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THE BIG BREAK INTERVIEW:
CHAD VEGA

BIGBreakNY: What made you pursue photography?
CHAD VEGA: I was an actor for a long time. Edge of Night, an ABC soap opera, hired me days before the show was canceled. I took it as a sign. I got to a point where I just needed to do something else. I was tired of not eating steadily and my wife was getting sick of me too. I was tired of not having a real grown-up job, so I decided to study painting at the Brooklyn Museum. Yeah, what a great choice for a grown-up job, I know. I want to be a painter, not a banker.

BBNY: Why painting?
CV: My father was an artist so I decided to do that. I took classes for two years at the Brooklyn Museum. I learned a lot. I just did not have that thing for painting that my father did. It is like playing the violin, anyone can pick it up, but it is another thing to play it beautifully. Same with photography. Photography is like sex and dancing. Everybody does it so it lessens its legitimacy.

BBNY: Tell me about how you started taking photographs.
CV: It was completely by accident. My ex-wife is from Dublin. Her nephew came to visit us for 3 weeks and brought a camera and forgot it. He did not want the camera back. So, my wife said, "Why don’t you take a class?"

BBNY: One class and now you do headshots?
CV: I took a class for about six weeks from this old photographer. Then, I decided to go to Parsons. I was taught by people who were working professionals and that was very encouraging to me.

BBNY: Are there any magazines or artists you are inspired by?
CV: I get a lot of my stuff from fashion magazines, the European ones. They are edgier. I like the work of Peter Lindberg, a Norwegian fashion photographer. He shoots that in-between moment so that it doesn’t look like a portrait. He’s great.

BBNY: Tell me about portraiture.
CV: Portraiture is a form of photography that is more posed. After Parsons, I started taking this class in portraiture with this really good photographer, Bill Lulow. He did everything. He did weddings, he did portraits. He did a lot of corporate stuff. At the end of the semester, he asked, "Do you want to work for me?" I was his assistant for about a year toting bags, light readings. It was his eye. He was fun to work with. I really got to like that.

BBNY: When did you start taking headshots?
CV: I started taking headshots when I was a waiter. I said to the staff there was no guarantee how these will come out. I charged them what it cost to process the film, twenty bucks. The first couple of times it was awful. I really did not know what I was doing. Headshots are more spontaneous than portraiture. You are trying to get the energy from that person on a roll of film.

BBNY: How do you capture energy in your photographs?
CV: I am trying to get something in the eyes that will come across on that two-dimensional piece of paper. I try and look at it through the eyes of the actor and the casting person who will be looking at their headshots. Does this photograph tell me this is the person that we want for this part or is it going into the trash? I want to capture a moment. Getting what I felt from you that day, that moment in time. An instant. I want someone to stare at the picture a little bit more. It has to have a punch.

BBNY: Give me an example of capturing a moment.
CV: Smiles. Smiles are real big problem. If someone has too big a smile, it looks fake. You can see it. It is getting the person to start to smile and hitting the shutter before they finish.

BBNY: Actually, that is why I chose you to photograph me. I saw a picture of the woman in fur and knew that is what I wanted. I had that reaction that you are looking for.
CV: That picture of the woman in the fur hat was an old friend. Everyone loves that picture of her. I hated it. It was a cheap hat and she wanted to wear it. I said, "no, I am not going to take a picture with you in that hat." She said, "if you don’t take a picture of me with the fur hat on, I am not going to take pictures with you ever again." I said, "okay, I will take one shot." We took one Polaroid and I loved it. And I thought taking it was ridiculous. She was right. She was a model with Ford and that shot is on my comp card still. It’s a great shot.

BBNY: When I met you the thing that I liked about you was that I made some suggestions about what I wanted in my headshot and you immediately said okay. You were so game. It was not like you had this pretentious image to uphold.
CV: It is always a learning experience. I hate that “image.” It is like the old movie director with the beret and the riding pants and the riding crop. What the hell is that? It’s a collaboration between myself and my clients to produce an image that captures who they are. It’s always a give and take and that’s what I love about my work.


For more information and to see the collective works of Chad Vega please visit his website, www.ChadVegaPhoto.com. To schedule an appointment, contact him by phone at (646) 234-4980.

 

© 2005 BIGBreakNY, LLC. No material may be reprinted without permission.