Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Conversation with Maria Passarotti

"Concealed Vista," © Maria Passarotti

"Rowhouses", © Maria Passarotti

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself

Maria Passarotti: I’m originally from northern N.J., just north of NYC. Growing up in the suburbs, so close to both the city and rural upstate New York had a significant role in shaping my artistic view of landscape. I feel most comfortable having one foot in each world – rural and urban. Fittingly, I currently divide my time between my house in Rockland County, N.Y. and my apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I will, however, always feel “home” to be on the Palisades of the Hudson River.

My parents, two of my dearest friends, are avid gardeners, birders and conservationists. Early on, they instilled in me a deep appreciation of and respect for nature. As a child, I helped my father tend the family vegetable garden and now as an adult, I have developed a deep passion for gardening and landscaping. Without a doubt, it is my favorite pastime/ obsession. Being able to sculpt and transform my landscape not only provides me with a creative outlet, but also an endless source of inspiration and intimate means to observe nature’s cycle of death, decay and rebirth.

"Dead House, Dead Tree, Apparition", © Maria Passarotti

NP: How did you discover photography?

MP: In retrospect, I feel like I've inherited my love of photography. My father always enjoyed experimenting with the medium and even had his own black and white darkroom for a time. When I enrolled in my first photography class, it was his Minolta 35mm camera I proudly used. It wasn't till I was a senior in art school that I learned my grandfather was an active member of a photography club while serving as a machinist in the Army during WWII. As soon as I saw his album full of gorgeous prints he made during his travels throughout Egypt, Afghanistan and many other lands, I knew that I had not come to photography by accident. The passion for the process had always been inside me waiting to be ignited.

"Roadside, Montana", © Maria Passarotti

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

MP: Although I work in many mediums and love exploring new projects, landscape and nature are themes that are always present in my work. So exploring the landscape and the natural world is definitely where I find inspiration. There is nothing more inspiring for me than hitting the road with a map and no particular destination in mind and just driving. It's such an exhilarating way to experience the landscape and particularly man’s affect on, interactions with and transformation of the natural world. I find similar inspiration in the streets of urban areas where I seek vantage points that capture complex views of the crowded city.

"Rooftop, Grand Street, NY", © Maria Passarotti

I’m also inspired from experimenting with materials and techniques. I think this is why I have such a love of alternative photographic processes and printmaking. It always amazes me how discovering a piece of paper in an art store can stir the desire to create a new body of work.

NP: How do your projects come about?

MP: I’ve been photographing night landscapes for about 10 years. It started with a desire to portray the stage-like settings created by artificial lighting in urban and suburban settings. I strive to create images with deeply illuminated shadow areas that are magical interpretations of everyday settings. Since the beginning of this ongoing project, I’ve photographed many locations, from rooftops and abandoned buildings to suburban backyards and natural settings.

"Woods", © Maria Passarotti

"Allerton", © Maria Passarotti

After spending a lot of time focusing on the urban and suburban landscape, I felt my interest turn toward the rural American landscape. I started traveling through different regions of America with a plan to piece together a cross-country trip in several, bite-size pieces. I was blown away by my trip through Northern California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Yellowstone national park made a deep impression on me because I am particularly interested in how man interacts with, shapes and presents the landscape. While traveling through rural areas, I've found roadside locations always have the juxtaposition of elements of wilderness and man's presence I love to photograph. The images in my rural series are often taken from roadsides, parking lots or designated viewing platforms created for tourists to experience a curated view of wilderness.

"Western Style Town", © Maria Passarotti

NP: What's next?

MP: I have several projects in the works at the moment. I’m developing a new series of night landscapes to complement my ongoing series of urban rooftop photos. I’ve been experimenting with a combination of alternative processes, which is sure to lead me to create something completely different from what I anticipated at the onset of the project. I’m also eager to devote some time to drawing and painting in my studio. It’s an essential tool to refuel my artistic practice and clarify projects in my mind.

To see more of Maria Passarotti's work visit

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