Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Peter Langone - Doing It All
For more than two decades, using bright, vivid imagery, commercial photographer Peter Langone has forged a multitalented, multi-avenue career built on an unrestrained tenacity to follow his own dreams
Absolutely adaptable to any situation, photographer Peter Langone’s single expertise is that he can do it all. His keen understanding of the business side of the market has taken him from humble New York beginnings to a thriving enterprise in the Floridian paradise of Miami. A ready adoption of the digital age pushed Langone’s work above and beyond, and his talent speaks for itself, with a diverse portfolio that runs the gamut from celebrity portraiture to fashion to travel to commercial advertising. He has led a jet-set career that has shown him the world, shooting beautiful people in beautiful locations, and while his focus may not always fit neatly into convention, it’s a body of work that illustrates a life lived on its own terms.
When trying to describe Langone’s portfolio, the easiest way to clarify it is to say that he goes through his moods. When asked why he has chosen so many avenues in photography to explore, Langone answers casually, “The photographer who taught me said to me once, ‘Peter, look, it doesn’t matter whether you shoot a tissue box, a landscape or a person. You have to identify with that subject and put your style into it. You have to photograph it as you see it, as you feel it’. So I never thought it was important in my life to specialize in any one particular aspect in the photography world. It isn’t the subject, it’s how you handle the subject.”
Adds Langone, “If I’m doing an ad campaign for Budweiser, and they say, ‘Peter, could you shoot some pictures of bottles?’ Sure, no problem, I can do that. It’s not a big push that I need to be a specialist in bottles. My specialty is in directing and in seeing and, basically, I interpret the subject. And being a director has allowed me not only to do stills, but to do television, to do commercials, to do a full-length feature and to do music videos.”
Covering The Bases
Langone spent many of his formative teen years as an apprentice in a New York studio, and some more time in school, but the most important thing he ever learned about photography is that creating the aesthetics is really pretty simple. Some of the great photographers are absolutely incapable of conducting the minute details of running a successful business, so Langone decided to pursue a degree in business; by the time he was only 21, he had opened his own photo studio.
“To be yourself in the business is the way people succeed in any field,” says Peter Langone. “You can be inspired by people as I have, but you should only ever look at your own way of doing it. What happens is you become very comfortable because you’re doing it the way that you think it should be done.”
After slowly establishing himself in the vibrant New York scene, Langone was able to maintain a full, 1,000-square-foot studio space there, while also moving his base to Miami. Florida had become a destination with the fashion industry, and South Beach is a mere 15 minutes from Langone’s studio. In the pre-Internet era, while photographers may have had to be central to either New York or Los Angeles to be a major player, Langone finds that’s no longer the case. He still flies back and forth from New York or Los Angeles, or to any number of worldwide destinations, following the dictates of whatever job he’s on.
“It used to be you needed a 212 area code in your phone, and then you were a New York guy,” he says. “But that doesn’t matter anymore. Because of the Internet, you can reach people worldwide. I love the digital business model. Digital has changed the whole industry.
“Before I made the transition, people were telling me how much less it was,” he continues. “In retrospect, it’s actually a lot more money. You have to buy the powerful computers, then you have to buy the laptops, then you have to do the post because there’s no longer sending out. Well, yeah, you don’t have to go to a lab, but you do need a laptop, you do need to get special programs, you do need to have the ability to process it, download it, and then you need to put it on an FTP, a disc or a hard drive. So all of that is extra.
I don’t see any difference in the way that I actually make the images, though. That, in my opinion, is the same.”
Adds Langone, “I still use Profoto like I did. I still use Hasselblads like I did. And I still use a light meter. I use a Hasselblad for the large format, a Phase One P 25 digital back on the H1 system; for a smaller format, I use the Canon Mark II. The Hasselblad with the P 25 back is a 22-megapixel processed piece of information, and there are certain instances where a certain agency will request a very high mega-pixel. In the sense of the Hasselblad, it’s a slower system, though, where the Canon is faster. If you’re making an image with a camera that takes seven fps, the reaction to the energy of the talent is going to be different than with a camera that does one frame every second. The cameras, like tools, might give you a different approach to making the image.”