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GUSTO35 ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN ARMSTRONG


The first trip from his hometown Petaluma, California, to Europe that Dan Franco can remember happened when he was 13 years old. His parents, both immigrants from Bogota, Colombia, had family in Lago Maggiore, Italy. His parents gave him a disposable camera for the trip.

"When we got back, I really treasured those photographs. Being able to see a photo I took in Italy, I was like, this isn't something I see every day. That was mind-blowing to me. Like, oh man, this is beautiful. I'm literally capturing these vivid memories from my life, and I can almost remember the memory better. And then I realized, whoa, I live 40 minutes away from San Francisco. One of the most beautiful cities in the world. My dad works there. I just started sneaking out behind their backs when I was 13, 14. I would take the bus that's a block away from my house for an hour and a half long to go to the city, and I would tell them I was at a friend's house, but I was really shooting photos because I was obsessed with it."

His parents' love for traveling, and how much he traveled in his childhood as a result, gave him a deeper appreciation for what was out there. He borrowed his cousin's Canon T1i to learn how to capture it all. "I borrowed it for so long that, at a certain point, it was just my camera. That was the same camera that initially got me paid for the first time, and I ended up saving up  for my own camera from that."

Dan enjoyed "the joy of being new at something" and labor of learning, of getting better with the camera, experimenting with different exposures and lenses. His parents were strict, but they relaxed when they saw their son doing something he loved that was turning into something bigger. "It came to the point where I started skating, and I realized that there was a lot more to the world than the suburbs and sports. I just was lucky from my parents' perspective, knowing they had been all over. I was just curious, and I guess photography and that curiosity merged together."

The biggest obstacle came from within, though. He struggled to "find a voice through art" and realizes looking back now that he went through several phases before he finally discovered his distinctive style two or three years into shooting.

 "Once I found what really spoke to me, then I was able to make the most of that. The biggest struggle was constantly doubting myself, but at least now I have a foundation of what I like. The hardest part was just figuring out what made my stuff, my stuff. What gave it that authenticity?"

He found that his style was in how he colored his images. "I always liked dark nostalgia but with a lot of vibrances. I know those two are kind of juxtapositions of each other, but ... I think something about that contrast, it just gives it a whole different deal."

After settling into a style and finding his creative groove, which he presents through photography and a clothing line named Never Lose Your Aura, the external validation naturally followed. "It's hard for me to consistently remind myself that a number on an app is real people. It's crazy when I meet people or when I'd get people reaching out, like, 'Man, I love this. I made this [photo] my background.' Seeing people, actually, even at school, wearing my stuff, seeing it in physical form, I think that was like, and to this day, it makes my day if I see anybody wearing my stuff. ... These people actually care, and it inspires them, and they want to go out and make something similar. It's that never-ending cycle I'm implementing an idea into someone else's mind, and then they might do that for 10 other people."

He believes he was meant to do this. Give people an escape, even if it's just to get lost in one of his photos for five or 10 seconds. But he is aware of the realities that come with making art and inspiring people for a living. "Finding the balance between staying true to yourself creatively and making a living and being an adult. It's very easy to say stay true to art, but a lot of times, you have to find a nice middle." And he's putting that into practice. "I'm creative directing for this data privacy company, and that's not necessarily my forte, but I think what's cool about it is they're giving me full creative control. Having a job where you can meet in the middle, and you might not love whatever they're selling personally, but being able to brand it in a way where I might love it is the challenge, and I think that's what makes it special. Being able to add a twist to something, finding a balance between work and play and being able to enjoy play more."

There's perhaps nothing he loves more than playing with film, and the process is just as precious as the final product. "I love my relationship with film. Over the years, it's just progressed a lot from going with a 35mm to now shooting a lot of medium format. It comes in waves. Super 8, Super 16, that sort of aesthetic is something you can't buy. It's just something you have to learn how to do. ... The way it looks is just as important as the way it feels when you're shooting it. It's like when you go to get coffee. I think it's just as important going to get coffee as the coffee itself."


GUSTO35 ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN ARMSTRONG

Pierre grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. The area is known by locals as New York City's sixth borough because it is isolated from the heart of Queens, and this could be used as a metaphor for how Pierre felt within his surroundings as a child. “You grow up in the hood, you’re supposed to be somebody who’s already smoking, drinking, robbing. You’re mad nice in ball, or you’re mad nice at rap. There’s all these archetypes with growing up where I grew up at, and then you aren't really fitting in those molds. So I think that was probably my biggest obstacle, finding who I really am.”

He participated in some of the typical activities—attending church, playing ball, going to movies, going to parties—but he felt most at home when creating other worlds. “I would write little plays and perform it for my family members. … When I got into junior high school, high school, we had computers. Internet started being a thing. I would go online a lot, and playing video games also was very big in my development. At one point in time, I got so heavy into role-playing games. I discovered this program called RPG Maker, and then essentially I would just legit make my own RPG. My own stories. So it took the storytelling part that I did as a kid with writing these short plays into actually seeing them acted out using these characters in the video game.”

Pierre went to St Johns University to continue studying television and film with the intention of producing, but after graduating college, he noticed a shift in the industry and wanted to take advantage. “People were able to create short films or dope video content using DSLRs.” He had disposable cameras, and even some film cameras, growing up that he used to shoot his older sisters with, but he didn't start considering his relationship to the camera until this point.

So he used the money he saved from his 9-to-5 job AT AHRC to buy his first camera, a CANON EOS 7D. “It felt like the beginning of something actually. I feel like the whole time I was in college, it was just me getting used to even using these technical things, these visual tools. And then, me actually getting it was like, ‘Holy shit, I have it in my hands. Now I have the power to create this stuff.’ Before that, I really didn’t have that power. I was using my camera phone, or actually, I would even rent Panasonic DVX100s from this not-for-profit.”

It wasn’t until nine or 10 years ago that Pierre transitioned from shooting digitally to shooting with film: “I had a lot of homies who were into film, and they would tell me how shooting with film affects your thinking process. It’s a little bit more thought out than it is when you shoot digital. I’m like, ‘Alright, I kind of want to tap into that mentality.’ Take a step back. Not just be go, go, go, but be more thoughtful, more reserved. I feel like film was the first tool that gave me that sense.” 

He researched online, on eBay, for the right film camera to take the plunge with. Finally, he went to a store out of town and invested around $400 in a Fujifilm Klasse. The world opened up to him. “When I finally got my film developed, I was just like, ‘Damn.’ … That gap in time to get my finished product made me grow an appreciation for what I was shooting. The fact I knew it was less shots made me way more thought, way more careful with the shots I was taking. … I really connected with that process.”

Pierre has become more thoughtful not just with the footage he shoots but with the direction of his life’s work. “I hate to say I’m a person who is never satisfied because that holds a negative connotation, but I’m never satisfied in the sense that I’m not where my new goals are. I already reached my first goal, which was making this my career, which is a big goal for a lot of people. I don’t take it lightly. I’m here now, and I’m able to, like, survive off my camera. I’ve traveled the world because of my camera. But now, I’m here, I’ve done it for a bit, what’s next?”

It shouldn’t be surprising that the kid who loved writing plays and creating his own role-play video games grew into a man aspiring to make a motion picture with film. "It really shows when something is really good, it can stand the test of time. Some of the images I shoot on my medium format, I don’t think I could ever get on my digital. It’s not the same. It doesn’t have the same kind of soul or essence that the film has."

Whatever Pierre creates next, it will come from the heart. "The camera then was a tool to, at first, create, then it became a form of business and sustainability, and the camera now has become something that I use to create the things that I love as opposed to doing things that I have to do to make ends meet."

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GUSTO35 ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

WRITTEN BY ALEC WELSH

Krissy describes growing up in Irvine, California as "Kind of hard". This is because the town is so academically orientated, "Everyone has the same goal and that's to go strait to a four year college". Her father was an engineer which allowed her to be introduced to the more technological aspects of her interests. At a young age, she was coding her own websites for early forms of social media like Neo-pets and Myspace. Her mother on the other hand "Loved video games". Which she believes was what began her interest for sitting behind a screen editing photographs.

Another perk to her parents was they always supported her interests and hobbies, although they still wanted to start small to see if it was just a phase. When she asked for Photoshop software as a Christmas present, they got her the most basic and cost effective option. "I felt a little limited but I loved it". At the age of thirteen she was taking pictures of all her friends in middle school.

"I would spend all weekend editing, I didn't have a social life at all". Insisting that "My best friend was my computer and my camera". Though she loved improving her craft, entering high school Krissy states: "I had to be realistic because that what everyone in Irvine was doing, being realistic". When it comes to her peers, the majority of them wanted to be engineers or doctors which made the self-doubt of creating such a career. Being the intelligent person she is, she wanted to understand what made her love photography so much. If it wasn't going to be what she did for a living, she was going to do something close. "I do love helping people, I do love talking to people, I love people in general. So I think I will be a therapist".

Recognizing that this wasn't going to be a teen phase, her Father bought her a Nikon, her first serious DSLR. This elevated it her passion for shooting her friends and editing the product. "I was horrible, it was okay though...I thought I was good" But she felt most rewarded when her friends would use her photographs as their profile pictures for their Facebook profiles. "I felt very happy with photography and how I could make others feel through my photos. It almost felt like I was being a therapist through a camera".

This is when she decided that this was going to be a career despite being daunted by the superiority of Los Angeles. She started small with weddings and senior portraits but it wasn't long before her talent and passion set her miles apart from the rest. During her senior year, Krissy took a workshop instructed by a successful fashion photographer where they were learning advanced lighting techniques. One of the tasks was to take a picture of the instructor using a reflector which she later enjoyed so much she posted it to her own instagram, which then lead her to ask Krissy if she wanted to intern for her. "It felt huge".

Quickly, she learned Instagram is more of a tool for brand development, more so than typical social media. From there she was shooting a lot for a popular Italian fashion labels but wasn't getting paid; "I didn't know better". Despite this she was gaining real experience and getting seen by real brands. Krissy was PacSun's very first social media photographer and from there she worked with Seventeen Magazine. "They asked me to shoot a spread for them". Which they were so impressed with they awarded her Photographer of the Year, then Teen Vogue was hitting her up to be interviewed, and from there; "It was a domino effect, I felt like I was on top of the world".

People began to grow curious as to why she wasn't shooting on film considering the aesthetic of her digital was so much like it. Although Krissy admits; "I was too lazy to learn for some reason, I don't know why I didn't want to push myself". This atypical behavior didn't last long though "I decided I was going to learn completely on my own but all my rolls were coming out blank". After looking at a few online tutorials she started to get some results but they weren't exactly what she wanted. Krissy decided to phone a friend that taught her the ways. "After I saw the finished product... I fell in love with film".

Nowadays Krissy shoots ninety percent on film, warming up brands on the idea of it as she moves forward with her career. "More people are getting employed because of film... I don't think it will ever replace digital but I think a lot of companies will go to film, and a lot of magazines and editorials will go to film which is really exciting".

Although Krissy's first film camera was a hand-me-down from a family friend, she recommends starting much like how her parents taught her - "Start with disposables to get a taste of film, then go to a point and shoot, and eventually to something like a Canon AE-1" She recommends purchasing these types at B&H, Amazon or eBay because "They will back you if something doesn't work".

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