April 2017 Member of the Month

Driely S.

by PHOTO+ Group Staff April 4, 2017

All images © Driely S.

This month we’re highlighting Driely S. a Brazilian photographer who lives in NYC. Driely has won a number of times in PDN‘s Ultimate Music Moment contest professional portrait category. See her winning work in 2017 and 2016.

PHOTO+ Group: When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
Driely S.: I was always obsessed with cinema. Growing up, my parents had a movie store and my first job was in a movie theater in Rio when I was 14. When I got older, I moved to NYC hoping to study filmmaking. When I arrived though, I couldn’t afford video equipment, I didn’t speak any English and I didn’t have much money, so I never actually went to school because I had to work to pay my bills.

At some point I bought myself a cheap film camera and started documenting my life as an immigrant—it just felt natural to me (after all, cinema is nothing more than 24 photos per second). I saw a portrait Arnold Newman made of Salvador Dali once—it was so simple, but it left such a big impression on me at the time. I think that portrait, and being in the darkroom for the first time, is what did it for me. It just felt right.

I questioned my own talent a lot as a teenager. I often remember not feeling gifted. I could appreciate art, but I didn’t feel like I had it in me to make strong work that would “go down in the history books,” as they say. Photography felt like the perfect excuse to be in the same room as the artists I admired and looked up to. It was my excuse to meet my heroes and, so far, it has worked.

PHOTO+ Group: What do you primarily photograph?
DS: I am all over the place these days. I shoot music, fashion, portraiture and lately anything that feels close to my heart, which means a lot of political stories.

PHOTO+ Group: What is your favorite lens to shoot with?
DS: I am a sucker for the 35mm prime, but at the same time, I’m a firm believer in the Ernst Haas quote: “The best zoom lens is your legs.” For each job I tend to use different equipment, but I would say I always have this lens in my bag.

PHOTO+ Group: Do you still shoot with film?
DS: All the time. If I could, I would just shoot film. But I also do believe different jobs call for different formats and ways of shooting. If I know lighting conditions will be challenging and not appropriate for film, I will go for digital all the way. But my goal right now is to attract more clients that come to me expecting my film work, so I am looking to play more to 4×5 and 5×7 film and to incorporate my Wet Plate Collodion on literally every shoot I do as a signature thing.

PHOTO+ Group: Who are your greatest influences in the art world?
DS: I have so very many! Duane Michals is one, and I am a sucker for Alejandro Jodorowsky—he is my ultimate favorite artist. I feel like I can make you a giant list and I will still forget loads of people I love. But to name a few: John Cage, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, all the Fluxus artists, Kubrick, Godard, Tarkovsky, Italo Calvino, Bukowski, Antoni Tapies, Ferlinghetti, Oscar Niemeyer, Ze do Caixao, Belchior, Hunter Thompson, Dylan, Iggy Pop, Frida, Sally Mann, Arnold Newman, Nabokov (I know it’s odd to name literature as a visual reference, but I truly get a kick of certain books and writers and I am definitely influenced by certain words because of how they set the mood on pages and in certain stories.)

Moving on: Arthur Russell, Lisette Model, Pina Bausch and Francis Bacon. I am like a sponge and I just try and suck the beauty and strangeness out of everything I see, read, listen and live. I don’t have any formal art school background—I just gravitate towards the stuff that moves me the most. Sometimes my mundane day to day is the best art inspiration I could ask for.

PHOTO+ Group: Do you do anything before a shoot to prepare yourself?
DS: I like coming in with an arsenal of references and some idea of how the subject or story has been photographed before because I hate feeling like I am shooting something someone already shot, or as if I am not bringing something new to the table. If I am not adding something new to the story, I feel like it’s not even worth shooting.
If I’m photographing an artist I care about, I will try and find something within their work to develop from. Depending on the story I tend to take the “fly-on-the-wall” approach and just document things as they happen. It depends on whatever it is that I am shooting, how much time I will have to shoot, what will be available to me in terms of location, lighting, etc. My editors often joke that I am good at improvising and at making the best out of shitty situations.

See more of Driely’s work at drielys.com.