Photographer Dustin Giallanza
We have a few usual suspects around Matte Black, and as of late, Dustin Giallanza has become a favorite. Lately, we’ve had the opportunity to enlist Dustin for wide-range of campaigns and content. This guy can really do it all. For our Shape Shift collaboration, we wanted to take a step away from our client-facing shoots, and collaborate together on something strictly creative and editorial. In doing so, we embraced the side of Dustin we’ve grown to love the most: his approach to photographing people. Following the shoot, I sat down with Dustin to get a bit inside his head. — Nolan Goff, Content Director
Nolan: Dustin! What's good, man? What have you been up to?
Dustin: Hey! Well currently I’m being interviewed, haha, but career wise I’ve been working in the industry for about 8 years now in one form or another, and been spending the past three years freelancing and working hard on building up my business. Outside of work I couldn’t be more stoked to be living here in Southern California. This has been my home now for 11 years, crazy how fast the time has flown.
Nolan: We get to work together a lot, but for those who aren't as familiar, maybe you could give us the rundown -- who you are and what you're about.
Dustin: Sure, I was born and raised in Texas, and moved out here in 2006. Back to my earliest memories I have always been an artist at heart. Throughout all of elementary and then high school, I was either drawing, painting, dancing, working on graphic design projects, or coming up with photo-shoots to do with friends. There was something about photography that just caught me and didn’t let go. Today I find myself still shooting and working for myself, pursuing creative fulfillment and of course making a living while I’m at it. Trying to have it all, haha!
In reality my business is a fun challenge for me. I get to work in fashion and advertising as well as others and flex my business skills. I feel really lucky that I get to do a lot of different kinds of work. I love new challenges and meeting clients where they are at, and giving them the best possible version of what they want.
Nolan: As a Texas kid myself, how does a kid in El Paso end up with a camera in his hands in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles?
Dustin: Honestly when you say it like that, it still feels like a dream sometimes. That’s not to say it’s always easy or fun, or that I am exactly where I want to be in my career, as the reality is much more complicated, but living in LA and doing what I do really is my dream come true in many ways. I picked up a camera when I started traveling in high school. Even with disposable cameras, I was always coming up with new angles, trying to find new ways of shooting things that I thought were interesting. I will forever be thankful for my time growing up in El Paso, but I never saw myself as a Texan. I only applied to one university. It was like my mind was made up, and I knew I belonged out here. I didn’t even bother asking myself what I wanted to do after school, or where I wanted to do it. The question for me has always been, how am I going to do what I want to do?
Nolan: We got to work together on this shoot this month. It's a 'Future' that doesn't feel too distant or out of reach. I'm wondering where this came from and what your creative approach was throughout the project.
Dustin: Yes, the future. Well this really is a challenging concept. I think many of us feel a little unsure about our future and the future of our nation. There are so many questions today regarding how split our people feel politically on issues like the election or climate change, and now even more ethical questions about how technology is being integrated into our daily lives, and racial questions that are coming to a new levels of awareness for many of us. This is something I think about a lot, so when Matte Black approached me for this months issue, I think I approached it while keeping these things in mind. To me the location is a huge character in this shoot. The space really becomes the metaphor, and the models become players in that metaphorical reality. We have the light above or something to reach and aspire to, ground to stand on and then of course the infinite and unknowable black space out of reach. If anything signifies the future it’s this empty/un-seeable black space. It’s so hard to talk about the future without talking about our present. We must talk about where we are at, before we can make guesses about where we are going. As the conversations went, we really wanted to convey the idea of harmony, an idea that although the future is unknowable in many ways, we have the best chance by standing together. Our differences make us stronger, and although the looming future is a sobering thought, it will also become full of hope and light, as it becomes our present.
Nolan: After the shoot, you were talking about an observation a friend made: you're either always moving when your shooting or you have your subjects moving. It definitely stirs something in the images, but comes across as something that's more instinctual versus something you're really cognizant of.
Dustin: It was a funny observation, but as I thought about it I really do think I do this often. I guess it’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but its how I have found I am able to keep the energy on set at a good level. I want people to have a good time shooting with me and feeling engaged and feeling like I am also engaged. There is nothing worse then when people skimp out by not bringing all of themselves to the work they love to do. So I make a conscious effort to stay on my toes and try and keep others on their toes as well.
Nolan: Speaking of movement and moving images. The future of branded content seems to be bending towards video, and while photo will forever be here to stay, there's a huge demand from brands for more and more rich media and video. Does this trend have you curious about expanding into that side of things?
Dustin: I don’t rule it out. I’m a bit of an old soul so I’m not the quickest adapter of new trends. In my photographic work, I basically oversee all side of the process, from the gear, to shooting, directing, editing, sometimes even printing. My skills in video would end up translating a bit differently. I don’t really see myself being the camera operator or editor of video work, but could see myself directing in the future. I think still photography will always be something I do for work or for personal projects.
Nolan: Since this is The Future Issue, let's do some forecasting. I'm going to name a year and you get to make a prediction of something we will see in that year. It could be something creative, related to photo, or something totally off the wall.
Easy, A Han Solo stand-alone Star Wars film.
My 40th birthday bash will be widely publicized as epic
Elon Musk will probably be 10 year younger then he is today by then.
We will take pictures by just looking at things with our eyes.
Get Dustin's photos for free when you download the photo pack from Death to Stock x Matte Black here.