LIFE + FILM PHOTOGRAPHY WITH PIERRE
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."