Tony Stamolis: I enjoy coming up with ideas, and making them a reality, whether it’s a photo book, a piece of neon, or a sticker. Creating things makes life worth living.
DJ Cobalt 60: What’s your set-up like? How has is evolved over the years?
Tony Stamolis: Photo wise, it’s pretty much the same. Snap-shot cameras, and now phones. The less equipment, the better.
DJ Cobalt 60: What is an image of yours that you believe best represents your style and aesthetic and what was the situation surrounding it?
Tony Stamolis: Maybe the picture I took recently of a fig…That looks like an asshole! I picked figs from a friend’s monstrous tree, cut one in half, and laughed for about an hour, while I took a thousand pictures of it. That kind of sums up my art: lo-fi, spontaneous ridiculousness. It’s a fucking fig, but it’s probably the dirtiest photo I’ve ever taken!
DJ Cobalt 60: Two of the biggest reasons why I love your photography so much is because of its purity and its relatability. You’re not competing with anyone, you take pictures purely for the love of it, there’s no hidden agenda and a constant healthy dose of humor underscoring everything. Countless photographers shoot things that only exist for the sake of the picture it’s all fantasy. When I look at your photos I see models who aren’t too far off from people that I actually know or have meet, some of your pictures even look like photos I could see them taking. How do you try to reinvent or grow as an artist while still maintaining your authenticity?
Tony Stamolis: First off, thank you for that pretty spot on take of what I do!
I like real, and raw, with a little twist. What you see, is what you get, but look a little closer, and there’s usually something between the lines.
I really do take pics, or make things for myself. When it communicates to others it’s an added bonus, but that never drives my work. It’s mostly for my own entertainment! I think my evolving into different mediums is growth, not reinvention.
DJ Cobalt 60: In regards to reinvention I’d like to ask a few questions about your latest photo book “Buildings I Used To Fuck In” It’s a big departure from what people have come to expect from you, almost the antithesis of you other work, what inspired the book? How long has the book been in development? Did the book come about naturally or were you on the fence about it for quite some time?
Tony Stamolis: I came up with that idea, walking around New York one day in January, 2013. I shot it in the following four days, and it was ready for press that fall. (It got put on the back burner for various reasons until recently, but should be a book, by next spring.) It was a very therapeutic and organic project, and was sort of a response to technology, and photography, with the most archaic of printing processes. It also, unintentionally, became my farewell to New York. I moved backed to California in 2014.
DJ Cobalt 60: When are you most satisfied with your work?
Tony Stamolis: Probably while I’m working on it. It’s the highest high there is. When it’s done, you have to let go, because there’s ALWAYS something you’ll find wrong, and want to change, or edit.
DJ Cobalt 60: What sort of relationship do you have with your photos, do you like looking at them as much as other people do? Is it all about the process for you less about the outcome?
Tony Stamolis: Again, I love the process, but what you do with it is very important. I love making pictures, but you need some distance from them to tell a story, and take it to the next level. I don’t go back and look at my photos much after their purpose has been served.
DJ Cobalt 60: How do the people who have been featured in your photos feel about them? What was the response like in your hometown of Fresno, California to your photo book “Frezno”?
Tony Stamolis: I think everyone in that book is pretty damned proud to be in there. It was a mix reaction in Fresno when the book came out though. People either seem to love it, or hate it. Some thought I was trashing the town, but it’s just the kind of pictures I take, and let’s be real, Fresno can be pretty fucking rough. It so beautiful…and brutal.
My reaction to any critic is, get off your ass, and go make your own fucking book.
DJ Cobalt 60: Even though I know you’re not in it for the awards and praise, as an artist what is the highest compliment you can receive?
Tony Stamolis: I’ve gotten some amazing emails, and have been cornered at shows by people who are really moved by something I’ve done. When I hit a nerve that deep, it’s pretty gratifying, because for the most part it’s tunnel vision for me, and I’m not paying attention to any of that.
A PIECE OF EQUIPMENT I WANT BUT DON’T NEED a 1981 El Camino Conquista! 🙂 I’m not an equipment geek…I don’t care, and can’t imagine anything worse than being stuck with a group of photographers talking shop.
SCARIEST MOMENT OF MY CAREER…The first fifteen minutes of any exhibition.
LAST TIME A PHOTO LEFT ME SPEECHLESS…I don’t pay much attention to the photo world, but have acquired some art recently from friends, and others that have dumbfounded me, namely, Jeff Wheeler, Dave Lyle, Natalie Krim, Carly Jean Andrews, Julia Petrova, Jennifer Florencia, and Sam Lazcano. I’ve been on a collecting kick.
SUCCESS TO ME…Conceiving an idea, and making it happen.
ONE BOOK EVERY ARTIST SHOULD READ…Andy Warhol’s Index Book…joking!
DJ Cobalt 60: For people interested in learning more about you or your work where can they go?