My Teachers: Paul D'Amato

If there is one person keeping film manufacturers in business it is Paul D’Amato. I know Paul drinks coffee but it does little to explain his energy and ability to produce in a super human capacity. It’s not uncommon for Paul to return from a weekend trip of shooting with 80 rolls of film, and 300 sheets of 4×5. In class he would describes this attribute as ‘visual greediness’. Though this does little to explain his obsessiveness when in his spare time he: surfs year round on any wave he can find in Lake Michigan (there are some); devours critical writing on art and photography; does editorial work; and lovingly tortures his son with water pistols on hot summer days, (in between watching Red Sox games). He somehow performs all this effortlessly and his photographs exploring the south and west sides of Chicago also appear effortless while tackling tough social and political issues with a strong sense of humanism.
His visual greed did rub off. As did his example that the photograph could represent ones care and concern for the subject if constructed as such. It was in Paul’s class where many of the Copia pictures hit their stride and I believe that was because the atmosphere of the class.

Some notable Paul D’Amato moments:
• Paul arriving to an opening in February with ice in his hair from surfing in the lake.
• Him asking me ‘why not Yale’ as a grad school choice during my second semester.
• His explanation that nothing is more important to an artist than enjoying the process of making it. Above and beyond process is all one is left with.

Paul currently has an exhibit of his work up at the Daiter Contemporary Gallery here in Chicago until July 28th.
You hear Paul interviewed on Chicago Public Radio about his recent book, Barrio here.

Projects developed while in class with: copia, retail, writings.


  1. Posted June 7, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    One time in photography class at the Fogg Musuem at Harvard we viewed about 50 prints from various artists and Paul D’Amatos picture of the woman in a red bathing suit in bright blue water was there, needless to say it stole the show a little bit.

    I know what you mean about being in awe of teachers work ethic. I had Nick Nixon as a professor and remember him saying he would shoot and process 50-100 sheets of 8×10 a day sometimes. All that shooting gets you a lot of freedom with the frame and gets you a lot of pleasant surprises, and it seems to have something to do with the way many artists work today looks so clinicaly perfect, with film getting more and more expensive and the rejection of digital in contemporary art photography being prevalent.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted June 10, 2007 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    making me crazy. Isn’t this photo of the woman the same place where you took this photo?

  3. Posted June 10, 2007 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Not sure which one you’re referring to. But I haven’t been to any of these locations to photograph.

  4. Posted June 23, 2007 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Brian, Paul was my teacher in Maine. We learned to surf together. Your descriptions of him are right on. I’d like to know where he gets all that energy from too.

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