JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you have for breakfast today?
CHRIS MOTTALINI: Huge breakfast this morning … fruit and granola, an avocado and ham sandwich, an iced coffee and an apple juice. And a couple cookies.
JC: Are there any emerging photographers who are inspiring you at the moment?
CM: I really like Ozant Kamaci’s photos of planes behind/hidden by trees. Really good, strange images. I also think Estelle Hanania’s work is great (also pretty strange). Other than that, I can’t say I’m too thrilled with a lot of the newer work I’ve been seeing lately. I guess I just like the old stuff the best.
JC: What is your current project all about?
CM: My project After You Left, They Took It Apart (Demolished Paul Rudolph Homes) will basically (unfortunately) never end. It’s a series of photographic preservations of now-demolished homes by the controversial Modernist architect Paul Rudolph. I document these homes just before they are torn down, capture a side of Modernism rarely seen and, in some way, preserve these homes. It’s my way of paying homage to Rudolph. Several other Rudolphs are currently slated for demolition and it looks like this project will continue for as long as people with money want to live in McMansions.
JC: What are the ideas behind The Mistake by the Lake and did you see a real development as you made more and more work for it?
CM: The Mistake by the Lake is a photographic record of the assortment of school bus stop shelters scattered across the greater-Buffalo, New York landscape. Local parents build these structures in order to protect their children from the notoriously brutal Buffalo winters. Though the shelters are created for a specific need, over time that need diminishes and these curious examples of amateur architecture are left to blend into their surroundings. They remain as reminders of ingenuity and past necessity.
The heart of this project is the documentation of the architectural products of human concern and emotion, with the classic American city of Buffalo – my hometown - as the backdrop.
As for the project’s development, I wanted it to serve as an ode to my hometown, but I wasn’t sure I would even be able to find enough of these shelters for it to be successful. I basically stayed at my Mom’s house for two months and would just drive around for hours each day, listening to music, drinking Tim Horton’s and just looking for more shelters. Some days I wouldn’t find any and others I’d find ten. I found one on my first day and when my time was up, I had found and photographed about eighty-five. I’m sure there are more, but I don’t know where.
JC: How did you find the editing process for making it into a publication? Was it something you find easy or difficult; is it a fast or slow process for you?
CM: I guess it depends. Sometimes I absolutely hate and struggle with the editing process. In the case of the Lozen-Up publication of The Mistake by the Lake, it was relatively easy, since the project had already been published in several magazines and I already had a solid edit.
I think that I lucked out, because I was able to edit each night, as the project progressed. Having to look through 1000 images all at once is totally stressful and overwhelming.
JC: Would you encourage other photographers to go into this kind of self-publishing? If so, why?
CM: Of course. There’s no point in sitting around and waiting for someone else to get your work out there for you. Anything you can do yourself, you should. Use Blurb, a photocopier, whatever. It’s actually a lot more fun and more satisfying than you might think. Besides, more often than not, photographers are unhappy with the way their work looks when it is finally published by a magazine, etc., anyway. Just do it yourself and even if you’re not successful, at least you’ll have made something you can be proud of. As much as the internet kind of sucks (I think), it makes all of this so much easier.
JC: What does photography mean to you?
CM: Oh, jeez. Not really sure, to be honest. I do love it and sometimes I have a great time taking pictures. It’s fun to take trips and have so many different experiences related to the, let’s be real, pretty trivial act of capturing a moment with a little black piece of expensive equipment. Getting my work out there, published, exhibited, etc., is a lot of work, but it feels good to be making something. Basically, I think about it all the time (in one way or another) and it feels pretty good to be where I am at this point. It would be hard to just not do it anymore, but I’m also not really sure why I do it. I guess I just do.
JC: Any exciting plans photographically for the coming months?
CM: I have a few exhibitions coming up, some stories about to be published (Pin-Up, Abitare, etc.). I’m planning a new project and I need to get some new assignments and shows. That’s about it. Just going to keep plugging away.
JC: Any words of wisdom for recent photography graduates?
CM: Just take pictures of whatever you want. If you’re interested in something, shoot it. If a photo is good, it doesn’t matter if it’s part of years-long project, or if it’s something you shot when you got up in the morning. Don’t worry about gear and tech-stuff, just shoot what you want with whatever you want. Nothing bugs me more than photographers being more obsessed with gear and lighting than actually taking a good photo. I know those are obviously important aspects of photography, but you want to avoid getting preoccupied and distracted by everything that surrounds the actual act of capturing a moment.
JC: Any other thoughts?
CM: Let’s go, Buffalo!