20 Questions: Mining the artist’s mind, featuring Joao Carlos

Dot Editions has invited the artists who we’ve worked with us or who have participated in the studio’s events to answer some questions about their artistic processes. In the coming months, we will post artists' profiles weekly.

This week we are featuring Joao Carlos, a world-traveling, award winning photographer with a rock-star attitude. He was a guest speaker at our premiere Show & Tell event.



What is your earliest memory of making art? What is your first experience with photography? I have always been passionate about The Arts and my first artistic endeavour was the constant painting of this hallway in my parents home; it was a massive canvas to me.  I must have drawn, scribbled and painted it two or three times and every time my father and mother would scold me and paint over my "ART" and then I would repeat the deed.  The first Christmas present I ever asked for at the age of five was a camera.  My sweet mom gave me this box-like toy camera and I kindly said thank you and gave it back to her, stating it didn't have a flash and I wanted a real one!

My dream in grade school was to be a automobile designer, then in Junior High I wanted to be a comic book illustrator and in High school I played the guitar (I was, and am still, terrible!) so my dream was to be a rockstar.   Then collage came around and I wanted to be a painter: a 'real' Artist.  Then my idea was to live a bohemian life, but I am far too practical for that.  Halfway through my second year (after already having some solo and group shows) I was going to have my first big solo show at a local Municipal Museum and I needed to have my paintings photographed and a buddy of mine, a local family photographer, was going to charge me a small fortune to do it.  I was 19 and broke.  So I did the only thing I could do, I sold my guitar (my Fender Stratocastor) and purchased my first camera. That is how it all got started; I immediately fell in love with the art form. I switched my major from Fine Arts with a minor in Art History to Photography.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned about your art practice? Practice makes perfect.  Well, at least practice make you discover that you need to practice more....



How did you learn photography?  How did your career start? My career started I guess when I became an assistant for Joao Palmeiro, a big advertising photographer in Portugal.  He was my biggest influence and I worked for him little over 3 years and did everything and anything that was needed or asked of me.

I moved on to opening my own studio with a buddy of mine, Pedro Davim.   We opened Milkman Studio Productionsin April of 2002.  I still assisted other photographers for about three years and I worked for various production companies on a free-lance basis.  This time period was crucial having contact with big productions and working with some well established photographers.  I worked with more than thirty photographers, such as Horst Diekgerdes on shoots for UK Vogue, Frederic Pinet and Thomas Strogalski shooting for Audi and Mercedes.  I was always working on my own projects too, and having my own studio so early on meant I would come home from a 12 hour shooting day and then jump into my work for another five or six hours.  I don't sleep much, I never have, and this helped me hone my skills.  Since then I have moved on to developing a client list with advertising agencies, magazine editors and apparel and beauty companies.

What were your difficulties starting out as a photographer? Discovering my style and creating my place in the market.

How did you develop your style? To be honest a big part of my style comes from  years of visual stimulation.  I don't think I have a defined style...I enjoy the Romantic and fantasy.  My style is in constantly evolving.

What artist do you most identify with? I take inspiration from all types of sources.  There are so many artists that inspire me, but sometimes it may just be a single image.  If I have to name some I guess this would be the list:  Meisel, Klein, Roversi, Solve Sundsbo, Mario  Testino,  Lebowitz, Weber, Ritts, Demarchelier, Avedon, Newton, Adams, Sabastiao Salgado, and it goes on and on.  My  biggest influences are from Cinema such as Kubrick, Godard, David Lynch, Hitchcock, Roger Deakins, Janusz Kaminski, Christopher Doyle and  the Great  Painting  Masters  such as Caravaggio, Sorrola, Gustave Courbet  or  Vermer, just to name a few...but the list is almost endless.

What is the most important idea in your art? I like to tell stories through photographs, to reveal the people, their attitudes and their emotions. This is what makes photography something that is alive and intense.



What qualities do you think makes a good artist? Innovation, dedication, an ability to convey an emotion or concept via the art medium and above all not to be constrained by the idea of ridicule.

Do you take photographs (or sketch, write, etc) every day? To quote Avedon:  “If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it's as though I've neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.”  So I work constantly, everyday, because I have to.

Do you ever find yourself in a creative block? Sometimes.

How do you get out of it? I immerse myself in visual stimulation and culture.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally? I draw influences form the Baroque, Neo-classical and Romantic creatively.  Freedom to create whatever I want creatively is the biggest turn on for me.

What turns you off? Limitations on my creativity really turns me off...restrictions are the biggest turn off!

What is your biggest shortcoming as an artist? I'm blissfully unaware of my shortcomings!



Has your work changed due to the photography industry’s evolution? Yes, it has...post production has a bigger factor in my work now.  Before I would pride myself on completing the image in camera...being true to the film or polaroid.  But now, my work has evolved and I have the capabilities to create different things because of those developments.

What has been your most difficult learning curve as an artist? Patience and perseverance to continue with my art.

What advice do you have for emerging artists? Be true to yourself, be true to your vision and have patience in your art form and your growth.

Thank you, Joao, for sharing your thoughts and insights with us!