Monday, August 23, 2010

Ten Minutes with Andrew Perfetti

It's been said that if a man is worth knowing at all, he's worth knowing well. I met the entrepreneurial Andy through his business Goin' Postal, a Fedex/UPS/shipping store here in Superior, Wisc. When I saw some of his photography I was impressed. And through Facebook learned he is a musician in a number of bands.

Ennyman: How long have you been doing photography seriously?

Andrew Perfetti: Seriously? I've been doing photography seriously for probably about a year. I've been shooting pictures for about 2 years, so I haven't been doing it for that long but it’s become kind of an obsession.

E: What drew you to photography?

AP: Honestly, this is going to sound very strange, but the show Six Feet Under. My family, the last couple years we've been going through some health issues; my father has gotten cancer pretty serious, and my grandfather had cancer, and we took him down the road and he finally passed away last February. But the show, I started watching the show Six Feet Under, and it’s this family of funeral directors. Anyway, one of the characters is a young woman who's having this hard time dealing with her life, and she's very artistic and she finds photography by chance, and finds it to be something she can use as an outlet. Ironically enough, that's kind of what happened to me. So the more that I got absorbed in that show, I thought it could be something that I could really use as a benefit to my personal well being.

E: Doing photography?

AP: Yes, photography. I borrowed my dad's old film camera about 2 years ago. Actually he gave it to me because I didn't have money to buy a digital camera, so I thought I would try this out. So I took the camera and I went out and bought a bunch of rolls of film, and I went over to a friend of mine that had a concert, one of my fellow musicians, and I took pictures at his show. When I developed them, I was surprised how they turned out. So I started reading all kinds of books on photography, and got inspired to pursue it further by this television show, which is kind of shallow, but I just started getting a knack for it and it became sort of a healthy obsession. I'm the kind of person who needs to be doing something all the time. I'm not good at just sitting and not doing anything. I have a hard time relaxing, and photography gives me an excuse to get out of the house and go out and be social, while normally I would be kind of cooped up watching movies and playing music and not interacting with the outside world.

E: You do more than just take pictures. You work with Photoshop and you fine tune, and you seem to have a very interesting vision with regards to your work. Did you have that when you were young and when did this first come out like that?

AP: A lot of that has to do with music. When I was in high school I painted a picture of Jimi Hendrix in my art class, and it took me a couple weeks and it’s a very simple portrait, but I listened to Jimi Hendrix the whole time and I was just obsessed with it through the music. And of course Jimi Hendrix is one of my huge inspirations as a musician. I think if you look at my photos, the feeling and the mood of how I work with color and contrast in my photos is very related to the music I'm listening to while I'm editing them. I listen to a lot of Velvet Underground, a lot of drone music like that, Arcade Fire, things that are very emotive in their context, and music inspires that emotion in me. If I'm in an angry mood I listen to angry music, and my rock and roll photography comes out very aggressive looking. But if I'm listening to melancholy music then my colors are a little softer and there's a little more fog and mystery in the photos. The darkness tells more in a photo to me than the light does. I tend not to use a lot of flash and things like that, but I do a lot of rock and roll photography and a lot of band photography, so that music element kind of dictates how I frame the shot and in the end it dictates how I address the photo in Photoshop. I try not to do any real modification outside of enhancing color, sometimes adding a color filter to change the color a bit and I will enhance or decrease the contrast, but I don't do any photo manipulation per se. I don't add outside structure to my photos or anything along those lines.

E: So you mentioned painting Hendrix to the music of Hendrix. I also paint listening to music and a lot of artists do, probably. But you're also a musician yourself, you play guitar and you're in a number of bands. How did that emerge?

AP: Well when I grew up, my brother and sister were Duluth Accordionaires, and I used to have to go to all of their shows. My parents would load us up in the minivan and we'd drive to Iowa for an Accordion show or Chicago or so forth. And I really, really made it a point to my parents that I did not want to play accordion. I was a fan of rock and roll music from a very young age. My first cassette tape was Michael Jackson’s Thriller when it came out when I was in kindergarten and the very next tape was Iron Maiden Piece of Mind. So I always gravitated towards guitar oriented music and as far as the guitar aspect, when I was in high school, or junior high, I think I was in 8th grade, I had a paper route for many years, and I saved up my paper route money and bought a guitar and I became very attached to it. As a matter of fact when I was a kid I used to sleep with my guitar, and bring it to school with me. I didn't really know how to play it for a couple years but it was always on me, on the bus. I took lessons and I didn't really grow too much until later in high school I became a real fast player, heavy metal, which at the time was kind of popular and I wanted to play fast. And Jimi Hendrix… I liked to listen to that kind of thing but it didn't really appeal to me as far as playing it, because I don't think I was at the age where I understood what they were trying to say. At that age you just have a lot of angst and energy and you just want to play.

I kind of fell out of it and joined the army and through the next eight or ten years didn't really play any music. My parents sent me a guitar when I was overseas in the army and that was nice but I didn't really play much. Then about five years ago, some friends from college needed a band for a college party and I always helped organize events and I said I can’t find a band but I'll just put one together. So that started me back into it. Just like my photography obsession, when I get into something artistic I pursue it to the nth degree. And I played in several bands and I help promote shows and I teach guitar.

I teach advanced soul techniques and stuff like that. I've moved away quite a bit from real structured music and I play reggae now, whereas I used to play blues and heavy metal quite a bit. I feel like guitar helps me paint layers of sound. I use a lot of multiple delay pedals and wop pedal and a lot of effects to build intensity like a whirlwind of sound, and kind of use that to add a layer over to the music. And that's kind of what I feel like I do with my photography. I look at things in layers and add layers or take things away so. It’s always got to be dramatic, which is maybe a downfall, but it’s what I have a flair for.

E: It's who you are.

Lower right: my interpretation of Andy, bringing it home, on guitar.

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