Q&A with...David Pisciotta, student winner of Fairfield Museum’s IMAGES photography contest
FAIRFIELD — Professional, amateur, and student photographers from Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts submit photos to the Fairfield Museum IMAGES photography contest each year.
Last year, Shelton native David Pisciotta won the student prize for Best in Show for his photo “Zion Sky.” This year, he did it again with his photo “Sunset in Mammoth Springs.”
While Pisciotta, 20, does not study photography at Housatonic Community College, where he attends school, he pursues his photographic ambitions on long road trips and under the tutelage of two area photographers, including Fairfield-based wedding photographer Nick Benson.
A 2015 graduate of Notre Dame High school in West Haven, Pisciotta goes by his mother’s last name Cadavid in his photographic work. Pisciotta primarily photographs landscapes, oftentimes from locations deep in the backcountry.
Pisciotta sat down to talk about how his interest in photography developed, when to know you’ve snapped a good shot, and why you’re only as good as your last photo. You can see Pisciotta’s award-winning photo, including his honorable mention photos, at the Fairfield Museum, along with other 47 IMAGES selections, until April 15 when the exhibit closes.
Q: How did you become interested in photography?
A: I really liked cars as a kid and would take pictures of cars at car shows around Connecticut.
I never really took it seriously until I took a road trip with my family nine years ago. Usually we’d take a big road trip every summer. Every year we ended up somewhere different, Idaho or something —We’re weird.
I had my sister’s camera. She had this Canon Rebel from Walmart. I used it and she wasn’t happy about it, said not to use it. For some reason it clicked and I couldn’t stop doing it.
Q: How do your IMAGES photos this year compare to the ones you submitted last year?
A: Last year I had really good photos and after that I thought there’s no way I’m going to have photos as good as this ever again in my life.
On my trip last summer I said I need to outdo myself somehow. I wasn’t expecting to do it, but in the back of my head, I always told myself that I don’t want my last best photo to be my last best photo. For some reason everything clicked and came together.
Q: Do you automatically know you’ve got a good shot when you take a photo?
A: Sometimes I do but usually I go through a process where I think yeah, this is going to be awesome, like the Milky Way photo. That one I thought was going to be cool from the beginning. But sometimes, months later, I’ll start to edit again just to see if there’s any hidden gems in there and that’s when I found the photo that won this year. I overlooked it twice.
Q: Who are your photography mentors?
A: One person, Ty Morin I met through Instagram. I saw his pictures on Instagram and thought they were cool and saw he was from Connecticut, (outside Hartford). At the time I didn’t know many people from Connecticut who took pictures and did video and I really liked his work and thought his projects were cool. I emailed him saying his stuff was cool and that I’d like to work with if he ever needed help. He emailed back saying he needed someone to help and would pay me. I’ve been working with him ever since.
He introduced me to Nick Benson, a wedding photographer in Fairfield, who I do work for as well.
Q: What are your career dreams?
A: I want to be doing something really crazy, like being out in the woods for an extended period of time like National Geographic photographers. It’s just miserable, but I’d probably love it because my favorite thing so far has been truly being out of my comfort zone taking pictures. For example, I did a photo project with the Navy Seal cadets. It was a training mission where they sailed from Long Island to Maine. Doing something where there’s a lot of danger involved, I think that would be cool.
I’m trying to focus on taking pictures in places you really have to work to get to. Like the Milky Way picture, that one I had to hike into the backcountry of the Grand Tetons to get to. No one else could have that picture. It was really exclusive to just me. It’s not like you could just pull off the highway.
There’s this one place called the San Juan Mountains in Colorado that is a small mountain range totally unique to the entire area. It’s really cool. That’s my next plan, to go there, spend a few days hiking the mountains and taking pictures.
Q: What advice do you have for people interested in photography?
A: I think people are looking too much on Instagram and copying people too much. I would tell them don’t do that and just take a camera and experiment. Don’t use ‘art’ as an excuse, too...I think people often use art as an excuse for not the best work. Keep in mind that there’s still an objectiveness to it and you still have to check all the boxes before you can get truly creative and break the rules.
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