Spotlight: Vincent Comparetto
We sat down with photographer, filmmaker and fine artist Vincent Comparetto to talk about the importance of subcultures, contributing to your local scene and his favorite thing about living in this great state of ours.
Why do you feel it is important to document subcultures in your photography?
Subcultures are temporal. The spaces, the art, the music, everything is moving in a fleeting blur. If you photograph punk rock or street art you are preserving something that is almost impossible to preserve. I always feel I am only documenting in a very limited way. And I feel like the work always has the potential to be important in a historical sense, almost an archeological sense.
Also, I would go to these shows in DIY spaces and there would literally be no other photographers present. I can easily be intimidated by other photographers, and decide there's no point in shooting an event where there are a dozen dudes with Canon 5Ds. But for many of the DIY spaces in Denver there was no one else taking pictures, so I decided to be that dude (except with a Lumix GX7). I also felt I had to earn a spaces' respect first before showing up with a camera. A lot of situations require permission, unlike the streets.
In your work, I see glimpses of the punk rock/skate DIY culture of the late 80s/early 90s. Did this influence you?
Yes, tremendously. I think growing up with skateboarding and punk rock shapes the way you move through life in every way. For one thing, you can adapt to spaces or cities far more quickly. Through either socializing within the subculture of just the way you navigate space. Skating and punk rock gives you opportunities to travel and be confident in the way you are present. Whether in South America or France, the skaters or fellow punks will show you around their area and you don’t even have to be fluent in their language. That’s something I should never take for granted.
Favorite city for street photography?
I love the bold colors, city references; pop culture tones and the overall cubism feel of your fine art and sketchbooks. How would you describe your style?
I like the way you described it. I am always more interested in the way people explain my work to me. I am definitely heavily influenced by a bunch of dead artists like Stuart Davis and Fernand Léger, but also influenced by street artists and architects.
What draws you to work with “found” materials?
Initially, it was the influence of Jasper Johns, Joseph Cornell, and Robert Rauschenberg. I’ve always appreciated found objects and collage. My father was a mechanic and restored old cars and old furniture and I had access to a garage full of materials and tools. So becoming a mixed media artist was a fairly natural progression for me. I don’t incorporate found materials in my work quite as much as I used to, but it influences my photography and films all the time.
With the variety of mediums that you work in, do you see any technical proficiency in certain mediums help you in others?
Yeah, for sure. I envy people that can just work in one medium. I have to work in a variety of mediums. I have not mastered any of them but I like working in all of them. After a while they all seem like the same medium. Photography is painting and filmmaking is painting. I don’t know how to describe it, everything is collage.
We have a lot of young customers who are leaving Colorado for NYC in hopes of pursuing a career in art and photography. Being a Native New Yorker, what advice would you give them before leaving?
Ah, I have this conversation a lot. Patti Smith and people who were a part of the first or second wave of New York artists always romanticize about their time there being the best, the most creative, and affordable. I don’t think that’s a healthy or realistic way to view any space. There is always a young subculture moving to every city figuring shit out, throwing crazy parties and doing it right. Don’t listen to the old punks, do your thing. Move to New York, find a sketchy neighborhood and make the best of it. But never think just because a city made Rauschenberg and Warhol you're going to get some of that by just being on the same ground. A city’s reputation owes you nothing. You have to contribute and rise to the occasion. And the bigger the city the more you may have to shine. New York breaks more artists than it makes. I love it though, and I do miss it.
Social media love it or hate it?
I do like it, I like posting, I like getting lost in the extensive contributions of artists and skaters from all over the world. That being said the experience of gaining attention through the medium of social media does not seem particularly validating. I feel there are better ways to experience photography. My photos live there but I don’t think they consider it a stable home, so that’s why I began making the Follow Focus books. The photos live in the book forever. I love the idea of my books being found in weird little bookstores many years from now.
What is your favorite thing about living in Colorado?
We have it pretty easy here. I’m from New York and I love New York, but it’s such a massive city, it’s hard to see the footprint you leave. In Denver, a handful of creatives have literally changed this city and made it into a very cool place. I really appreciate my crew of artists, the friends I have made, and the opportunities I have had. The music scene and the skate scene are also fantastic.
I have no idea. I rarely find stability in my life. I can’t imagine being content or satisfied with my accomplishments and/or confident enough to project goals upon my future but I will try. I want to skate more and I want my ankle to heal (severe sprain a few months ago). I want to work larger with my cubist paintings, and I want to print some of my photos larger. I have a show at Pon Pon for Month of Photography which will be the first formal showing of the Follow Focus images. And I should have the next issue done by then. So that’s exciting. But yeah I don’t know. it’s nice to be asked questions to put things in perspective because often the process is just muscle memory and I don’t even know what I am planning to do with the result of it all.
Check out Vincent's website here: http://www.abstractcity.org/
Follow Vincent on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/abstract_city/