By Julia Eskins
Photography by Kareen Mallon
Fashion photographer Mario Miotti is known for actively going beyond the role of being just “the man behind the camera.” Over the span of six years, the Toronto-based photographer has made his mark on the Canadian fashion industry with editorial shoots for many magazines and photography work for a range of designer campaigns, including Marlowe, Andy Thê-Anh and Jessica Jensen. In addition to specializing in beauty photography for past clients like L’Oreal Professional and Lise Watier, his star-studded portfolio includes photo shoots with celebrities, such as Brendan Fraser, Chris Vance and Taylor Momsen.
FAJO Magazine catches up with Miotti in his Liberty Village studio. Along with meeting his charming pet bunny, Bonnie, and discussing New York City’s best tequilerias, Miotti gives us the insider scoop on just how intense the fashion photography industry can be.
JULIA ESKINS: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get involved in fashion photography?
MARIO MIOTTI: My photography and fashion interests go back to when I lived in Australia and got my first camera. After September 11, the tourism industry crashed and the company I worked for at the time offered senior staff the opportunity to take a leave of absence with pay. It was going to help the company survive while things were tough. So, I raised my hand and offered to take the leave. I thought, ‘Now I have time and I’m getting paid, so what am I going to do?’ Within a month, I made my decision: I wanted to be a fashion photographer. I wrote that on a piece of paper and that’s what I’ve pursued ever since.
Your work ranges from editorial shoots to luxury brand advertisements. What do you like the most?
I’m trying to choose my focus now. I have a polished look to my photos, but increasingly, through introspection, I realize that I need to embrace spontaneity more often. A lot of development happens with the infusion of inspiration and altering your techniques.
I really enjoy product shoots with luxury brands and working with models . I would love to continue doing that. For example, I’ve always loved Michael Kors advertisements. They are over-the-top, but I always enjoy them, especially when Mario Testino shoots them.
Where do you gain your inspiration as a photographer?
I’ve always loved looking at photos and working backwards to see how they were captured. Fashion photography has a lot of nuance. The photographer has to be a character on set. If you’re not creating an atmosphere to make the models feel inspired by the vision you want to create, you’re not going to succeed. You’ve got to be the commander of the ship.
As far as the nitty-gritty goes, I’m inspired by designers, architecture, textiles, materials and being in touch with culture.
Speaking of “being the commander of the ship,” how much direction do you like to give in a typical photoshoot?
I do a lot of paid editorials, so I’m constricted to what I can do. But I’m always striving to be the ultimate art director. Sometimes, if you allow people to have too much control in your shoots, you’re taking yourself out of the equation. There are a lot of famous stories about photographers who would walk out on shoots, like Helmut Newton. Essentially, it’s about photographers standing up for their vision.
I am Canadian, so I have a sense of grace that I can’t get rid of. I don’t know if I would ever storm out, but I am happy to be assertive.
How does working in Toronto compare to other major cities?
You often hear stories of Canadian talent popping up and then failing, so support for young Canadian designers should definitely be cultivated. For example, I shot Andy Thê-Anh’s campaigns for four years and I loved working with him because of how passionate he was. His collections were for the refined woman, yet he would always throw in an artistic spin. He was trying to merge his artistry with consumerism through clothing that was wearable. For five years, Andy Thê-Anh was known as one of Canada’s top designers, but what happened to that support?
Fashion director George Antonopoulos is great in the way he incorporates a lot of Canadian fashion into editorials, which is very important. He does do some stuff in New York, but he doesn’t want that to take away from what he does here. He’s one example of someone who hasn’t jumped ship and who’s affecting change from within. It would be great if some of the Canadian super talents would come back and do a little bit more of that.
With all this experience, what do you think is the key to being a globally successful fashion photographer?
As they say in New York, if you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Once you stand up for yourself, you have to deliver. This is where getting in tune with your artistry, knowing what you want to do and then fighting tooth and nail to get it, puts you on a very fine edge of success or failure. If people push you around, push back! If you have the talent to back it up, you’ll only be respected more for it.