Text by Missy Harris • Images by Bill Diodato
Through the strains of "Bela Lugosi's Dead," a dark anthem from '80s Goth heroes Bauhaus, New York-based fashion and beauty photographer Bill Diodato comes clean on his ideals and visions of achievement in the potent mix of commercial and fine art.
With his voice a dead ringer for John Cusack, Diodato has none of the actor's trademark boy-next-door qualities. Instead, he is a creative, sophisticated, and driven artist looking to pursue his dreams.
Diodato, who has worked as a professional photographer for nine years, and as a fashion/beauty shooter for the recent few years, has already made a name for himself working with some of the biggest clients and models in the industry.
New Tales to Tell
Diodato chose the fashion and beauty world to showcase his stories. He explains, "It was a chance to explore my work more and to put my ideas out there in feature stories so that I could have bigger productions and execute my ideas." He feels that working with people helps get the stories across, and that models, in essence, narrate them.
Diodato's inspirations are a mix of the sublime and the banal. He thrives on the juxtaposition of pop culture and fine art. "When I'm taking a photograph," says Diodato, "I'm almost always bridging a gap between popular culture and the fine art world because I have to. And I think that's what makes my pictures a little bit different. When I take a photograph, I'm not just thinking about what the client wants the shoe to look like. I'm thinking about how I see the shoe in our popular culture."
Diodato relies on Fuji film to capture most of his images although he will shoot with whatever the client specifies. On digital shoots he'll use a PhaseOne H10 or H20 back with his Hasselblad 503CW or a Sinar p2. He sees digital as useful in many areas, although not all.
"There's an efficiency level with digital and I think, for most applications, the quality isn't tremendously off. For most magazine reproductions, most catalog reproduction, and a lot of advertising it's fine. There are certain detail issues that are missing sometimes in shooting jewelry and things of that nature and at that point I might shoot film." Film is his first love. It is his natural creative tool and it has always served him well.
NY State of Mind
Formally trained at the Hallmark Institute of Photography in Massachusetts, Diodato hails from Connecticut, but has found his home in New York City.
"This is just where I need to be," he explains. "The kind of client I want to work with is here. The way I see the world in the sense of what I want out of life is here. I wouldn't work anywhere else. I love it and I'm here to stay."
The point here is that Diodato has found creative energy to match his own in the Big Apple. "The energy, the kind of people that I'm surrounded by here, everyone that I'm associated with and work with is extremely intelligent. They're all very inspired and all very involved in the art world. My direct team is that way, the stylists I work with, and the models I'm trying to get to aren't just interested in selling the productthe shoe or the handbag or the hat or the blouse."
Survive and Prosper
Photography is, of course, a business and things became much tougher for everyone post 9/11. This was perhaps most dramatic in New York City.
"A lot of photographers are out of business, some of whom are my friends," says Diodato. "The way I was able to stay competitive was through versatility. I shoot still life, fashion, beauty, and product. I do a lot of different things. If I didn't at that time I don't know how I would have fared. I had plenty of work, client-wise. Even though my production was down about 50 percent, we were still producing enough to survive and grow.
"I spent an enormous amount of time that yearsince I spent 50 percent less time on assignmentworking on new portfolios, developing new ideas. I created a website with my design firm, Toda Design, that adds a valuable dimension to my business."
Diodato is also putting out a new promotion this year, a limited edition series consisting of 12 minibooks that fold out into several images. The foldout is designed to show clients the aesthetic that Diodato will bring to a campaign.