Angelo Merendino Creates Assets for Ceramist Andrea LeBlond
Angelo Merendino took a rather circuitous route to land a recent assignment. Though his studio is in the same building as that of ceramics artist Andrea LeBlond, he didn’t even know her until he worked with a friend on a completely different shoot.
My friend Kevin Smyth is a personal trainer, and we were working on making promotional material for his gym. One of our shoots was a group training service that Kevin offers and Andrea was in this class. Kevin introduced me to Andrea and we set up time to discuss what she was looking for. Our initial conversations were comfortable and productive and this really set the tone for our collaboration.
This kind of client-based work is about as collaborative as it gets, partly because there was no middle person for Angelo to go through. After receiving some initial images of Andrea’s favorite personal work, Angelo responded with some shots of his that he felt lined up with what she wanted out of the shoot. Because the commute to Andrea’s studio was less than a minute, Angelo spent a lot of time familiarizing himself with her setup.
Since we are an elevator ride apart, I spent a few hours in her studio on three different occasions. Having a loose timeline allowed me to explore different angles and it helped to take away the potential discomfort some people feel when a camera is aimed at them and there is little time to talk and get to know each other.
For all the prep time in the world, there’s nothing quite like seeing examples of the work itself as it relates to dictating the direction of a shoot. Once the first day of shooting wrapped up, Angelo sent Andrea some of his highlights, and seeing the images helped the ceramics artist get a sense of what the end product would look like.
Andrea was a little nervous at first, as many people are before being photographed. After our first shoot, I processed a few of my favorites and sent them to her. I think seeing the photos helped her to relax a little and get an idea of how the final body of work would turn out.
Ample time around and in front of the camera also gave Andrea more confidence to point out specific things she wanted in the imagery. That was important for Angelo because this shoot marked his first time photographing a ceramics artist.
Andrea was great about letting me do my thing while also offering feedback. She has a great eye and her suggestions were always helpful. At the end of the day, these photographs need to tell Andrea’s story. I was open to hearing all of her thoughts so I could focus on what would lead us to making the strongest body of work.
I had never photographed a ceramics artist before meeting Andrea. I don’t know anything about form and technique when it comes to ceramics, so I made sure to stop and show the photographs to Andrea along the way. It’s important to me that I represent Andrea and her work in a way that she is comfortable with.
Angelo learned right away how fast a pottery wheel moves when used by an expert, and knowing this helped him get his timing down.
I had to work quickly and efficiently while Andrea was working on the wheel. I wasn’t aware of how fast a piece of clay can be shaped into a beautiful object by someone who knows what she is doing. Andrea was great about giving me a heads up on her timeline, so I knew when to pick up my pace.
The shot I like most from the wheel was made from above. I like how that shot worked with the circular shapes.
Another of Angelo’s favorite shots is the product of a class he took that teaches photographers how to shoot in an unorthodox (some might say discouraged) style.
I like the portrait of Andrea because I shot into the sun.
It’s a funny rule that most photographers are taught early on: don’t shoot into the sun. Last year I attended Jeff Lipsky’s workshop in Santa Fe and he showed us so many beautiful portraits he has made with the sun sitting behind someone and a fill card pushing light back in. It was cool to bring what Jeff taught me into a shoot and come away with a photograph that I really like.
The work has shown up on Andrea’s Instagram page and will feature heavily on the revamped version of her personal website. Over the course of this work, Angelo went from not even knowing his neighbor to gaining an incredible amount of respect for her work ethic and skillset.
I’ve always respected people who master their craft, but watching Andrea work and seeing all of the details of in her art gave me even more appreciation for the dedication she puts into her work.
Check out more of Angelo's work at angelomerendino.com.
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