Candid Interview With John Molligo Photographer And Cinematographer
Enjoy this informative and personal artist interview with Boise, Idaho based photographer and cinematographer John Molligo.
Q: Can you recall the first photo you took that made you go WOW!?
A: A long exposure of headlights coming down a road at night. I did it for a photo class, and it is the first image that I shot, processed, and printed. It is a one of my favorites and got an A+.
Q: Do you like to talk about yourself or your pictures? If yes, about what aspects of photography? If no, why?
A: I like to talk about my pictures. Why someone likes or doesn’t like them – and the technical aspects for those who are interested.
Q: How would you describe your attention span?
A: Depends – I can be easily bored, but not when image making – then it is unlimited.
Q: When did you decide to become a photographer?
A: Generally around 1969 or so, professionally in 1984.
Q: What does photography mean to you?
A: With the exception of my wife and son, it means everything to me.
Q: Do you have any formal training regarding photography?
A: I took some community college and art school courses. I also spent a couple years assisting photographers in New York City. I’ve read probably every common and some not some so common books on photography, cinematography, and photographic processes.
Q: How technical is your photography?
A: It varies, depending on the shot. From snapshot technique – all the way to full blown shots with calculations, measurements, and all the little insane things worked out to the smallest detail.
Q: How do you feel about cropping?
A: I generally shoot full frame. But if cropping makes the image, you should crop.
Q: Where is your favorite place to live and work as a photographer in the World and why?
A: New York City. Endless subject matter and unlimited opportunity.
Q: Define the word “beauty”!
A: It’s in the eye of the beholder.
Q: What is your most favorite and least favorite word in photography or life? How do they make you feel?
A: Most favorite might be Lens (I love optics and am constantly studying them – along with their effects, particular perspectives in different situations, and bokeh). Film is also my favorite word, as it means a chance
to create. Digital may be my least favorite; as I think it has taken all the thrill and a lot of the craftsmanship out of the medium (people don’t even bother to focus anymore).
Q: How does your personality change when you look through the camera?
A: I’m happy – I have a reason to live. I am also pretty much tuned out to everything else.
Q: How do you feel about missed shots which cannot be recreated?
A: I try not to cry over spilled milk, but it does nag at you a bit (some more than others).
Q: Ever concerned about failure?
A: Constantly, since birth.
Q: Who are your influences?
A: I don’t know if I have influences, really – when I started out I didn’t know enough to even have any. But Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus, I think, are my favorite of many photographers I admire (also Avedon to
Q: What is your favorite image, either your own or someone else’s or both? Describe its creation or meaning to you?
A: That’s a tough question – but I think it is a shot I did of my wife at an artist’s easel, painting while holding our son in her lap (just a little after he was born). It was done in natural window light and is a very beautiful portrait.
Q: Describe a day in your personal or professional life.
A: That’s too boring to describe. A good day is one that I spend a lot of time behind a camera.
Q: What are the biggest personal or professional challenges you face on a daily basis?
A: Surviving. Neither my wife or I have much in the way of family support, and photography is a tough field for a working man.
Q: What has been the single biggest obstacle against growing as a photographer in whole?
A: Living in one of the worst eras (economically, socially, and artistically) imaginable (1980-present).
Q: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
A: I love photographing everything or anything, but I think I enjoy people and animals the most.
Q: Tell your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, most touching story from a photo shoot!
A: I think it may have been the time I was photographing in a blizzard in Massachusetts (24 inch snow storm). The site of some fool running around in this incredible snow storm, snapping photos and constantly trying to wipe snow and water off the lens, must have looked pretty ridiculous. I’ll probably think up a better one after I’m done with this, but that’s the one that pops to mind.
Q: Have you ever thought about or actually stopped doing photography? What were the circumstances?
A: Yes, a couple times. Usually at times when the work is not coming out like you want and when it becomes difficult to get any work done at all. More so lately, as it’s becoming more difficult to work with film, and as more and more mediocre work is being accepted as art.
Q: Do you ever have photographer’s block and if yes how do you deal with it?
A: Yes, and the only solution I know of is to shoot your way out of it (get back to snapshots if necessary).
Q: What types of assignments are you attracted most?
A: Anything illustrative or photojournalistic in nature.
Q: Describe what black and white photography means to you?
A: When done with film, I think it’s the purest form of photography – simple silver images; light and shade. Often times I think they tend to be the most beautiful to look at (especially in the long term).
Q: Do you think of yourself as an artist and what do you think of the word artist?
A: At this point I suppose I do think of myself as an artist; several people over the years, whose opinions I respect, have called me an artist, and it is a great feeling (so I don’t mind agreeing with them). I guess the word artist is like the word genius – it has a relative meaning and is used too frequently.
Q: How do you describe your photographic style?
A: It’s hard to describe. I literally try to write with light, as an author writes with a typewriter (or pencil or PC or whatever) – so maybe illustrative? I rarely do things the same way twice and each photograph I do is usually different in light, comp, and approach.
Q: What has been the most surprising or most predictable reaction to your photographs?
A: The most predicable is that lots of have been rejected from various publications and venues. The most surprising was when Eastman Kodak put one of mine up in Time Square in NY (i’ve never seen one of mine so large before).
Q: Tell a little secret about yourself that no-one knows …
A: I’m incredibly shy and have difficulty talking to people (strange trait for a photographer, isn’t it?).
Q: Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven’t already?
Q: What would you have done differently during your photography career so far and could this be an advice to others?
A: Found a way to get papers. I never had enough money to attain a real degree in Photography or Photojournalism and I think it would be a lot easier to work in the field if I had them.
Q: What are your thoughts on the paparazzi and their effects on photographers and photography?
A: They represent greed in photography in the purest form. Making images for money’s sake with no regard to who is exploited or hurt, and, obviously little quality consideration. RIP Diana.
Q: How do you feel about digital manipulation and to what extent do you utilize it?
A: I don’t use it at all. I feel Photoshop and all that is a separate art form from what I do. If it’s how you create you art, more power to you, but I’ve personally found it wholly uninspiring and often far too contrived.
Q: What other thoughts would you like to share?
A: I’d like to see people start being excellent to other again. Throw away all your plastic toys and gadgets for a while and start getting to know each other. I’d like to see the human race try to stay human.
Visit his ModelMayhem profile.