I’ve written almost 400 articles for Splash Magazines in the past 3 years. Every article contains several photographs, virtually always supplied by professional PR people or artists’ agents. So when I was told I needed a head shot for a professional award I was (delighted to be) receiving, there were many photographers I could have gone to. I chose Chicago’s Saverio Truglia without hesitation. His photos are impressive, impactful, memorable. They are intensely lifelike, slightly edgy, and clever, sometimes unsettling. The people look larger than life, yet startlingly human.
After we had our session for my portrait, and even before I was stunned with delight at the results, I knew I wanted to write about him. Saverio’s warm and friendly studio is delightfully full. There are cartloads of equipment pulled up into the space, professional items he uses on his shoots. The area is pleasingly cluttered with memorabilia, books of art photography, some old cameras; of course, his own photographs adorn the walls.
I settled on a comfortable sofa and asked this affable, keen-eyed artist what drives his work. “I often ask myself this question”, he said. “The freedom of personal self-expression, of course. Each project presents a new opportunity. I take projects that are interesting to me; if they’re interesting to me, they’ll likely be interesting to you,” he responds with startling self-aplomb. “The hope is”, he went on, “that the work will resonate.”
Where does the inspiration come from? “I use my life’s experience blended with a concept, an idea, a purpose for my images. I color it deeply with who I am”. Who is he? A regular guy in many ways; he’s a committed family man, a thinker and reader, an observer, a hard worker. He’s direct, centered. No prima donna, this man can be counted on to deliver the goods. If he accepts your commission, you are going to get very good results very quickly, and the labor will all be his, and it will seem like he’s having fun, because he is.
I recall he’d asked for some “selfies” ahead of our meeting, wanting to see “who I was”. The results had been way beyond my expectations. How did he get me to look so youthful and happy, I wondered aloud? He explained, “I read your demeanor. I saw your sense of humor, your joyful take on life.” He continued, “I look for the narrative in a person. I learn about them in conversation. If I can accurately discern what the person is willing to offer, I will find an opening and use it for their advantage.”
He’s been doing portraits for a long time, but they are by no means all he handles. He does worldwide advertising campaigns, environmental photos, special projects, editorial work and conceptual pieces. “A conceptual portrait involves creating a metaphor for a type of person. I’m casting a person for a certain idea they represent. What that person “really” is individually is less important in this case”.
How does he get the personae onto the film, chip or paper in the way he sees them in his mind? “I’ll coach people through the shoot”, he offered. “But if I’m shooting real people, I have to find a way to get inside their personal narrative. I’ll take my time”. Saverio relies on the simple fact that people will share pieces of the stories of their lives with him. “I get it by talking to them and observing”. Then he translates those stories into images.
There are certain projects he doesn’t care to do. “Not much fashion. I’m not interested in elite class and status. I like to interface with people in more personal ways. When I shot Irvine Welsh, (the prolific Scottish author of “Trainspotting”), I tried to get into his head and his background. I went to dozens of Trump rallies and photographed people outside including the dad of a veteran who died of a heroin overdose and felt that Trump would fix the drug treatment problem in America.”
Last year, he shot an advertising campaign for Lurie Children’s Hospital of 3 children making “selfies” with their caregivers, now on billboards in Chicago. “These were 3 totally different kids. One was reserved and quiet, one was very talkative and high energy, and one was inquisitive and thoughtful”. He had only one hour to work with them, to engage them in the process. “There was a lot to figure out- lighting, setting, post-production. I had to assess who each kid was and how to show them overcoming their condition. I only had one chance to get it right. I wasn’t going to let the client down, so I came prepared. My solution was to let the kids shoot the selfies with my professional camera using a trigger. Their happy smiles were absolutely authentic”. He captured that moment and the wonderfully immediate posters with his photos could be seen all over Chicago.
At the close of our talk, the photographer/artist bent toward me, his perennially boyish face intent and confided, “We all want to know who we are and what we look like. There’s a ton of info available on the surface, but an artist digs deeper. An over-concern with image becomes unflattering; I try to make people let go of it. Seeing people is our first way of accessing their humanity. The facial skin is unique; the organs of sight are located there. If I can reveal how a person accesses their world, I will do so. One of my greatest pleasures is to gift people with portraits.”
For more information about and to contact the artist, go to saveriotruglia website
All photos by Saverio Truglia Photography