We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Grazia Facciolà and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria Grazia, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
When I first moved to the NY Metropolitan area directly from Italy, where I was born and raised, my creative outlet had always been theater from the high school years throughout university, to the point that I started taking some improv acting classes in New York City. My formal degree is not in Arts, as a matter of fact, I have a Masters in Political Science and Personnel Management from the University of Bologna, Italy. In early 2000, after meeting photographer Greg Kessler through a common friend, and who later became my mentor, I developed an interest in learning about photography, and how I would have approached the transition from being on stage, in front of an audience and under the spotlight, to suddenly being behind the camera, giving others the opportunity to shine. So it was my curiosity to be in “different shoes” that motivated my first steps toward a different type of creative experience.
Therefore I took classes at the International Center of Photography in New York, at the Fashion Institute Technology, and several private lessons with professional photographers, until I graduated to become their assistant to then start on my own. At the time I had many friends who were musicians and needed headshots for publicity, and cd covers. It took one successful photoshoot of Pianist and friend Cristina Altamura, to finding myself photographing most of her musicians friends. Always establishing a personal and empathetic rapport with my subjects, was one of the reasons the “word of mouth” spread, in conjunction with the fact that they liked my photos, of course. As in any creative endeavor, the more you do it, the more you learn and develop your style, so I kept at it until I discovered my voice through the portrait photography I was doing. In other words, I was persistent and kept at it, along with the willingness to mold and adapt to the different demands of various clients. When I was younger and inexperienced, I would get crushed by some comments, and demands from challenging clients, but, by looking back I can say, that after licking my wounds for a few days, I was always willing to learn from the circumstances and move on. Eventually I matured, and also learned to say “no” whenever I would realize I was not the right fit for a particular project. Several years later, my curiosity led me to experiment with pastels, and I started creating portraits of women. Again, I dove into another creative dimension, which apparently had been inside of me, but of which I was unaware. In this case I totally followed my instinct after watching a movie on the life of Italian painter Modigliani. I really didn’t know what I was doing, as I do not have any formal training in drawing or painting, but nonetheless I followed this voice inside, and became very prolific in a short period of time. I would say that In this case, I was not afraid to dare, and once I felt ready I started showing and selling several of my pieces.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Creating images & stories of people that are stylistically beautiful, authentic and empowering is what excites me. I’m thrilled to offer my clients the opportunity to rediscover beauty through my eyes. I am fascinated by faces and moods as they shift in different environments and throughout time. My portraiture photography aims to capturing the likeness and the energy of my subjects. It’s a delight when I’m able to translate into an image an expression that even the subject has never seen in themselves, and yet it still resonates, often setting them on the path to further self discovery. Traditionally known as a photographer, I’ve also ventured beyond a literal interpretation from the camera – to abstract strokes of the pastel medium, creating pastels portraits of women.
By viewing this collection, people often asks me: “who are these women, and what do they represent?”. Each highly-stylized and ethereal subject is independent, yet captures the unified essence of all women: poised, colorful, striking, complex. Rooted in Italian Mannerism with elongated forms and joyful play on proportion, the fused style is unmistakably contemporary. A combination of spontaneous and calculated profiles command a presence in any room, much like the magnificent women in our lives who simply cannot be ignored. Which portrait moves you? During a visit to Venice, I forged a collaboration with a master glassmith from Murano to translate my original pastel drawings into dimensional vibrant sculptures. The result unites Italian heritage with contemporary art in a way that fills your home/space with luminous color and delight.
As a photographer & artist, I yearn for beauty in every photo I take, and artwork I create. Such beauty can be expressed in harmony of shapes and colors, style, fashion, gesture and actions. I started my photography journey in early 2000 and simply kept at it until I developed and found my voice and style. I love photographing my subjects in their own environment so that even the color of a wall has a meaning ,and a sense of familiarity for the subjects. Many of my clients are artists themselves. I particularly enjoy working with other creatives as they always bring to the table additional ideas and opportunities to brainstorm.
The second most numerous category of clients, comes from the corporate world. For them, I approach every photoshoot with a lifestyle approach to tell their stories in a fresh, contemporary, authentic style. Throughout the years, I’ve also worked on a number of personal photographic projects that are always in a phase of expansion.
Something I’ve learned along the way, is to continue to believe in yourself even when you have doubts. Keep showing up, keep motivating yourself, keep learning. This way, when the right opportunity arises you are ready to embrace it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I have friends from out of town, I always make sure they visit the Highline, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Lincoln Center, & Pier 17 downtown, plus a stop at the Metropolitan Museum. These for me are some of places that best represent this marvelous and eclectic city. Old & new, traditional and contemporary, music, architecture, art, nature, and definitely fun and interesting people watching. I would also recommend a visit to Dumbo, Brooklyn and a 7 minuted ferry ride from midtown (west side), to Weehawken, NJ for iconic and unobstructed photography of the New York skyline. Now that summer is approaching, I’d definitely recommend some of the following places & rooftop bars for their breathtaking views, good vibes and cocktails! Rocketfeller Bar Sixtyfive, the view is fantastique! Mandarin Oriental with view of Central Park. Westlight at William Vale in Brooklyn with sweeping views of New York City. Ink 48 Hotel at night time, and if there’s a little big of fog it’s even better, it makes it very Gotham. Madam Mikette’s an American brasserie with scrumptious plates in midtown east. Grand Banks, an oyster bar aboard the historic wooden schooner, Sherman Zwicker.
The Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn. Panorama Room on Roosevelt Island with 360 degree views. Envue Rooftop in Weehawken, NJ just across the ferry terminal. Make sure to bring your camera (or phone) for some of the most iconic views of the city and get ready to snap away while you sip a fancy drink!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Definitely my mentor & photographer Greg Kessler, who introduced me to photography many years ago, and encouraged me to continue pursuing this craft.
Being behind the camera has thought me to be patient, observant and attentive to all that is happening around me. To photograph people and places requires this type of sensibility. A huge thank you to my second family I call FRIENDS, who believe in me, encourage me along the way, and are always there to advise, push me forward, and hire me, you know who you are. A special thank you to this city called New York, for being so full of energy, inspiration, and a sense of possibility, even when nothing particular happens. New York pushes me to be the best version of myself every single time I decide to put my work out in the world.
In other words, this is a big thank you also to all the strangers who inhabit this city, because you make it what it is, and by doing so you keep being an inspiration every single day, even when you seems to be too loud, intense, full of traffic and very outspoken people. NYC, in good and bad, has made me who I am today. Thank you!