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In Conversation With Santino Zafarana Author of Think Before You Shoot: The Art of Taking Creative Photographs
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Saturday, March 12, 2022

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Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Santino Zafarana author of Think Before You Shoot: The Art of Taking Creative Photographs.

Santino was born in Sicily and introduced to photography by his uncle Salvatore Dolce, who gave him his first camera?a Kodak brownie. For more than 45 years, he has been devoted to taking photographs that capture the magic of light and the wonders of ordinary people and the everyday world.

In addition to creating his own works of photographic art, he has helped thousands achieve their dreams of taking great photographs. He teaches and mentors at the Creative Photography Workshops school in Los Angeles, which he owns with his wife Tracey Landworth, an equally accomplished photographer.

Good day Santino and thanks for taking part in our interview.

Good day to you Norm, thank you for having me on.

Norm:  Tell us about your first introduction to photography. What drew you into this world? As a follow up, when did you realize that photography was a path you wanted to follow full-time? 

Santino: I was introduced to photography by my uncle Salvatore Dolce, who had a Kodak brownie he was constantly photographing with. My uncle was always taking photographs that I found very fascinating.

On my tenth birthday, he asked me if I wanted the brownie. I was thrilled with the possibilities of taking interesting shots of my toys, street scenes in my neighborhood, friends and family… almost everything interested me.

I was about 17 when I bought my first single lens reflex camera, a Nikon F. I started to take portraits, pictures of animals, trees or just droplets of water on a pond. Everyone loved the images that I was taking, they talked about the way I was able to capture depth and the quality of light, no matter what the subject I was photographing. That's when I realized that I had a talent for seeing what most people didn't see, or simply capturing a point of view which pleased people when they viewed my photographs. 

Norm: How would you describe your own photography? 

Santino: Well, that's a hard one.  I'm not a singular topic photographer. Since my earliest days I liked photographing everything that interested me. But viewers have described my photos as Nostalgic, Inviting, Dimensional, Imaginative, Accessible, Quiet Emotions, Dreamy, Humanistic and Tranquil.

Norm: What makes a photo a piece of art?

Santino: For me an artful photograph has to affect the viewer in an emotional way….. having a feeling that reaches somewhere deep in their soul or lives, arousing a poignant connection with the photograph.

Norm: Who or what have been the most prominent artistic influences on your career?

Santino: My influences have come from many different areas--painting, philosophy, music, design, architecture, and of course, photography. I believe that our minds, eyes and emotions are closely related when taking an image, as well when we view an image.

Norm: Some of the images in Think Before You Shoot: The Art of Taking Creative Photographs capture normal, daily activities, but you make them so intriguing. How did you realize that you wanted to highlight those seemingly mundane moments in a person's life? 

Santino: Knowing the artistic craft & skills of photography very well, I focus on making each photograph as personal as possible. I am always trying to create a feeling in my photographs that connect with viewers' lives.

Norm: What is some advice you would give to photographers who are just starting out? Can one be taught to take good photos or do you need a natural talent? 


Santino: I believe you can be taught skills that would make you a very good photographer, but to be a great accomplished photographer, you have to be able to set yourself free to create. That's where understanding and translating what you want to say in a photograph is crucial to having a successful photograph that affects people when they feel it. 
Norm: In your opinion, what is the most difficult part of taking photos? How do you know when it's the right moment to capture an image? Please summarize your process.

Santino: Trying not to overthink the process when you're taking the photograph and know what you are trying to say or capture in your photograph are key components to make a successful photograph. That is why I called my book Think Before You Shoot.  Do all the technical first, this way you are just focused on your subject or scene and you don't miss anything while you are taking the photograph.

Norm: What motivated you to publish Think Before You Shoot: The Art of Taking Creative Photographs? What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? 

Santino: Over the course of my career, people always asked me how I take such great photographs so effortlessly. So, 20 years ago, my wife (an accomplished photographer in her own right) and I started a photography school called Creative Photography Workshops in Los Angeles.

After thousands of students successfully learned the techniques & art of taking creative photographs, I felt it was time to help more people by writing a simple and concise book that combines Fine Art with 21 pages of proven techniques on how to take creative photographs.

Just released mid-February 2022, it has become a great gift book for anyone who loves and appreciates photography, as well as learning the art of taking creative photographs.

Norm: What was the most difficult part of creating this book?

Santino: First, making sure that my images are all correctly balanced to express the feeling that images are trying to convey. And second to make sure the 21 techniques were as simple to understand as possible. That's why those pages have three paragraphs only on each technique. 

The first two paragraphs are explaining the technique and the third paragraph is discussing why that particular technique makes a more creative art photograph.

Norm: What are your upcoming projects?

Santino: Since the book is being distributed in 20 countries around the world, I am involved in many interviews and book signings to help budding photographers or just anyone interested in learning to take better creative photographs.  I am also working on an exhibit for next year, exploring new materials to display my images.

Norm: How can readers find out more about you and Think Before You Shoot: The Art of Taking Creative Photographs? 

Santino: The book is being sold online at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, local bookstores and fine gifts shops across the US, Europe, and Asia.

Norm: As this interview comes to an end, if you could invite three well-known photographers to your dinner table, who would they be and why?

Santino: First, there would be many more than just three photographers, but my first one would be Andre Kertesz, who I had the great fortune & pleasure to meet in Greenwich Village, NY, where I grew up.  

His work spans all areas of photography from abstract, to portraiture, street scenes and still-life's, known for the visual lyricism and humanism that characterized his practice.

Second, Roy DeCarava; his photography embodies passion and joy, and everyday black life in Harlem, capturing the varied textures of the neighborhood and the creative efflorescence of the Harlem Renaissance.

Third, Irving Penn, whom I feel was a soul catcher in the field of fashion, as well as his personal work. He was able to get to the essence of both people, objects and related innovative images relating to beauty & style. He inspired me to be a young fashion photographer in New York to make a living.

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors. 

Santino: Thanks, Norm, it was a pleasure speaking with you.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Review of Think Before You Shoot: The Art of Taking Creative Photographs


 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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