Photographer Interview: George Pitts

Photographer George Pitts by Chip Willis
Photographer George Pitts has had an illustrious career as a fine art photographer, painter, writer and former Director of Photography at LIFE and Vibe magazines - not to mention his Assistant Professor and Associate Chair of Photography positions at Parsons The New School of Design.

George is currently working on a coffee table book for Taschen Books on mature women 35 years of age and older. He is looking for subjects in this age range who are open to being photographed for portraits, partial nudes, and nudes.  Contact George via his website or Facebook.

D&B: Where are you from?
GP: I was born in Sewickley, PA.

D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started - any "formal" training?
GP: I shoot Fine Art Photography, although that term is problematic. I also shoot Editorial and Fashion work.

I studied Photography in prep school, at The Verde Valley School. I was a painter for over 20 years, then took up Photography again on behalf of my Painting, and subsequently moved on to being a serious photographer during my career at VIBE magazine, shooting strictly for myself initially, and then was offered my first Editorial jobs with Paper magazine, Raygun,, and The New York Times Magazine.

Tanya by Photographer George Pitts

D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use?

GP: I have 3 Mamiya C 330 Cameras, and 2 Polaroid 600 SE Cameras. I work with Available Light, and also mix Available Light with Profoto Strobes most often diffused with a Beauty Dish and Honeycomb Grid, and I've also utilized a Softbox or umbrella.

D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
GP: No one officially mentored me, but friend and photographer Jeff Riedel loaned me his relative's Mamiya C 330 camera for a year, which contributed to my enthusiasm for this camera.

Influences tend to have a different effect than Mentors; and influences include artists who practice Art, Photography, Music, Filmmaking, Literature, Theater, Philosophy, and the Philosophical Activism or Research associated with Feminism, Civil Rights work, and Queer Theory.

If I could create a Template of my Influences it would entail:

1. The narrative structures represented by Film directors such as: Jacques Rivette, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean-Claude Brisseau, and Catherine Breillat; and the painters Manet and Balthus.

2. The use of Color exemplified in the cinematography of films by director Jacques Rivette, the paintings of Manet, the photographs of Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Guy Bourdin, and the Art direction seen in diverse practices exemplified by divergent figures and genres such as: Douglas Sirk, Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal, fashion, and documentary work.

3. Too many artists and art works to mention inform and inspire my choice of Subject matter, but a few of them include: Lady Hawarden, Luis Bunuel, Catherine Breillat, Diane Arbus, Helmut Newton, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Manet, Virginia Woolf and Djuna Barnes, Balthus, Alfred Hitchcock, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Ingmar Bergman, and David Lynch.

4. The elusive quality of Mood is most likely informed by the various kinds of Music I enjoy or which my subjects enjoy, such as: Nina Simone, Lhasa, Miles Davis, Vanessa Daou, Scott Walker, the glam rock maestros: Roxy Music, Bowie, Grace Jones; Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, opera, classical music, Blues, electronic music, Indian music, avant-garde Latin and Tango music, and the German Art songs of Kurt Weill.

Music suffuses a location with sound and emotional color, and when I shoot, there is as often silence as there is music. Mood is also informed by the use of Light, or Light and Dark (Shadows) and those influences include filmmakers, painters and photographers.

Renee by Photographer George Pitts

D&B: Have you experienced any setbacks or different treatment along your photography career that you would attribute to being a photographer of color? (this question is optional)
GP: Setbacks are inherent in the practice of photography as far as I can see if one is doing fine art or personal work. Working with human subjects is exhilarating and sometimes daunting... and the technical demands are considerable.

D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your
journey towards becoming a working photographer.

GP: I didn't so much envision a career in photography per se; but I've always gravitated toward the Art life. Working in different mediums is now commonplace in the Arts, and I entered this field knowing that the Arts were my primary passion; and the radical differences between Painting, Film, and Photography became my central concerns.

D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?

GP: a. I want to publish a number of coffee table size books with beautiful photographs.

b. I want to continue showing my photographs all over the world, whether in magazines, anthologies, exhibitions, The Internet, or Art books.

c. I'd like people of different cultures, regions, and walks of life to see my photographs.

d. I hope to contribute to photography as an art form, and as a central creative practice that is crucial to our engagement with the world and with the self. Whether the image is temporal and light as a feather, or enduring with the gravity of experience and observation, I want to create photographs that resonate with my consciousness.

Melanie by Photographer George Pitts

D&B: What's your dream photography project?

GP: My dream photography project would be to take photographs whenever it suited me, and picture by picture to construct an aesthetic world that reflects and represents the cultural richness, emotional complexity, and sensual magnetism of Women, and of art itself.

D&B: What's the biggest (life) lesson you've learned through photography?

GP: It helps to have the capacity for kindness, as well as a mind flexible enough to relate to legions of people. Having said that, one must still take the picture, and remain as conscious as possible of all that occurs in time and in the moment, both technically and aesthetically, that contributes toward a memorable photograph.

George Pitts' photographs have been published in The New York Times Magazine,, New York Magazine, S Magazine, aRude, Pilfered, Louchelink, Werk #5 (contemporary art anthology including artists such as Nobuyoshi Araki), Vice, ZOO, Complex, Karin + Raoul, Latina, Esquire, Entrevue, Details, Bunnie (issues 1 and 2), The Washington Post, Clam,, Nerve magazine, Premiere, Spin, Talk, Raygun, Paper, Photoshelter/Shoot Blog, Manhattan File, Voidek, Tally Ho, Stereotype, Gotham, Fabulous, The London Sun,  The News-of-the-World, E Design; and the following books: “The New Erotic Photography” (Taschen Books, 2007),  “American Photography: Volumes 16, 18, 19,  20, 21, 23, and 24 (2008 edition)” (D.A.P. pub.);  “Real Vixens” (Edition Skylight, 2009), “Fetish Dreams” (Edition Skylight, Switzerland, 2008), “Masterminds of Mode: International Fashion Festival in Japan” (2000); “Nerve: The New Nude” (Chronicle Books); “Scars” (Great Britain); “Nerve: The First Ten Years,” (Chronicle Books, 2008), The Graphis Photo Annual 2000.  

Next Photographer Interview on Dodge & Burn: Manjari Sharma

Read previous interviews with:
Neelakshi Vidyalankara (London, UK)
María Fernanda Hubeaut (Argentina)
Elia Alba (NYC)
Jaime Permuth (Guatemala)
William Vazquez (NYC/Puerto Rico)


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