Paul D’Amato

Scheduled to teach:

Paul D’Amato (http://pauldamato.com) was born in Boston where he attended Boston Latin School at the height of racial unrest and civil rights. He moved west to attend Reed College and claims to have learned as much from traveling cross-country – often by hitch-hiking and freight trains – as he did in class. After receiving an MFA from Yale he moved to Chicago where he discovered the community of Pilsen. The pictures and writing D’Amato produced there were made into the book, “Barrio”. His most recent book of images made in the African-American community on the west side of Chicago, entitled “Here/Still/Now”, was awarded the Lucie Foundation Book Prize in 2018. He has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation and his work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago.

Paul D’Amato Portfolio

Paul D’Amato

LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Paul D’Amato ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography

Julia Dean: What kind of photographer are you?

Paul D. Amato: I work with various genres/approaches to documentary with a particular focus, lately, on portraiture and bookmaking.

JD: How long have you been shooting?

PA: I have been making photographs since high school and have never stopped. It was a hobby until it morphed into a way of life.

JD: Where did you get your training?

PA: I never was trained. My father taught me the basics in his basement darkroom and I somehow ended up in graduate school without ever taking a class in photography. And there it was just critical feedback without any actual training.

JD: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

PA: I knew when I was sitting in a plant biology class and realized I was justifying a minor in art & art history with a major in biology. I went to the registrar after class and dropped all the science classes and have never looked back.

JD: Did you ever come close to giving up?

PA:  No.

JD: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

PA: Fabulous amounts of money perhaps but probably not, so no.

JD: What have you gained by being a photographer?

PA:  There is really not enough time and space here to answer that properly. But what I will say is that with the kind of photography I do – where I explore various communities within the urban environments I have lived – there is just so many people I have met and experiences I have had that never would have happened without my interest in making pictures.

JD: What classes do you teach at LACP?

PA:  I will teach a portrait workshop.

JD: What do you love most about teaching?

PA: Just as photography has led me to know various communities, it has also led me to teaching which, in turn, has led me to meet so many students over the years. Every year, every semester is different and even how I teach is different.

JD: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

PA: Whether you want to work commercially, as photojournalist, documentary, fine art – or however you call it – make sure that it involve a process that makes you want to return to that way of working. Because the truth is that you won’t make a great image every time you go to work so you better enjoy the challenge of that environment. Is it a studio, does it involve working with others, meeting strangers, having clients, having a gallery, being by yourself, lots of tech, very little tech etc? All of these things and more constitute your job beyond image making and you better want to show up for work or you won’t do it well.