EWW: What photographer, past or present, has been an inspiration to you and your work? Why?
Jo Ann: We have been collaborating and making photographs together since the early 1970’s. So the list of photographers that have inspired us is too long to mention. In fact, it is never ending as we discover the great work of others past and present. For example Ansel Adams, William Clift from the past and more contemporary photographers such as Mitch Dobrowner.
George: For me there have been two primary artistic epiphanies in my life. The first was when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show after which I learned guitar and have been songwriting and composing ever since. The second was when we saw our first Ansel Adams exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1972. Neither of us had ever seen images like these. To see them in person was a life changing experience for the both of us. Photography has been a part of who we are ever since.
EWW: Excluding subject matter, are there themes that consistently run from one work to the other such as colors, perspective, lighting, movement, style, etc.?
Jo Ann: Coming from the so called “West Coast school” of photography we have always been drawn to dramatic natural and existing light situations and strove to create images of broad tonal range, contrast and sharpness. Now, we find our work is evolving from seeing the world with clarity and definition to something much more contemplative, fluid, and abstract.
George: Adding to Jo Ann’s comments, in our latest project, “Still Motion”, we have begun adding the combination of time and motion to the “mix”. We use several techniques to make these images but each involves capturing the subject over time and interpreting the resulting motion into a single image. The addition of both movement and time seems to add a touch of drama and mystery which, for whatever reason, we enjoy and find aesthetically appealing.
EWW: What do you look for in deciding on what to shoot or what digital image you decide to continue working with?
Jo Ann: With our latest project, “Still Motion”, we look for subject matter and compositions that will work well with long exposures, camera movement or time-lapse sequences that we can stack into single images.
George: This is a rather subjective matter for me. One thing is for sure. We do not create lots of images when we are out making photographs. Instead, something about what we are looking at has to motivate us creatively and at some undefinable aesthetic and emotional level that compels us to plant the tripod and go to work.
EWW: I am curious to know if someone were asked to make a comment about your work as a whole, what do you think they would say?
Jo Ann: Well of course whether “they” like the work or not is an individual subjective opinion which I would never presume applies “as a whole”. So I am not sure how to answer this question. Having said that, all I really can do is hope some people can appreciate what we attempt to convey in our images whether aesthetically, conceptually, or best of all, both.
George: Unless they post or actually answer that question who really knows what an individual may think, right? It’s art. So, some will like it, some will hate it and the majority will probably be indifferent. Each for different reasons. And, you know what? That’s perfectly okay. What’s your favorite song, or movie? It’s probably not mine. That’s a good thing about art. If it touches you in some way, great. If not, maybe the next piece will.
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EWW: What would be your comments about your work, as a whole?
Jo Ann: We attempt to create images that are more interpretive that literal, capturing a feeling or mood while revealing the essence of the subject.
George: I totally agree with what Jo Ann has said. I would only add over the past several years we have been working hard to expand our visual horizon through experimentation and exploring the making of more conceptual and abstract images.
EWW: Many of your images are in Black and White. When do you use black and white versus color?
Jo Ann: It used to be that all of our personal images were in black and white as opposed to our commercial work which was all in color. That changed with the transition from film to digital capture. Now, some images work better for us in black and white while color becomes a key element in others. It all comes down to the mood or impact we are trying to create.
George: Aah, “to color or not to color”? That used to be the question. The choice used to be an easy question because in the “old days” the limitations in color processes constrained the image to a more literal rendering whereas black and white offered vastly more creative options. Now with modern technology the use of color is much more flexible and available for manipulation to achieve a creative end. So, it is no longer as simple a decision. The decision to go with color or black and white is now just one of many factors going into the creation of the final image.
EWW: Generally speaking, in your opinion which tends to be more impactful – Black/White or color?
Jo Ann: This is no longer the question for us. It is the image in its entirety that is or is not impactful. The image either works or it doesn’t regardless of whether it is in color or black and white. Put another way, the choice of color or black and white is just one of the many tools in our “artist’s toolbox” to help us make an impactful image.
George: The real question for us has been how can we transform this documentary medium into an impactful interpretative art form? How do we move from literal “picture taking” to conceptual “image making”? When it comes to the decision between color or black and white it is not really a matter of which is more impactful in general but rather which is more impactful for the particular image.
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EWW: What do you see, or have experienced, as the most effective way for you to market and promote you and your work?
Jo Ann: We try to meet a lot of people in person and online. We also give talks about our work whenever we have the opportunity.
George: Currently, we are reaching out to meet more photographers than we have in the past. As a past president and board member of the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center, Inc. in Sacramento I also believe in supporting the photographic community. That is worthwhile in its own right. Participating and contributing your time also helps people to learn about you and your commitment to the art form. We also are doing more workshops of our own and participating in others.
EWW: What is your philosophy about social Media. Do you use social media platforms to market and promote your work? If you do, which social media platform seems to work the best for you?
Jo Ann: I believe participation in social media is both necessary and a good way to promote yourself. We both have our own Facebook accounts and have a dedicated Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/aiellostudios/) that we are just now beginning to promote. I must say we don’t care for some of Facebook’s policies though. So, for example, we make sure all the images we post there include our branding.
George: Having been in the web business for over 20 years, I advocate that the online home base is the artist’s website. I (and others) think of the website as the hub of a wheel and everything else you do to promote yourself is a spoke of that wheel. The goal is to get people to move down the spokes to the website hub. The various social media services make up some of those spokes. I guess that’s more of a metaphor than a philosophy but it is a good way to look at how the marketing pieces can fit together. While we are most active on Facebook, we plan to increase our online profile with a few other services including Twitter and possibly Instagram.
EWW: Just to wrap up this interview, do you have any final thoughts about you and your work that you think would be important for others to know about?
Jo Ann: I approach our work with the goal of creating compelling fine art images that express our personal vision. We attempt to capture the subtle moods of landscapes and the essence that remains in abandoned places.
George: Probably the singular thing about us that seems to confuse some in the photographic art world is that all of our work is a true collaboration. It has been from the beginning including our commercial work. From subject selection to composition, to camera settings, to post production and printing we collaborate on each image from beginning to end. For us, it is a very natural thing probably because we’ve been together since high school. As a result, we sign our prints, simply “Aiello”. We know it is rare in the visual arts (but becoming less so over time) but collaboration in other art forms is very common. Think of music, for example, where you have Rogers and Hammerstein, Lennon and McCartney and hundreds of others. We love working and living together. It is simply who we are.
Speaking on behalf of myself and Jo Ann, thank you for this interview opportunity with EWW. We greatly appreciate it.