Eric Pietrangolare went to college to be an art teacher but during his sophomore year, he took a photography course and immediately fell in love. That sparked a fascination with what he describes as “capturing real moments” and he hasn’t looked back since. He talked to BLEEP about the difference between shooting at fashion shows versus his own shoots, the state of the industry, and the importance of taking care of yourself as a person.
You’ve been photographing fashion week the past couple years. What’s the appeal of that for you?
It’s completely and utterly different than a photoshoot in a studio where you have all the control and time to produce what you went there to do. It’s madness backstage. It’s fast paced and when I say you have 1 second to get the shot you’re being paid to get, I mean it. On the runway it’s an equally if not more intense beast. You have no time to think or prep; you just snap and hope your photos aren’t blurry. The stress of it all can be exciting because you have no control and often can’t see your own outcome until after it’s all over.
Talk to me about your opinion on the state of the fashion industry. With bloggers on the front row, it seems like Instagram photos are more important than actually being at the show. Since you’re in it, what do you see?
Bloggers have a job to do, selfies to get with the celebrities, and to show they attended the latest and greatest. It helps designers sell their clothes and get their collections out there. For me, it’s just about getting the shot; typically from some obscure angle that no one else is shooting at. It makes it harder on myself but it also keeps it fun and different for the designer I’m shooting for. That’s exciting for me. Typically every photographer is in the pit but you can find me standing on a half-broken crate off to the side on my tippy-toes still trying to get the most editorial shot, even at a fashion show.
I want to talk about this year. You took a self-initiated break from photographing people. Why did you need to step away?
To be completely honest, I had Duckie Thot, Winnie Harlow and two other models I loved lined up to do a test-shoots. Nothing big, no magazines or anything, but it felt like this was the turning point for me to finally have “my moment.” I struggle with that term because I feel like I put out good work no matter what but this felt different, bigger. I got dropped from each shoot a few days apart for no reason other than scheduling. Usually once that happens, you don’t get a second chance to shoot them if you’re not a famous photographer. It broke me a bit. I put so much work into finding spaces to shoot, team members to do hair/makeup and styling, and I got in my head about it. So I decided to take a four to six month break in which I still did small test shoots but nothing that required a team beyond myself and the model.
What did you learn about yourself during that period?
I learned that taking a step back is healthy. I’m back shooting regularly but I realized I love having my weekends to myself. So I’ve cut back just a little just to make sure I am taking care of my life and not jam-packing everything.
What brought you back?
I’m ready to put the time back into the right people. I’m inspired by models with tattoos and I want to start a series about them.
For someone who has photographed notable figures within the fashion industry, where do you go from here? What’s the path forward look like?
I’ve learned, and kind of always knew, I like shooting in a series format. I’ll still do my test shoots with agencies—its good way to connect with models and agents—but I want to start a new series of portraits with some sort of theme to it. I’m self-taught and so there’s always something to learn and experiment with along the way.
What makes you happiest in the world?
Can I say beautiful tattooed men with slight gaps in their front teeth or is that inappropriate and/or oddly specific? Aside from them, my sister, cats, anime, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being 30 and knowing I’ve already done a lot that I thought would take me a lifetime to do… but I do still want to photograph an episode of America’s Next Top Model. That would make me SO happy.