Today I’m chatting with Federico Moretto – a photographer, outdoors-man and motorcycle enthusiast who emigrated from his native Paris and brought his discerning eye and and his appreciation for life’s simple beauties to the great state of New York. I’m looking forward to discussing his thoughts on Parisian sensibilities, the role his grandparents played in his love of the arts and those wondrous things that take his breath away.
Greg Coutu (GC) – Let’s start with getting a little background on you. Where has Federico Moretto been up until today? What should we know about you?
Federico Moretto (FM) – That’s a very long story, so I’ll break it down geographically. Places I’ve lived, things I’ve done, in chronological order starting with places. Paris France, Central Illinois, Paris France again, Boston, Chicago, Tallahassee Florida, San Diego CA, and Finally New York.
Student- general then studied art, semiprofessional bicycle road racer, student again studied theology, car salesman, (hated it), Humane society worker and veterinary tech assistant, (loved it), student again studied motorcycle mechanics, motorcycle mechanic and motocross racer, student again studied photography, photographer, runner. This is the very abridged version, be thankful.
GC – You grew up in Paris, France? Have you brought any Parisian sensibilities to the US. If so, which? If not, why?
FM – Parisian sensibilities? I think it’s the lack of sensibility in Paris that at one point attracted artist from around the world; you could explore any possibility, if it was for art and beauty. I don’t go back to Paris and France anymore because I cannot find it. Not the France I knew as a boy anyway. French culture and priorities have been lost to ever increasing influences on multiple fronts.
My biggest influences in France were my grandparents who mostly raised me while my parents, who were in show-business, were often gone. My grandfather was a fine art painter and had me painting canvases with my own easel and oil paints from the time I was a little boy. My grandmother had me listening to classical music and I loved Vivaldi most of all. I think this is where my love for art and beauty came from.
Imagine a world where beauty was the golden rule, guiding all our actions, there would be no room for ugliness.
GC – Your wonderful photography heavily showcases the outdoors, beautiful women and motorcycles. What about this subject matter attracts you (besides the obvious, of course)?
FM – No it’s pretty much the obvious. “It’s the things that take my breath away that make breathing worthwhile.” Beautiful landscapes, beautiful women, motorcycles, all take my breath away in their own way. I don’t limit myself to these things, anything that inspires me or gives me a sense of awe could be the subject of my attention. That’s also why I do sports like running, cycling, climbing, and sky diving, because they take my breath away, in this case both figuratively and literally.
GC – You know I’m a fan of motorcycles and motorcycles appear to be a significant part of your life. So, indulge me in a couple more questions related to this. What was your first bike? What was your most recent bike? And what first compelled you to hit the open road sporting just two wheels?
FM – When I was about six, I finally lost the training wheels of my bicycle and thus started my love affair with two wheels. Growing up the bicycle was my sanctuary; I would go on long rides into the country side and feel like I was free as a bird. As I grew older and discovered the thrill of added speed with the motorized version and I knew that would be my next step. Before I could drive I was dreaming of owning my first motorcycle. It represented the ultimate escape. Amazingly I did not get my first real motorcycle until 1988. I was twenty six. The bike was a Yamaha Radian YX 600. I still have it and it has 100,000 miles on it. A truly great bike. My latest bike is a 2010 Motoguzzi V7 café. It reminds me of the bikes I used to dream of when I was young and is not only a very beautiful machine but truly unique with a lot of heritage.
GC – You studied at the New York Institute of Photography so obviously shooting is not just a hobby for you. As a photographer what makes you different and where would you like to go with your photography moving forward?
FM – What makes me different is that I’m not very willing to compromise my artistic vision just to please people or make a buck, which might be why I don’t make a lot of bucks. I’m also not willing to give up the other things I love in my life just to be successful. I shoot for me first, and I can always do that. I actually want to take my photography backwards, back to a time that was truer and simpler. You can’t believe anything you see any more in terms of photographs. Otherwise I’ll just let it take me where it will, that approach has worked well for me so far.
GC – I love to ask this question and look at the trending that occurs based on the age of the photographer. So, here it is… digital or film and why?
FM – Well my beef is why should it have to be one or the other? Both mediums have a place and could coexist. The wonders of digital are undeniable. At first it was a joke, then it was great but only at a consumer level, not for pros in other words, and then it was the king of everything, and this all happened in just a few years. I kept close tabs in its development and always said that when it reached film quality for the same dollar amount in investment without the problems of shutter lag (which was unacceptable) that I would jump on board. That day was when Canon came out with the 20D, about seven years ago. I bought the camera, bought a dedicated laptop for it, went to seminars, read books and learned how to work with pixels instead of grain.
Since then digital photography has kept getting better and in so doing has, in many ways destroyed an industry and an art form. Almost everyone has dropped film like yesterday’s girlfriend. I think sometimes the best girlfriends are the ones you go back to because you come to realize how great they were, if it’s not too late. There are things I wouldn’t want to shoot with film anymore because digital is better, but sometimes that’s also the problem. Digital is too good, too easy. The satisfaction is not there. I can make almost anything look good in the computer.I’ve gone back to film in a very serious way, because of its imperfections and its shortcomings. It has a look that is timeless for me, but it’s mostly about how you take the photo and not just the end result. With film you have to think a lot more before you press the shutter than after, which is when you should be doing your thinking. You click the shutter and then you move on, no reviewing, no deleting, you just have to believe you got it.
GC – Having worked in a number of creative fields, I know that there is often a Yin and Yang the needs to coexist between “art” and “commercial”. One feeds the soul while the other feeds the family. What are your thoughts on this and how do you balance the two?
FM – This is my week point. But I’ve been very lucky; I don’t have to balance it. I do my own photography however I want to – and I work for people who manage the business end of things while I get to do what I know how to do, which is not spending time on the phone trying to drum up more work. Did I mention I’m a lucky boy? That’s why I don’t have to work for Walmart or sell insurance.
GC – Finally, if you could hop on your bike with a camera and your significant other and go on a one month trip anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
FM – Well hopefully this is not too boring but it would probably be right here in the USA. This is a huge country and although I have seen a lot of it, there is so much I haven’t seen. Having said that Italy would be my second choice and I am planning a trip there in 2013, which I hope will involve going to the Motoguzzi factory in Mandello, I don’t know yet how much of that trip will be on a motorcycle, still working that out. The secondary roads in France and Italy are probably the most beautiful in the world for motorcycle riding!
Thank you, Federico!
Greg Coutu – Circle One One
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Visit www.pbase.com/fpmphotography to see more of Federico’s work.
Email Federico at – firstname.lastname@example.org