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The Passionate Eyes of Marta Giannotti

The Passionate Eyes of Marta Giannotti

Photo: Giannotti may travel the world capturing A-list rock stars but a few are found right here at home, such as Journey performing at Caesars Windsor. (Note: she is pictured at the far right)

The Passionate Eyes of Marta Giannotti

Photos courtesy of Marta Giannotti/Martas Lens

Throughout the years, photographers have always been around to capture the visual essence of music. However, with it being a male-dominated field, there were many times, early on, where women were not taken seriously.

Renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz worked for years before she was able to make a name for herself; first through Rolling Stone magazine and then Vanity Fair. Fortunately, women have gained not only traction within the photography industry, but respect as well. But, when passion calls — and you know your worth — gender means nothing.

Armed with a Masters Degree in the early ‘90’s Marta Giannotti was fresh off a plane from Poland. She came to take a job as a nanny in Chicago to pay the bills. However, Giannotti had ambition far more reaching. She wanted to explore the world through the lens of her true passion: photography. So, even while traipsing through numerous types of jobs, from office work to selling her own line of loose tea, to even running Chicago’s stately Copernicus Center, Giannotti made it a priority to spend her free time pursuing her art in small creative ways.

Giannotti eventually made her way to Canada and once here she knew the time was right to make the leap from a passionate hobbyist to a professional photographer. It was this goal of making photography a full-time career that led Giannotti to a photography course at St. Clair College, a course that was essentially the springboard into what is now a successful respected international business called Marta’s Lens.

She has what I call “quiet cool,” a calm demeanour that puts you immediately at ease, an openness in conversation, and the curiosity of an artist. Over (great coffee) in Giannotti’s kitchen, she reminisced about how at the age of 12, she was drawn to a camera, but knew to own one was very expensive in Poland. This early life lesson made an impact on her because, in the real world of a photographer, Giannotti knows all too well that waiting is the hardest part, but the payoff is worth it.

When it comes to a photo shoot, she has a diverse and intriguing pallet. While live concerts of A-list clients are a staple of her portfolio, her still photos are breathtaking.

From Maui’s majestic ocean views to Italy, Paris, and Poland’s romantic landscapes, Giannotti does not disappoint. Her dramatic photo shoots of beautiful, strong women in flowing gowns (one in a tree in a gown made out of a parachute!) or covered in mud, are stories within themselves.

Giannotti jumps at the opportunity for a challenge. I mean who could find an artistic element in a photo shoot for an electric arm of an automotive company? Giannotti certainly could. Not only did she make it interesting, but sexy, as well!

Marta Giannotti is a photographer who has a “true musician’s heart.” Like a musician, everything around her could be that one spark, or lyric, or musical note that inspires a truly fantastic story, one which she captures with her instrument — the lens of a camera, for all the world to enjoy. (Note: for a more in-depth look at her work check out: MartasLens.com).

Now we present a deeper look at her colourful world from my interview with her last month.

Biz X: After years of taking pictures, what made you take a course at St. Clair College?

Marta Giannotti (MG): I was interested in learning more about lighting. Outdoor lighting is one thing to handle, but learning how to control indoor lighting was something totally different. I wanted to learn to control all aspects of a shot inside.

Biz X: What was your first professional shoot?

MG: While living in Chicago, people loved my pictures for birthday cards, congratulations or invitations — little jobs like that.

Biz X: Your first concert shoot was Journey. In a male-dominated field, how do you handle being the only one in the pit with all the men?

MG: You have lots to prove and it takes courage and it takes confidence. You have to know your camera and what you can do with it to get your best shots. When you shoot a concert, it’s a completely different experience from a shoot where you have outdoor light and beautiful flowers and control over the light and the environment. Lots of moving parts have to be manoeuvred to get the shot you’re aiming for.

Biz X: Live concerts are an “in the moment gotta grab the shot” work. Do you know when you’re getting that moment while filming?

MG: Yes, you’re in the moment and you know this is it. You feel it. Magic happens between the musician and their audience. The response of the audience back to the musician is a link that’s visible. That’s what I’m aiming for; when the two connect, I make them visible by the camera.

Biz X: Going from a live show to a controlled fashion editorial shoot to a commercial business shoot is drastically different. Do you take your life experience into those shoots?

MG: I know I need a different set up with each shot. I always try to incorporate what I know with something unique. Unique in that it fits within what the client wants. Speaking with the client to be clear on the vision they have and making them feel at ease is as important as the setup.

Biz X: What advice would give to a female photographer starting out who just wanted to concentrate on live concerts?

MG: Stand your ground, know your worth. Just go and shoot. You’re as good as any guy out there. Some say women are better at those shoots because we have a different point of view. Don’t let anyone tell you that can’t be there. Just go, have the confidence to shoot your way and the work is going to show. Keep learning, take courses, and always bring your camera with you.

Biz X: Knowing that you’re in the photography pit of Santana, Journey, and Pink Floyd — among some of the best photographers as well as, most times, being the only woman there — do you ever feel intimidated?

MG: Maybe nervous but not insecure. When you shoot with other photographers, you have to, first of all, have RESPECT. Everyone is there for that one picture. Respect the space between each of you. Again, you have to stand your ground. You’re all there for the same reason and respect the guidelines the band has placed on you of where and what you can shoot. Sounds like a little but it means a lot if you want to work with this band again, and you’ll see these people in the pit somewhere down the road.

Biz X: How do you feel about Photoshop?

MG: It’s another skill that’s very helpful and it depends on the requirements or request of the customer.

Biz X: Have you ever made it to the point where you say, “This is not my work. Now it’s overdone with tricks and Photoshop”?

MG: It’s more of a feeling. First, I listen to what kind of requirements the person has. When the person wants to become someone else, it’s too far. I’m trying to capture who they really are, not create who they want to be. In the end, it’s my work and, if it’s going in that direction, I stop it and try to revisit the original vision communicated.

From backstage to the airwaves Lori Baldassi has been in and around the music industry. Lori has sat on a number of boards of directors and focused on charity/non-profit committees for concerts/festivals, bringing in name acts. She has also spoken in front of the CRTC. If you have any questions for her, please email.