8, Booth #603

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Apple Store, New York, NY; Archival Inkjet Print, 72 x 32; Signed, 1/10

Friday, April 25
Trade Day, 1pm – 5pm
Press Preview, 5pm – 7pm
Opening Night Premiere Party, 7 – 10pm

Saturday, April 26, 11am – 7pm
Sunday, April 27, 11am – 6pm

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Striped Bank, New York, NY; Archival Inkjet Print, 72 x 32; Signed, 1/10

You can get your tickets at the Photo Independent website. Please bring collector friends and photo enthusiasts. For those of you who came to Photo LA, there will be new work exhibited. Below is gallerist W.M. (Bill) Hunt’s review of the work, I think you will enjoy it. See you there!  – Michael

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Red Curtain, New York, NY; Archival Inkjet Print, 72 x 32; Signed, 1/10

Michael Grecco’s night is full of light.

He is a moonwalker, a somnambulist whose conscious and unconscious are not blinded by the brights of oncoming traffic or swallowed into shadows. He is enthralled by the radiance within the blackness, the rapture of color. Grecco’s “Urban Landscapes” are vivid panoramic photographs shot in mostly unidentifiable locations around the world. These places seem alien and exotic, showered in vibrant, lucent, sometimes iridescent almost radioactive colors, revealed in raking rays, squiggles, planes, and circles.

Through long exposure, selective focus, shallow depth of field, blurring and wide framing, he finds his way in the dark and leads us as he dances ecstatically through the color spectrum. In the studio and on location, he is a virtuoso of lighting technique. That skill has obviously sharpened his eye and instincts in locating these chromatic landscapes as he travels the city after dark. Further all of what happens is “in camera”, in his panoramic Hasselblad.

Sixty years ago, the legendary photographer Ernst Haas made this journey. Haas was interested in “transforming an object from what it is to what you want it to be.” Grecco wants to “to contextualize man and his/her place in their environments they create, in the artifices they live in, to go out every day with the intention of breaking visual rules, to create an evocative, cinematic image that inspires – in its format, composition and color” This is the visual music of the night.

W.M. Hunt – Gallerist, Curator


The Urban Landscape Images

December 11th, 2013

 

“Daylight is too easy.  What I want is difficult – the atmosphere of lamps and moonlight.”  – Edgar Degas

Everyone thinks that being a photographer is a glamorous life. In fact, it’s often lonely on the road. Please don’t get me wrong, I am crazy about what I do and would never trade it for the world. But after the shoot is over and we’ve had a nice client dinner, photographers are often alone in some exotic location. So, I put that time to good use photographing the light and design that interests me around the world.

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Michael Grecco’s Urban Landscapes portfolio of eleven limited edition signed prints from Shoeler Editions of Brazil

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Michael Grecco’s Urban Landscapes portfolio of eleven limited edition signed prints from Shoeler Editions of Brazil

While speaking in Brazil several years ago I showed the work to publisher Christian Moldanado of Schoeler Editions. They loved it – enough to produce a very unique portfolio in a Corian (as in counter tops) box of varying colors. The esteemed gallerist and curator W.M Hunt wrote the text for the project. Here is a link to the press release.

I came to meet Christian over very sad circumstances. He was friends with my close friend and college buddy Jay Colton, Associate Picture Editor of Time Magazine. Jay and I had worked together for years and years. We loved collaborating together, shot many covers and both really appreciated each others personalty and eye. Jay sent me an email once: “MICHAEL, I LOVE IT WHEN YOU MAKE MY JOB HARD. I threw down and you picked up and ran. I am amazed once again, you are outside your comfort zone and you excelled. You have by far my favorite take in LA and maybe my favorite take in the world. Really interesting novel approach to a difficult situation. I think when you go over this take carefully you are going to find gems in it. Very very happy.”

How could I not love him? I was ready to give him my kidney – literally. We both had a rare blood type, and when Jay was struck ill and needed a kidney, I let him know I was more than willing.

Like myself, Jay loved Brazil, and while there speaking, he had a heart attack during a portfolio review at a photo festival. I was scheduled to keynote the next month at the Brazilian National Photography Convention, so I hunted down Jay’s friends Christian and Luis to find out what happened. This project is the result of the bonding of our friendship to Jay.

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Michael Grecco’s Urban Landscapes portfolio of eleven limited edition signed prints from Shoeler Editions of Brazil

As a side note, I lost the Hasselblad X-pan I used to make these images, and have since purchased Jay’s X-pan from his wife Moira. I will never lose this one!Here is to life and our experiences, both good and bad, may we learn from all of them!  – Michael

For purchase information, please visit SchoelerEditions.com


Harper’s Bazaar Brazil

November 13th, 2013

Sao-Paulo-by-professional-photographer-michael-greccoWhen my parents started dating, my mother aspired to be a Jazz singer; my grandfather owned a Jazz record store in Harlem. (She let that dream go for marriage and the prospect of having children. I guess for me that was a good thing.) Growing up as a kid in NY there was alway music playing, much of it was the burgeoning Brazilian Bossa Nova scene of Antônio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto. Bossa Nova is the fusion of Brazilian Samba and Jazz. Mother was always singing; this stuck with me so much that my 5th grade project was all about Brazilian life, culture, architecture and government.

So, when Brazilian Harper’s Bazaar asked me to shoot six of the most important designers in Brazilian Fashion, I was more than pleased. I was thrilled to go to Sao Paolo in September, and very excited to be meeting such talent. Four of the images are included here (and on my blog), the Brazilian designers impresarios: Alexandre Herchcovitch, Reinaldo Lourenco, Vitorino Campos, and Carlos Miele with their clothing, friends and favorite models.

The designer Vitorino Campos with his collection.

The designer Vitorino Campos with his collection.

 

Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch with his models friends and stylist.

Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch with his models friends and stylist.

 

Carlos Miele with a piece from his "flowing" collection.

Carlos Miele with a piece from his “flowing” collection.

 

The "King," designer Reinaldo Lourenco is the life of the party.

The “King,” designer Reinaldo Lourenco is the life of the party.

Obrigado,  Michael


My Trip to Lagos, Nigeria

May 28th, 2013

I knew there would be culture shock going from Santa Monica, California to Lagos, Nigeria, but I never expected it to be so profound.

Biggest shocker? Lagos definitely isn’t some little African city nobody’s heard of. Lagos, by most estimates, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. In fact, Lagos is the second fastest growing city in Africa and the seventh fastest growing worldwide. Predictions have been made that Lagos will be the third largest mega city on the planet by 2015! As Americans, we admittedly assume we’re the center of the universe, but the reality is Nigeria alone boasts 170 million people. That’s nearly 60% of the U.S. population in a space the size of Texas.

The symphony of people on the streets in Lagos.

Alongside my naïve assumption that Lagos was “some small city in Africa,” I inaccurately pictured a quaint, easy-to-get-around, not-so-built-up town. Wrong again. Lagos is huge. I mean HUGE! It’s a sprawling, very densely populated city that is crowded and congested like I’ve never seen before in my life.

Can we talk “traffic?” I arrived at Lagos airport at 2:00 p.m. and was in the car until 9:00 p.m. trying to get to dinner arrangements that included a mere pit stop at my hotel to drop off my bags. The traffic was so intense that my colleagues and I literally gave up on our group dinner only to end up back at the hotel. We managed to coax a dinner out of the staff, which took another two hours. Nothing in Lagos is fast. Lol!

I came to learn that Lagosians plan their life around this deplorable amount of traffic, which means they don’t go far nor attempt too many things in a given day. It was amazing to see how adaptive the people were while facing something we’d find so incredibly frustrating here in the states!

Stuck in my car all day shooting out the window!

One day, renowned Photographer Joe McNally (National Geographic) and I set out for an early morning photographers’ photo safari. Fun, right? We got as far as the gate to leave the compound and turned back around. Why? You guessed it. Traffic. It was so unbearable we may have only circled the hotel for several hours, so we took our safari to the hotel restaurant and had breakfast instead. One thing we did see “trying” to head out was that many people live in gated communities or behind barbed wire fences with heavy gates and security guards. And the guards curiously wearing flip-flops. I could not help but think how easily a thief could incapacitate a guard by simply stepping on their toes!

Street art, Lagos Nige

The second day I spoke at NiPHEC, the Nigerian International Photographic Expo and Conference. This was the vision of Seun Akisanmi, a local Lagos photographer who, without sponsorship or much support, pulled off a four-day event. I’m telling you, the logistics could not have been easy. SHOUT OUT TO SEUN!

Arriving at the conference was like arriving as a Hollywood celebrity. I have never had so many people wanting to take pictures with me, in my life! The photo-op did not stop for what seemed like forever, but at the same time, it was the sweetest welcome gesture from such a kind, sincere and appreciative group of people that I may have ever imagined.

A place where newspapers still rule

Lagos the city, with its massive growth, bustling citizens, and intense congestion is prime it for its story to be told in pictures. It’s a photojournalist’s “capture a glimpse of it now” mecca. I hope the conference helped elevate the awareness of photography as art, for photography, parallel to storytelling, is undeniably important to the history of this city and its culture. Photographs of Lagos during this time are literally visual chronicles of a city undergoing immense growing pains, headed for huge transformation. 

A construction worker in Nigeria

 

Fixing the infrastructure of Lagos

There was beauty to be found in my experience, the juxtaposition of many unrelated things. Saturday I walked the streets. We saw the sites and took a few pictures, even though we got hounded by people wanting us to pay a fee to take those pictures. One guy at the beach had fake sanitation tickets and wanted us to pay to see the beach. We refused. I guess if you live there it might make compassionate sense to think of it as a civil tax that helps people survive, but honestly, I’m not there yet.

It’s the rawness of the culture that also allowed us to climb up these towers that were surrounded by dangerous construction material. There, we got a spectacular view of the city as we had climbed up one of the tallest places around. You would have never been allowed to do that in the U.S. because of “liability issues.”

Sunday, there was no traffic as everyone was at church, no really!! Sunday was almost traffic-free. It was awesome! I was finally able to move around the city. I started to get a better understanding for Lagos as a whole. It’s a city clashing against itself, it’s massive size, its growing population, and new found oil revenue. You could even go so far as to compare it the wild wild west during the Gold Rush. Eventually, I can only assume Lagos’ success will force the infrastructure to catch up. After all, a city of this magnitude and capacity cannot feature regular power outages during the day or endure streets with crater-size potholes. I‘m just saying…

And a moment to share my thoughts on the people: We often take for granted the remarkable differences in the lives of people, what sets us apart from each other, miles apart, and I’m not just talking geography. It would be hard to even conceive without witnessing it for yourself. For example, in and amongst the city of Lagos lives a tribe, the Egun. The Egun live in the water of a lagoon, between the mainland and Lagos Island. This tribe exists on wood boats and huts that are built on stilts. The inhabitants sail out to the mouth of the channel and fish, living almost independently from the city dwellers around them. Check out my image, of what is known as the Makoko Slum.

What a gift for me to gaze over at this tribe and their way of life, firsthand. There is beauty to be seen in the diversity found among life across the planet. It just takes me back, leaving me humbled, grateful, and curious. Quite a long ways away from the mind-blowing conveniences are famous estates and the incredible restaurants of my native Santa Monica! How easy it is to forget…

…although I did get to see the The Shrine, the home of one of one of my heros, Afro Beat sensation Fela Kuti. I used my Sony A900 with the SteadyShot anti-shake to capture these last two images at 1/4 second handheld, crazy!

Smokin’ spleef freely at The Shrine, Lagos Nigeria

 

I still don’t get this?


An Appreciation of the New and the Old

January 6th, 2011

Recently, I spent several weeks in Northern Europe, specifically Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands. I was astonished at the appreciation of modern art and modern design there. In particular the way the modern mixes with the traditional and coexists to add a historic depth to both.

If I had to choose another career in my life, I would have a hard time choosing because I love so many things, but I would have probably been an architect or industrial designer. As a kid, I learned about photography by going to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Next to the photography department was the museums Industrial Design collection. Before that, I could have never conceived that common objects like a coffee pot, chair or typewriter could be a work of design genius. This is especially true since I grew up in a home of the tacky, ornate, and faux rococo design. Luxury was perceived by my mom (she was the purchaser in the home) as being decorative, not clean in its design. To give her credit, that was also the populist taste at the time. It was pre Design Within Reach/CB2.

So, I have always loved the opposite: clean modern lines and smart objects where the form does follow the function. This was especially true after being exposed to what design could be, smart, funny and conceptual. My recent pleasure was seeing that esthetic all around me, in the most mundane of places like a modernist factory building making a bold statement in the Danish countryside. And this was not one isolated factory, mostly all of the industrial architecture on the road from Copenhagen to Aarhus was an architectural statement- strong, bold and colorful.

Photokinas Visual Gallery with works by Stephan Zirwes (left) and Sebastian Riemer.

My trip began in Cologne (or Kƒ ¶ln) at the opening of a show I had in that city. I was also at Photokina were one of the exhibit halls was The Visual Gallery space featuring current European photography. Those galleries had bold new work and gave me a sense of what European photographers were doing. One in particular is the aerial photographer Stephan Zirwes who shoots his high resolution images with a Hasselblad out of a helicopter. These exceptionally detailed images create intensely graphic photographs reminiscent of a Joseph Albers painting in their optical effect. The one image that is not an aerial is of scaffolding on a column that is a symphony of line, light and shadow; it appears to vibrate.

Another photographer featured there was Sebastian Riemer. His work also deals with perception and verges on the conceptual. His intensely graphic images reveal a subdued image beneath. You have to look through the surface to find a deeper secondary meaning such as the speakers of a loudspeaker underneath the grill. His images deal with not only perception, but they play on realities and the role of photographys intrinsic nature to document.

Fashion designs at the Dƒ ¼sseldorf Airport.

After Cologne I was in the Dƒ ¼sseldorf airport while making my way to Copenhagen. At the airport, in empty storefront, were the winners of a fashion forward design competition from the Akademie Mode & Design. You would rarely if ever find something like that in the US, the country of consumerism.

All the designs used the same felt like fabric reducing the work to its structural elements. Each work became a sculpture and not just a dress; it was as much a play of engineering and architecture as it was of fashion design. The fabric was cut and shaped to make not a fashion statement, but also a structural statement. They were striking. I wanted to see these pieces fully executed and on the runways of Milan or Paris.

In Copenhagen, I stayed at the Tivoli Hotel which was under construction. The lobby looked like a bomb hit it and the rooms were ridiculously small. The bright side was my view of the exterior plaza which was also still under construction. The architecture was smart, the skylights for the portico below became glowing pyramids for the second floor plaza. The very dramatic area was designed for outdoor social events. It extended in front of the building all the way across the street, giving people an easy way to get across the street with busy traffic.

The roof deck of the Tivoli Plaza Hotel.

Many of the light fixtures in the hotel were a little garish (like the balls in the outdoor pyramids). I believe this was because of the hotels thematic association with its slightly Disney-like namesake (Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park in the city). That said many other light fixtures were textural wonders. The lights upstairs in the Sticks and Sushi restaurant, in particular, used different fabrics in different fixtures to create either a translucence textural feel or a black void of light outside the fixture. The black lights glowed from within, radiating their light straight down as they appear to float in negative space.

The translucent lights above the dinning area at the Sticks and Sushi rooftop restaurant.

The last time I was in the city, I stayed in a small section that I had not realized was actually outside of the city leading me to believe Copenhagen was small and not very interesting. On this trip I had almost a week in the city and discovered its true mix of modern and traditional beauty.

A Xeon sign designed by David Lynch and exhibited in the courtyard at his show at the GL Strand Museum in Copenhagen.

One of the most memorable things was the David Lynch exhibit at the GL Strand, not far from the new harbor area of the city. GL Strand is a historic (by LA standards anyway!) 4 story building and the work was incorporated into the courtyard and the upper floors. Downstairs was a installation piece by Danish artist Erik A. Frandsen. The work was a play on European culture and the esthetic I have been so enamored with here: contemporary art playing it off of a traditional reference.

The neon fixtures at the Erik A. Frandsen exhibit at GL Strand.

Erik A. Frandsens work consisted of three neon light fixtures that were almost global representations of the confusing mix of world cultures done in the best of pop-art style. The polished inner globe on the inside reflects the neon light on the outside repeating the pattern of light. The room itself then repeated the pattern again with its mirrored walls. The mirrors were reminiscent of those used in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. They were used to give the room an additional grandeur and a larger sense of space. The hook was, the wall was not made of mirrors, it was polished stainless steel and had decorative floral designs ground into the steel with a grinder. The effect was a play on the decorative, the modern and the conceptual. The flowers in particular gave a sense of European Tulips which tie the piece to its origin.

The ground Stainless Steel walls at the GL Strand.

While walking through the museum I spied the conference room called the Salen which was decorated as a modernist art installation designed by artist Kirstine Roepstorff. The Formica table and the curtains were reminiscent of more modernist Rauschenberg, all set in the context of a very tradition historic building.

The Salen at the GL Strand in Copenhagen.

The Salen at the GL Strand in Copenhagen.

Next, I was off to Maastricht in The Netherlands. I was lecturing at the Museum Bonnefantenmuseum. I stayed at an inn called the Galerie Hotel Dis. It was appropriately named because the first floor was an art gallery consisting of paintings, rubber light fixtures and functional art furniture. The furniture was by an artist named Partrick Schols and reminded me of the some of the furniture design pieces I saw as a kid at the MOMA because of their use of progressive materials.

A light fixture by artist Jƒ ¼rgen Reichert next to a painting in the hallway of the Galerie Hotel Dis.

The beauty of my trip was the design surprise factor while walking around. One moment you pass traditional house after house and then you see a building that has its bricks ripped away to reveal the modern glass interior of the build. The building was done in such a way to make the arched windows, that would normally be the structural support of the building, appear to float weightlessly within the wall of the building. This was a beautifully surreal illusion. Additionally, the mechanics of the interior were designed in such a way that they protected the interior structure from the elements without requiring additional awnings or covers.

A traditional Dutch building in Maastricht cut away  to reveal the modern interiors glass structure.

Another design encounter was this last image. It illustrates this idea of playful contemporary design and exists in a simple passageway. Florescent tubes were covered with green gels and installed in an alternating series of angles to make the passageway a combination of Star Trek Lighting and Dutch bicycle culture. The real surprise is how well it worked together.

A passage way to an interior courtyard used for bicycle storage.

My trip made me want to live in Europe for a while, or at least visit a whole lot more. Besides the great design, they really appreciate the other arts, like photography just as passionately.‚   – Michael


Photo Travelogue – Brazil

November 30th, 2010

I recently spoke at the Brazilian National Photography Congress in Sao Paulo. The event was held in one of the modernist buildings of the Memorial da America Latina in the heart of the city. The text and images below are my impressions of the city over my four day stay.

I love the color and the textures of Sao Paulo, created by the starkly contrasting light. The sun is either bright, hot and white, or orange and heavy like butter. The bright light exposes the citys color lines and contrasts. There are people in the street with red hair, bright clothes and a patterned backpack, or red buses, red sidewalks, and blue fountains that fill my vision. The heavy light from rain or the sunset mutes the colors into a series of patterns. The rain makes an abstract symphony of the telephone lines of the city, or the late heavy sky helps shape the buildings from my window (and the tar on the street).‚   -Michael

A fountain outside a store downtown with a flier of Brazilian President-elect Dilma Vana Rousseff, stuck to the tiles.

A passer by walks across brightly colored access panels on the downtown Sao Paulo streets.

A red bus intersects a subway station that reflects the clouds in downtown Sao Paulo.

A rainy street in a suburban neighborhood.

A pattern in the tar outside the Memorial da America Latina.

The view from my hotel room at sunset.